With thousands of makes and models of cars available, you could be forgiven for getting different types of cars mixed up. For instance, do you know the difference between an SUV and a crossover? How about a pickup or a crew-cab?
While many new labels sound snazzy, a great example of manufacturers creating their own categories can be seen with the BMW X5. Instead of labelling it as an SUV, BMW labelled it an SAV (sports activity vehicle). While this definitely drew attention to the new car, it also left many scratching their heads wondering exactly what category it falls in.
To help provide a better understanding of the cars available in today’s market, here’s our glovebox guide to different car types.
Sedans have many similar characteristics to wagons. Typically there will be four doors and upward opening luggage compartments. The easiest way to separate sedans from wagons is to take a look at the roof line. If the roof line doesn’t extend beyond the rear doors, then it is a sedan. Sedans have a separate cargo area from the cabin, which means most sedans are 5 seaters as they don’t have a third row rear. The Hyundai Sonata Active LF4 is a great example of a modern sedan.
Wagons, also historically referred to as station wagons, typically have four doors, a longer roofline that transitions into a large tailgate (boot lid) at the rear of the vehicle. By comparison to other car types, wagons provide more room in the boot and can often include a third row of seats. This is because a wagon cargo area is open to the vehicle cabin (unlike a sedan that has a separated cargo area from the passenger cabin). And with the inclusion of fold-flat seats; many wagons offer superior versatile in luggage capacity. A great example of a wagon is the Hyundai i40 Tourer.
A hatchback is typically a smaller vehicle, a compact is size with a sloping back, an upwards opening rear hatch and two or four doors. While similar to a wagon, the roof of the hatchback does not typically extend beyond the rear doors. A great example of a hatchback is the Hyundai i30.
Coupes traditionally have two doors, a rear, upward opening boot hatch with a gentle sloping back. Coupes are typically a sleeker passenger vehicle, often designed with driving performance in mind. While some may have roof panels that can be removed, they are still not considered as a convertible. A great example is the Hyundai Veloster.
SUV stands for a sports utility vehicle. Typically this type of vehicle will have either all-wheel-drive or 4-wheel-drive capabilities, making it capable of taking you on any variety of adventures. They are available in both two and four-door bodies. They offer increased ground clearance over many sedans and coupes, making them perfect for off-road use. The majority of SUV vehicles were historically designed using a traditional truck style platform, however, are now moving toward a modern monocoque chassis. A great example is the Mitsubishi Outlander.
People movers typically follow a box-shaped design that includes a short bonnet (hood), with their primary design catering to the transportation of a large number of passengers. Behind the front seats are a large passenger and/or cargo area. They are a popular choice for family vehicles and typically have three or four doors; with the rear doors usually being mounted on sliding rails to allow for easy access. One of the best-known people movers in Australia is the Hyundai iMax.
An electric vehicle is one that is 100% powered solely by electricity. Meaning they don’t use conventional petrol or diesel engine for drive. An electrically powered vehicle differs from a hybrid as it does not rely on petrol to be able to run. Some great example of an electric powered car is the Hyundai Kona EV.
A hybrid vehicle makes use of both an electric motor and a petrol powered engine. Usually, the petrol engine provides the power when under heavy load or extreme acceleration; while the electric motor takes over under cruise conditions to save fuel. They are extremely economical when it comes to fuel use and unlike electric-only vehicles, if the battery runs low they can keep on going. Of course, both types of the vehicle require charging to be able to operate properly. A great example is the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.
A Crossover is newer term of a vehicle designed with the architecture and platform of a mid-sized passenger car mixed with an SUV. This offers improvements of fuel efficiency, comfort and ride day to day, while allowing semi-off road capabilities for the weekends. They are available in all different types of shapes and sizes, with many offering three rows of seats. All-wheel drive and 4 wheel drive systems are optional. The Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross is a prime crossover example.
A convertible is a vehicle with a roof that can either be folded or retracted back. The roof can either be a hardtop or a soft folding design. Typically, these cars tend to look quite sporty and consist of a two-door body. A good example of a convertible is the Mitsubishi Eclipse convertible (not sold in Australia).
In Australia, when we hear the term truck, most of up think of large industry heavy vehicles. And technically, that’s what they are. But in recent years, many have adopted the American slang reference to a ‘truck’, meaning pick-up or utility vehicle. An example of a truck in this context is the Mitsubishi Triton.
While we have tried to be as specific as we can, it is important to remember that certain vehicles can be classified into different or multiple categories. At the end of the day, it is the vehicle and its functions that are important rather than its category.