Car Body Styles Explained: Making Sense Of The Types Of Cars Available

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Ever come across the terms ‘hatchback' or ‘sedan' and wondered what they mean? Well, those actually are descriptions of body styles of a car, or the type or form of vehicle design. In this short guide, we explain the different kinds of car designs out there.

Modern day design increasingly sees body styles merging and being influenced by designs of other categories of vehicles, but we have tried to keep it simple, and bring to you the basic car body types available in the country today.

1. Sedan

A sedan, also called a saloon, is a passenger car with a bonnet covering the engine and a separate boot for luggage at the rear. This is one of the most popular body styles of cars today, with seating for at least four people. A sedan design is also known as a ‘three-box' design. An example of a sedan is the Honda City.

2. Hatchback

A hatchback is a car with a sloping back and a hinged rear door that opens upwards. These cars differ from SUVs, MPVs or vans in that they are usually much more compact. Hatchbacks usually have seating for four-five people is almost always a tight squeeze. An example of a hatchback is the Maruti Suzuki Swift.

3. SUV

An SUV, or Sports Utility Vehicle, is similar to an estate, but usually bigger and higher off the ground. SUVs are often offered with four-wheel-drive and are designed for both on- and off-road use. Some have the towing capacity of a pickup, and offer the passenger carrying capacity of a minivan or large sedan. An example of an SUV is the Ford Endeavour.

4. MPV

MPVs, or Multi-Purpose Vehicles, feature a one- or two-box design and are taller than station wagons. They often see estate-like interior appointments and are also called people-carriers, people-movers, minivans, or MUVs (Multi-Utility Vehicles). They are designed to be spacious and usually get three rows of seats with seating for 7 or more. An example of an MPV is the Toyota Innova.

5. Estate

Estates, or station wagons, have a body style similar to a sedan, but with an extended rear luggage or cargo area. These cars have a two-box design with the passenger compartment extending over where the boot would have been in a saloon. They are usually based on sedans and often share the same frontal design. Estates are not very common in India, but an example is the Skoda Octavia Combi.

6. Crossover

A crossover is a vehicle built on a car platform but often with features of an SUV like increased ground clearance and a higher seating position. Crossovers are typically designed only for light off-roading. An example of a crossover is the recently-launched Fiat Avventura.

7. Coupe

Coupes are often the sporty variants of saloon cars, with doors reduced from 4 to 2. However, the coupe body style varies from carmaker to carmaker, and now there are even four-door coupes like the Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class. The name ‘coupe' comes from the French verb ‘couper', which means ‘to cut'. An example of a two-door coupe is the Audi A5.

8. Convertible

A convertible, or cabriolet, is a body style with a foldable or retractable roof. Such cars often have canvas or vinyl roofs, though nowadays these are also made of plastic, aluminium or steel. Convertibles are usually two-door cars. An example of such a car is the BMW Z4.

9. Pickup

A pickup is a light motor vehicle with an open rear cargo area known as a ‘bed'. These are extremely popular in the US, and feature factory-built integrated beds. The term also applies to coupe utility vehicles, where they are based on a car chassis or a dedicated platform. Pickups are called ‘utes' in Australia and New Zealand. They are often available with two or four doors for the passenger compartment, and are called single-cab pickups and double-cab pickups respectively. An example of a pickup is the Tata Xenon, which features a double-cab design.

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Story first published: Wednesday, November 26, 2014, 16:41 [IST]
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