Car Body Styles Explained!

So, what kind of cars do you like? Do you like SUVs or MPVs? What about saloons or superminis? Coupes or crossovers? Hatchbacks, fastbacks, hardtops or 4x4s?

Okay, maybe it's not as easy a question as I thought.

The car world is packed full of jargon and we're all guilty of reeling off endless technical terms without actually explaining anything.

Well, no longer!

In this blog, we're running through all the most common car bodystyles, explaining what it all means and what you can expect from each.

What is a 4x4?

While 4x4s were originally designed for shifting sheep and towing trailers, you’re more likely to spy a big all-wheel drive offroader in the Waitrose carpark than a field nowadays.

But even though they're predominantly driven by footballers, 4x4s are still big, hairy vehicles that could churn their way across muddy fields without breaking a sweat.

Modern drivers are attracted by the raised driving position, the acres of space and the confidence they give you on greasy roads.

What is a City Car?

Also called a compact or mini, the city car is unsurprisingly a car designed for the city. They’re small, dinky and easy to park — perfect for life on congested streets.

They usually have short chassis and wheels pushed out as far as they’ll go, which makes them the ideal choice for twisty streets and tight parallel parking. Get behind the wheel of a Ford Ka or Peugeot 108 and you can literally see every corner of the car, which makes maneuvering an absolute breeze.

The drawback of a city car is space. There really isn’t very much of it. Go for a trip to Ikea and the biggest thing you’ll be bringing back is a tasteful ceramic vase.

What is a Coupe?

Stick Einstein, Schumacher and Ford in a room for a couple of years and they come out with a good definition for coupe. Or they might spend the entire time arguing over the smallest minutiae of detail. Who knows?

Right, what's our definition of a coupe?

Well, coupes have two doors (unless they have four), fit either two (or four) people, have a solid roof and a sloping rear roofline. They tend to be on the sportier end of the excitement scale without being fully fledged sport cars.

Simple, eh?

Think Audi TT, Mercedes C-Class and the Toyota GT86.

What is an Estate?

Estate cars are kinda like the dachshunds of cars. Long bodies and … well that’s where the similarities end really.

Manufacturers will usually take a saloon or a hatchback and elongate the body to create more space in the cabin and a cavernous space for the boot.

Stick the back seats down and you can fit wardrobes and sofas in the back and still have enough space for a couple of chocolate labs.

They'll also drive and drive and drive. Through rivers across moors and down muddy tracks, estates are the unheralded workhorse of the automotive world.

In all honesty, there really aren’t many drawbacks. I guess the biggest thing is the looks. Estates rarely look better than the saloon or hatchback they’re based off and probably won’t turn many heads when you cruise down the high street. They're also a bit of a nightmare to park but that's kind of to be expected with a motor the length of the average cruise liner.

What is a Hatchback?

With hatchbacks, you get exactly what it says on the tin — a hatch on the back. In other words, the bootlid and window are one piece that moves together.

Hatchbacks are usually small(ish), cheap(ish) and bags of fun. They’re an excellent compromise car delivers looks, space and practicality.

What is an MPV?

Multi-Purpose Vehicles or MPVs are big, practical cars designed for families and anyone else who needs a lot of space.

With an MPV, space is everything.

The headroom tends to be fantastic, the seats are generous and there’s often extra seating in the boot space.

However, they aren’t the fastest or the sleekest and they definitely aren’t the coolest but you’ll be hard pushed to find more internal space for your money.

What is a Saloon?

Think of saloons as three boxes stuck together. In box one you’ve got the engine, in box two you’ve got the cabin and in box three you’ve got the boot. Each box is separate and closed off every other one. (Compare that to the two-box hatchback where the cabin and boot are one connected space.

Saloons tend to be executive cars. Boot space isn’t measures in litres but in golf club bags and skis.

While the market is dominated by luxury models like the Audi A4 and Mercedes C-Class, you can find cheaper options like the Ford Mondeo.

What is a Sports Car?

This is a bit of a catch-all for all the cars that are fast, fun and utterly impractical. Think Porsche 911s and Jag F-Types.

They’re built to look great, sound amazing and feel fantastic to drive.

With two seats (usually) and a boot the size of a postage stamp, sports cars aren’t the most practical motor on the market — but that's not really the point!

What's Your Favourite?

So, what's your favourite body type? Something off our list or maybe something a touch more obscure? A fastback, muscle car or grand tourer?

Let us know about your favourite bodystyles and specific cars in the comments below!