When it's time to choose a new car, the kind of car you want is one of the most important things you've got to decide. Do you want a big off-roader like a Land Rover? Or something small and French like the Peugeot 108?
The style of a car is also known as the bodystyle and there's dozens of them, ranging from city cars and cabriolets to SUVs and MPVs.
In this section, I'll run through everything you need to know to make an informed choice!
The Definitive Guide to All Car Bodystyles
So, what kind of car bodystyles do you like? Do you like SUVs or MPVs? What about saloons or superminis? Coupes or crossovers? Hatchbacks, fastbacks, hardtops or 4x4s?
If you're not sure what some of those mean, you're not alone!
The automotive world is so packed with jargon that I have trouble keeping up with it — and I work in the industry! In this article, I take a deep dive into the world of bodystyles, explaining what separates a hatchback from a saloon and an MPV from an SUV. If you don't have time to read the full thing, here's a quick recap on the most popular bodystyles.
- 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.
- 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.
- Convertible: A convertible is technically any car that’s had its roof whipped off and replaced with a folding fabric or metal cover.
- Coupe: Coupes have two doors (unless they have four), fit 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.
- Crossover: A crossover is a hatchback styled to look like a SUV. They ride higher and have chunkier styling but they usually lack of proper off-roading gear.
- Estate: Estates are just cars with long wheelbases. 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.
- 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. The bootlid is attached at the roofline unlike saloons which have bootlids connected under the rear window.
- 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.
- Supermini: Superminis are bigger than city cars so can fit two adults in the back and a couple of suitcases in the boot but they’re small enough to feel nippy and agile.
- SUV: Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) are kind of like 4x4s for the road. They’re big, tall and offer bags of power.
City Car vs Supermini vs Hatchback
The smallest three bodystyles — city car, supermini and hatchback — account for almost 60% of the EU market. Despite this, the difference between the three bodystyles is fairly blurry.
Here's my attempt to hammer out a definition for each one. For a deep dive on the three, you can read the full article here.
- Hatchback: A hatchback is defined by a hatch-type rear door that attached at the roof and opens upwards It’s also a two-box design, meaning the cabin and boot are part of the same internal space. The cabin and boot are one ‘box’ and the second ‘box’ is the the engine. Hatchbacks are C-segment (medium) cars.
- Supermini: A supermini is a compromise between a hatch and a city car. Superminis are bigger than city cars and can fit two adults in the back. However, they aren’t as big or as comfortable as hatchbacks. Superminis are B-segment (small) cars.
- City car: A city car is basically just a very small hatchback. Usually they're designed with all four wheels pushed as far as they’ll go to help with internal space and handling. While they do have rear seats, they are usually too small for adults to sit comfortably. City cars are A-segment (mini) cars.
Saloon vs Coupe: What's the Difference?
If you're in the market for something flash, fancy or fast, you’ve probably already looked at saloons and coupes. However, you might have struggled to tell the difference between the two bodystyles.
Saloons are maybe a little bigger and they have four doors, right? Well, unless it’s a big coupe or a really small saloon. In this article, I compare the two bodystyles and try and pick out a few key differences. For the full shebang, check out the blog here.
- Saloon: A saloon is a three-box design, meaning its engine, cabin and boot are all separate internal spaces. A saloon will usually have four doors.
- Coupe: A coupe is essentially just a two-door version of a saloon.
SUV vs Crossover: What are the Differences and Similarities?
The world of big and comfortable cars is dominated by two bodystyles: SUVs and crossovers. Both bodystyles ride significantly higher than anything else on the road and both have relatively rugged styling.
So if you’re anything like me, you’re probably thinking, “What’s the difference between an SUV and a crossover?”
Here's a super quick definition for both. For the full showdown, check out the blog here.
- SUV: SUVs are kind of like 4x4s for the road. They’re big, tall and offer bags of power. Unlike 4x4s, SUVs are built for comfort and performance on the road and while some will have a bit of off-roading pedigree, it’s not a good idea to take them anywhere too challenging.
- Crossover: A crossover is basically a big hatchback styled to look like a SUV. They ride higher and have chunkier styling but they usually lack of proper off-roading gear. Crossovers take a bunch of the best stuff from SUVs like a raised seating position, spacious interiors and impressive luggage space.
Hatchback vs Saloon/Sedan: What are the Differences and Similarities?
Rewind ten years and the UK car market was dominated by two bodystyles: Hatchbacks and saloons. Manufacturers, keen to get a slice from both pies, actually produced a hatchback and saloon model in the same range. The Mazda3, for example, was (and is) available as both a hatchback and a saloon.
So, what's the difference between the two bodystyles? Here's a quick comparison. Again, for the full story, check out the full article here.
- Hatchback: A hatchback is defined by a hatch-type rear door that attached at the roof and opens upwards It’s also a two-box design, meaning the cabin and boot are part of the same internal space. The cabin and boot are one ‘box’ and the second ‘box’ is the the engine.
- Saloon: A saloon is a three-box design, meaning its engine, cabin and boot are all separate internal spaces. A saloon’s boot lid is attached underneath the rear window.