Sedans are car designs with 3 distinct compartments, the engine bay, a passenger bay, and a cargo bay, that are separated from each other. This is referred to as a 3-box design and has 3 structural pillars, pillars A, B, and C, providing support for each section of the car.
This broad description has led to many sedan types emerging from the automotive industry. We recognize many of these designs as sedans, but many are not considered sedans in the public view.
1. Four-Door Sedan
Most people consider a sedan a 4-door vehicle, which is the design most commonly associated with the sedan car shape.
A 4-door sedan typically has two doors at the front of the car for the driver and front passenger and two rear doors giving access to the rear passenger seat.
The 4-door description is very broad and is often used in conjunction with terms to describe other characteristics of the sedan design, such as a 4-door, notchback sedan.
Sedans with 4 doors typically have a traditional trunk, with a trunk lid that cannot be described as an additional door on the vehicle.
2. Two-Door Sedan
Many people do not consider a car with a two-door design as a sedan, but these cars fulfill the other criteria of a sedan with the 3-box design and are therefore classified as a sedan.
Sedans with a two-door design still have a back row of passenger seats, but access to this space is via the two front doors on the vehicle.
The backrest of the front seats can be designed to fold forward, giving access to the rear seats, or the entire front seat can be slid forward to increase accessibility to the rear passenger seats.
Two-door design sedans are usually compact vehicles with shorter lengths than traditional sedans.
They can have a standard trunk with a horizontal lid or a fastback design with a non-horizontal trunk lid.
The two-door description is mostly used together with other terms that describe the car design, such as a two-door fastback sedan.
3. Hatchback Sedans
Hatchbacks are not vehicles normally associated with sedans, but these vehicles are indeed sedans, but the sedan part is usually left out when referring to a hatchback to avoid confusion.
Hatchbacks can be two-door or four-door models and are distinguished from other sedans in that the rear windscreen and trunk lid are combined into a single panel.
The rear windscreen and combined trunk lid lift up together when accessing the cargo area, giving rise to this design also being called a liftback sedan.
The trunk lid is not usually horizontal, as in a notchback sedan, but rather in the same plane as the rear slope of the roof and rear windscreen.
In some countries, the hatchback is referred to as an additional door, leading these vehicles to be known as 5-door or 3-door hatchbacks.
The Volkswagen Golf series is a classic example of a hatchback sedan.
4. Subcompact Sedan
Several naming standards used for sedans indicate the relative size of the vehicle and the engine capacity.
A subcompact sedan is a description relating to the size of the vehicle. A subcompact can be any sedan other than a hatchback with an internal volume in the passenger and cargo compartments between 85 and 99 cubic feet.
An example of a subcompact sedan is the 2020 Hyundai Accent.
5. Compact Sedan
Compact sedans have the same shape as other sedans, but the chassis is narrower and shorter, reducing the internal space in the passenger compartment and the packing space in the trunk.
A compact sedan usually has a length of between 13.9 feet and 14.7 feet or 4.25 meters and 4.5 meters. The engine capacity in these vehicles is generally between 1.4-liter and 2.5-liter engines.
Compact sedans are seen as commuter vehicles or small family vehicles. An example of a compact sedan is the 2012 Honda Civic.
6. Mid-Size Sedan
Mid-size sedans, also called large-family sedans, have a slightly longer length than compact sedans.
The length of a mid-size sedan is typically between 15.4 feet and 14 feet or 4.7 meters and 4.9 meters.
The engines in mid-size sedans can vary from 2-liter to 3.5-liter options, with some models featuring 6-cylinder motors.
Examples of mid-size sedans include the Audi A6, Chevrolet Malibu, and the 2022 Volkswagen Passat.
7. Full-Size Sedan
Full-size sedans have a combined passenger and cargo volume of a minimum of 120 cubic feet or 3.4 cubic meters.
This extra internal volume and the longer chassis of at least 16 feet or 4.9 meters make the full-size sedans much roomier and more comfortable inside. The back seat can generally comfortably seat
three people in this vehicle class.
The engines in these vehicles are usually larger than 3.0 liters to enhance performance with the larger body size of these vehicles.
The Dodge Charger, Toyota Avalon, Chrysler 300 C, and the 2023 BMW 7-Series are a few of the sedans that fit in this category.
8. Executive Sedan
Executive sedans are also called mid-luxury sedans and are positioned between full-size sedans and luxury sedans.
These vehicles are aimed at the upper-level corporate executive and promote an air of comfort and style, with power and performance to match.
The executive sedan is the same size as a full-sized sedan, being longer than 16 feet or 4.9 meters, but generally sports 6 or 8-cylinder engines that can be up to 5.0-liter capacity.
The finish and comfort of these cars are at a higher level and carry a higher purchase price than full-size sedans.
Examples of executive sedans include the Mercedes-Benz EQS, Audi A8 Horch, Rolls Royce Ghost, and the Jaguar XF.
9. Luxury Sedans
Luxury sedans are a cut above the rest regarding the car’s internal space, comfort, and luxury fittings. These cars are often used to transport dignitaries, politicians, and VIPs. In some regions, these vehicles are called grand sedans.
Luxury sedans are generally longer than 16.4 feet or 5 meters and have a wider chassis to increase the available space in the vehicle. The engines in these sedans are usually larger than 4.0 liters and can be anywhere from 6 to 12 cylinders.
Examples of luxury sedans include the Rolls Royce Phantom and the Bentley Flying Spur.
10. Sports Sedan
Sports sedans, or super saloons as they are called in Europe, are sedans that are configured for performance superiority.
In some cases, these cars can be considered modern muscle cars since they are built for luxury and speed. The size of sports sedans can range from mid-size to full-size sedans.
Sports sedans are often produced by manufacturers renowned for their performance cars. Examples of sports sedans include the Porche Panamera Sport Saloon, Subaru WRX, and the Audi S5 Sportback.
11. Notchback Sedans
A sedan with a notchback design is any sedan with a horizontal trunk lid and a defined angle where the trunk lid meets the rear windscreen.
The length of the trunk is not usually a factor when describing a sedan as a notchback, but rather the horizontal plane of the trunk lid and a noticeable angle between the rear window and trunk lid.
Notchback is not a common term used by the general public, but rather a differentiation used by auto manufacturers where they have a single car model with different designs to the rear of the vehicle.
The Chevrolet Vega and the Chevrolet Impala are two examples of notchback sedans. The Lexus LS 460 and the Audi A4 30 TDI S Tronic are modern examples.
12. Fastback Sedans
A fastback sedan has an unusual rear-end design. There is no noticeable angle difference between the rear slope of the roof, back windscreen, and trunk lid.
The fastback design adds a sportier look to the car’s overall shape but often reduces the available headroom in the car’s rear passenger seats.
A fastback sedan can be a two-door version, such as the original Volkswagen Beetle and the 1948 Cadillac Fastback, or a four-door version, as in the Mercedes-Benz CLS produced in 2013 and Volkswagen Arteon.
13. Club Sedans
The term “club sedan” has different meanings for different people and car manufacturers. The most common description is that it is a standard sedan with a smaller passenger space and a lower roof, reducing the headspace in the vehicle. The finish on the inside and outside of the car is more upmarket.
There are usually more features, technology, and bells and whistles added to a club sedan, making it stand out from standard models.
Sedans of this style were mostly produced between 1920 and the 1950s in the USA but are not an option for modern sedans.
An example of the club sedan was the Kaiser Manhattan Club Sedan, produced in 1954.
14. Hardtop Sedans
Describing a sedan as a hardtop can be confusing to some because most sedans have a fully enclosed passenger compartment with a solid steel roof.
The hardtop sedan typically had frame-less door windows, which improved visibility on the sides of the car. The hardtop design required additional strength in the chassis and roof construction to compensate for the missing B-pillar between the front and rear car seats.
Changes in motor vehicle safety standards have largely seen the dying out of this design in sedans, with the last models produced in the late 1970s.
Examples of hardtop sedans include the 1960 AMC Ambassador, the 1957 Sunbeam Two-Door Hardtop, and the 1978 Chrysler Newport.
15. Coach Sedans
Coach sedans are where the car design, usually a two-door design, provides less room for the passengers in the rear seats.
Coach sedans generally do not have an externally opening trunk for luggage or cargo storage, with the trunk compartment only accessible by pulling the backrest of the rear seats forward.
This design is an older style that is not common in modern cars. An example of a coach sedan was the Bugatti Coach, produced in 1947.
16. Close-Coupled Saloons
The close-coupled saloon was typically a European term used to describe coach sedans, which was a more common term in the USA.
Close-coupled saloons have limited space in the rear passenger seat, with the rear seat being further forward, closer to the front seats. This limits the legroom in the rear passenger seats but allows for shortening the car’s overall length.
The close-coupled name for this design comes from the small distance between the front seats and rear seats.
An example of a close-coupled sedan is the Rover P5 3 Litre Coupe from the 1970s.
17. Close-Coupled Sedans
The close-coupled sedan was a design that had popularity in the USA between the 1920s and 1930s. Due to the shorter chassis length, this design was seen as a crossover from the traditional 3-box sedan design to a 2-box design.
The Chrysler Imperial and Packard 745 were examples of this design where the rear seats were positioned closer to the front seats, limiting the legroom for passengers in the back seat.
The term sedanet, or sedanette, was a term that some car manufacturers used to describe a smaller version of a full-size sedan in their product range.
Many car manufacturers included the sedanet reference when naming the model to denote the car’s smaller size. Examples of this are the Cadillac Series 62 Sedanette, built in 1949, and the Buick Super Sedanet, produced between 1942 and 1951.
Sedans cover a wide range of cars available on the market, ensuring there is a sedan that meets most urban motoring needs. These vehicles are designed for urban and suburban streets, making them perfect for these driving conditions.