Choosing a car type

When you’re looking to purchase a car, it can be hard to know what kind of car you need, as well as what’s out there. Plus, there are all the different names for each type of car, which can only have minor differences between them.

 

Number of doors

Door numbers are often referred to, and can be confusing at first. Cars are often referred to as two, three, four or five-door cars. When the numbers are odd, the extra door is the boot.

For example, a five-door car is actually a four-door car with a boot. Similarly, a three-door car is actually a two-door car with a boot.

Hatchback

Hatchback is a very non-specific term for cars that refers to the way the back of the car slopes down from the roof to the back bumper.

Hatchback cars have seen a huge increase in popularity, so the category itself has been split up into three distinct categories; city cars, superminis and small family cars (or compact cars).

Car types

City car

What is a city car?

Because city cars are very small and tend to have two doors, they’re typically suited to zipping around cities and suburbs. City cars have efficient, but low-power engines, so they have a low top speed but good fuel economy. However, because of their short stature, parking is very straightforward and steering tends to be light.

Think: Fiat 500, Hyundai i10, Volkswagen Up. 

Who is a city car for?

Because of the small size, city cars are typically not suited for families. They are, however, good for people who need their car mostly for commuting relatively short distances. City cars are also relatively popular with younger people, as they tend to be cheaper and more fun.

Supermini

What is a supermini?

The supermini category is filled with cars that would have traditionally been called ‘hatchbacks’. Superminis are small and cheap, but modern ones can be quite spacious. Superminis tend to be the mid-way point between a city car and something larger and, as such, tend to be good for driving around the town, but can also be comfortable to drive on the motorways and other longer trips.

Think: Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Polo, Vauxhall Corsa. 

Who is a supermini for?

Superminis tend to be good first cars for those with small or young families, as they’re spacious enough for kids, but still cheap enough for young parents to afford.

Compact car

What is a compact car?

A compact car is still a hatchback, but stretched out. The manufacturers have elongated the car itself, in order to add more space, as well as give a five-door option and more power from a bigger engine.

Think: Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Peugeot 308. 

Who is a compact car for?

Compact cars are for people who prefer more power from their small car. However, this comes with a trade-off, which is a higher price for more space.

Saloon

What is a saloon car?

A saloon is a more traditional car, having the traditional look of a longer car, with a flatter boot. Saloon cars can vary greatly, as the class covers everything from big family cars to very expensive high-performance models.

Think: BMW 3 Series, Audi A3, Volkswagen Passat. 

Who is a saloon car for?

Saloon cars are suited to anyone that has outgrown their supermini or compact car. If you don’t have any specific needs that would require a different car, e.g. 4×4, you’d be better off with a saloon. They tend to be popular with business travellers and bigger or older families.

Estate

What is an estate?

An estate is just a saloon car, but with an extended roof. The roof of an estate extends the length of the car so that you get a much larger boot.

Think: BMW 3 Series Touring, Volkswagen Passat Estate, Volvo V60. 

Who is an estate for?

Estate cars are suited to those that need a saloon with a larger boot, for example; if you have hobbies that require you to transport large objects, e.g. surfing or biking.

Coupé

What is a coupé?

A coupé (whose name comes from the French word coupé, which means to cut) is a two- or three-door car that is a lot shorter than an Estate. They tend to be very small, with minimal space in the backseat.

Think: Vauxhall Astra, Renault Megane. 

Who is a coupé for?

Coupés are typically for those of us that like to drive a lot faster, and have either never had kids, or kids who have left. Putting kids in the back of a coupé is too much hassle for families.

Cabriolet

What is a cabriolet?

Cabriolet is a french word that has come to mean a convertible car, so it is any car with a roof that folds back. The roof can be either a soft fabric one, or a hard one.

Think: Audi A3 Cabriolet, Mercedes-Benz E-Class. 

Who is a cabriolet for?

Cabriolets are for people who want to feel the wind swirl around them while they drive. Cabriolets tend to cost more to insure, however, as the fabric roofs can make them more of a theft risk.

Roadster

What is a roadster?

Roadsters are two-seater convertible cars that are designed to be fast, so they tend to be very light and sporty. Don’t expect much in the way of boot space, or back seats.

Think: Mazda MX5, Honda S2000, BMW Z3. 

Who is a roadster for?

Roadsters are great for parents whose kids have flown the nest, when they want driving to be fun and be a little racier.

SUV/4×4

What is an SUV?

SUVs used to be referred to as 4x4s, due to the fact that they were four-wheeled drive. However, most modern cars have four-wheel drives available, so this name is a little old fashioned, but still has stuck. SUV stands for sports utility vehicle.

Think: Range Rover, Jeep Cherokee, Toyota Land Cruiser. 

Who is an SUV for?

SUVs are the car of choice for people who live in the countryside and need to be able to tackle fields and muddy lanes in the British weather. They offer a huge amount of space, so they’re a good choice for families too.

People carrier

What is a people carrier?

People carriers are just estate cars that have been inflated in size. Typically, their front ends become snubbed like a van, earning them the nickname ‘minivans’.

Think: Ford Galaxy, Vauxhall Zafira, Citroen C3 Picasso. 

Who is a people carrier for?

People carriers are all about being practical, allowing big families to be able to get around in comfort, along with all their luggage.

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