Choosing the right car type

So, you know you need a new car, but you aren’t entirely sure what type of car you should buy? With so many to choose from on the market, the choice can sometimes be a bit overwhelming. When you’re looking to purchase a car, it can be hard to know what kind of car you need, including what all the different specifications mean.

We’ve detailed each type of car below, which will give you some guidance on where to start with your search.

Number of doors

When considering different types of cars, you will often hear the door numbers referred to. Cars are often referred to as 2, 3, 4 or 5-door cars, which can be confusing because what car has an odd number of doors? Well, when the numbers are odd, the extra door is the boot.

This is if the car is a hatchback, city cars, supermini, compact, coupé, estate, people carrier or a SUV, as the boot leads straight into the car itself. Which makes the boot, door number 3 or 5. A saloon car, for example, would only have 2 or 4 doors.

Hatchback is a very non-specific term for cars, and it 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 car types; city cars, superminis and small family cars (or compact cars).

Hatchback car types

City car

What is a city car?

Because city cars are very small and tend to have 2 doors, they’re usually bought for zipping around cities and suburbs.

City cars have efficient, but low-power engines, meaning 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.


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. This means they 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 larger, as its design almost looks as though it’s  been 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, a higher price for more space.


What is a saloon car?

A saloon is a more traditional car. They are longer, bigger cars, 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 might like a saloon. They tend to be popular with business travellers as well as being bigger for older families.


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 car for all the family and want a large boot. These car types are perfect if you have a large family, a dog, or even hobbies that require you to transport large objects, e.g. surfing or biking.


What is a coupé?

A coupé (whose name comes from a French word which means to cut) is a 2 or 3-door car that is a lot shorter than an Estate. They tend to be very small, with minimal space in the backseat and look a little sportier.

Think: Vauxhall Astra, Renault Megane. 

Who is a coupé for?

Coupés are typically for those that don’t have young children as putting kids in the back of a coupé can proof very difficult for families.


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. However, cabriolets tend to cost more to insure as the fabric roofs can make them more of a theft risk.


What is a roadster?

Roadsters are 2-seater convertible cars that are designed to be fast, so they tend to be very light and sporty. However, 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 a little racier.


What is an SUV?

SUVs used to be referred to as 4x4s, due to the fact that they are a 4-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 and is the modern term used to describe a 4×4.

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.