Guide to the Most Popular Car Body Types

With so many different types of cars on the market, it can be difficult to know what the names mean and which one is right for you. We'll help you separate your hatchbacks from your saloons and distinguish your coupes from your cabriolets. With our guide to the most popular car body types, finding your ideal used car just got a lot easier.


Hatchbacks all have one thing in common: the boot door opens upwards like a hatch (hence the name) to give you easy access. The cabin and boot are connected and the rear seats can usually fold down to increase load space if you need to carry more. You can choose between three doors (driver, passenger and boot) or five doors, where the rear passengers also get their own entrances. Five-door cars are usually more expensive than the three-doors but do offer more practicality.

These days hatchbacks mainly come in three general types:

City cars

The smallest of the hatchbacks, city cars are designed for the urban environment. Their diminutive proportions and wheels at the very corners of the body make them easy to park and nip through traffic. Space is limited though, and they usually struggle on the open road.


Bigger than a city car, the supermini offers more space and often a little more power – in fact, many manufacturers make both economical and hot-hatch versions. Examples of cars in this category are the MINI Cooper and Ford Fiesta.

Family hatchbacks

The largest of hatchbacks, these cars are ideal family cars thanks to the increased space for passengers and storage. If your family is larger though, you may need to look at an MPV or SUV


MPVs (Multi-Purpose Vehicles) used to be known as people carriers but, as their new name suggests, they’re as much about flexibility as being a posh mini-bus these days. MPVs usually have more seats than a hatchback so can be perfect for large families or for transporting your kids and their friends to clubs or parties. The seats are generally configurable to maximise either passenger numbers or comfort, often with the option to face some seats backwards to make a more sociable space. Typically, seating can also be folded or removed to free up more storage, sometimes even creating van-like load spaces.

What’s more, despite their helpfully high road position, many MPVs drive similarly to a family hatchback and with comparable levels of fuel economy. If you’re sold, why not give our top ten MPVs list a look?


Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) used to be rugged, large 4×4 vehicles, but nowadays, that’s just one of the types of cars under this umbrella. SUVs offer a higher ride than hatchbacks and, in most cases, more passenger and load carrying space. Though they lack the versatility of MPVs, many SUVs boast a more premium feel and are much more capable on rough terrain.


Crossovers are smaller SUVs – essentially a more rugged-looking raised hatchback. The ride height gives an improved view of the road and easier access to the cabin, but there’s usually no off-road ability to speak of. An example of a crossover is the Jeep Renegade.


Bigger and more powerful than a crossover, SUVs may have four-wheel-drive available but they still tend to be built for roads and most will never leave them. That’s good news if you’re buying used though, and more good news is that plenty of seven-seater variants are out there if needed.


These are SUVs that are built to conquer off-road terrain with ease – think Land Rover or Jeep. There’s no alternative if you need to stray from the beaten path, but these are usually expensive cars to buy and run. They’re also supremely practical and often very luxurious though, so can still be a tempting choice even if they’ll never go off-road.


Unlike a hatchback, a saloon’s boot doesn’t link into the cabin and the rear glass is not part of the opening. That makes them a little less practical for loading, but as they’re usually longer than a hatchback, they have a more comfortable ride and more legroom for passengers. Good motorway cruisers, saloons are popular with executives who travel from city to city, and they tend to come from premium brands like Audi, BMW and Mercedes.


While sporty versions of saloons do exist, for those looking for something a little more desirable, a coupe is usually a sleek alternative. More often than not, they have just four seats, reduced headroom (thanks to the sweeping lines) and two doors. This all adds up to a car that’s less practical than a saloon but with a bit more swagger. However, there are now a number of four-door coupes on the market too.


Convertibles (also known as cabriolets) are cars that have a retractable roof that folds into the boot for top-down driving in the sunshine. The roof is either fabric (soft-top) or metal (hard-top). Popular convertibles are roofless versions of coupes but there are now cabriolet versions of every car type out there. One thing to consider is that the roof has to go somewhere, and when it’s down, boot space can be pretty limited.


Estates are slightly longer versions of hatchbacks or saloons in which the roofline is extended towards the rear and the boot door is almost vertical. This increases boot space by a huge amount, and with seats folded flat, can create a wide, tall load space. Another advantage of estate cars is that they drive similarly to their hatchback/saloon counterparts thanks to the low r

ide height. They’re often a good choice for a versatile family car.

There’s a type of car to suit everyone, and each has its own list of pros and cons. It’s just a matter of knowing what they are, deciding what’s most important to you and keeping that information in mind when you hit up our listings.

Latest advice articles

Latest best of articles