Do you know your hatchbacks from your saloons? Your coupes from your estates? Or your crossovers from your SUVs? With so many car types in the market, it's easy to feel a bit confused when looking for your next car.
Built for urban roads, city cars are small, light and affordable. They tend to be very agile – thanks to their lightness – and are perfect for sneaking into tight parking spaces, doing the school run or running errands.
These cute and practical cars don’t usually have big engines nor burn a lot of fuel. So, they are not only reasonably priced but they’re also cheap to drive and keep.
City cars don’t have a lot of luggage space and are not very comfortable if you regularly have to drive around more than 2 people. But if you’re looking for a fun and economical ride for your urban life, look no further than the smallest cars in the market.
City cars are usually hatchbacks and that is where you’ll find them on Motors.co.uk.
Despite their name, superminis are a type of hatchback that’s between the tiny city cars and traditional hatchbacks like the Ford Focus or Volkswagen Golf. They are a middle ground that’s proved to be very popular in the UK with the Ford Fiesta, Vauxhall Corsa and Volkswagen Polo never going out of fashion.
Supermini cars are compact, light and agile but, at the same time, sit four people comfortably and have a boot big enough for a couple of small suitcases or your weekly shopping. Honestly, they’re ideal if you need a versatile ride that’s not too big for you or your small family.
Don’t let their size and economical price tag make you think you’ll have to settle for the bare basics. Superminis are among UK’s best-selling cars and the brands that make them pack them with all the equipment you need – from touchscreens to adaptive cruise control. And if you fancy a touch of luxury, the Audi A1 and the Mini Hatchback could be a perfect choice.
Regular hatchbacks, also called family hatchbacks, are the largest car type before moving up to a saloon car. These medium-sized comfortable and practical vehicles make perfect family cars thanks to the reasonable space, great choice of models, low-cost motoring costs and comforts. They’re also fun to drive and not too tricky to park in tight spots.
What is a hatchback?
Hatchback cars are vehicles that when you lift the boot lid you open up the entire back of the car, from the bumper to the roof, including the rear screen. The fact that the boot counts as an extra door is the reason why hatchbacks can be called three-door or five-door vehicles, opposed to four-door saloons.
If you need to load bulky luggage – like a pram or big suitcases – or access to the interior of the car from the boot, then a hatchback is a sensible choice. Note that Audi and some other carmakers call their hatchback models ‘sport backs’. They are the same, though.
MPVs or people carriers – the two words are correct and mean the same – are essentially practical vehicles that those who need more space will love. They are large and can have up to seven seats, which makes them perfect for big families.
Whilst not the most stylish cars on the road, these family-sized minibuses offer more affordable running costs than many equivalent SUVs. And if you need to carry a lot of bulky luggage you can always fold flat the rear rows to turn your MPV into a van-like load bay.
Just in case you were wondering, MPV stands for a multi-purpose vehicle.
Well-loved by driving enthusiasts looking for a fun and spacious car to take on long-distance journeys, saloon cars can be real head-turners. They come in various sizes and many drivers think they look more stylish than hatchbacks. They’re definitely more streamlined and aerodynamic.
Saloons are mainly the domain of premium brands like Audi and Mercedes, although almost every car manufacturer has one in their catalogue. These cars are smart and classy and come with the latest technology and options. It’s no wonder they’re a firm favourite of business executives.
What is a saloon?
Technically a saloon is a car where the boot is separate from the rest of the interior. The boot tends to have a smaller opening and less luggage space than hatchbacks, although some have a slot in the back seats so that you can fit skis or flat-pack furniture -even if they poke partly out into the interior of the vehicle.
You’d like to know too that saloons are called four-door cars because the boot opening doesn’t count as a door as it’s separate from the interior.
Coupes are essentially two-door versions of saloon cars with a hard swooping roof at the back – although you can find some four-door coupes out there for families. They are even more stylish and cool than saloons, thanks to their sleek and sporty image. To top it all, their powerful engine and lower suspension make coupes an absolute joy to drive.
Coupes are ‘IT cars’ and come with a high price tag. You won’t likely be able to fit a lot of luggage in but if you want to cruise in style, this could be the right choice.
A Grand Tourer is a bigger and even more luxurious coupe. This means that their back seats can be a bit more comfortable for passengers, but not as roomy as in a full saloon. A good example of a Grand Tourer would be the Bentley Continental GT.
There are also SUV-Coupes – such as the BMW X6 and the Mercedes GLE Coupe. These combine the high driving position and chunky styling of an SUV with a sweeping coupe-like roofline. Like SUVs, they offer a large cargo area, a raised driving position and limited off-road ability, paired with the style of a coupe.
Also called cabriolets, convertibles are coupes with their roof removed and replaced with a retractable fabric or metal cover. Basically, they let you drive with the wind in your hair and the sun on your face, giving you a sense of freedom like nothing else. That is when the sun is shining in the UK.
They may not have a big boot nor a lot of storage space. But when did anyone buy a convertible to carry big luggage around?
Sportier convertibles are sometimes called roadsters, spiders, soft-tops or hardtops – these two depending on the type of cover they have.
Simply put, an estate car is a family hatchback with a rear extension. With their huge boots, estates are perfect for families who need to cram a lot of child-friendly equipment, think buggies and lots of bags, or for those that need to carry flat-pack furniture or the ones who pack their whole wardrobe when going on a holiday.
Although in the past estate cars tended to be quite boxy, newer models are more stylish and elegant. They’re not the cheapest to run or the nimblest to drive, and they can be tricky to park in tight spots. But if you need the space at the back you won’t mind these.
Some manufacturers call estate cars ‘fastback’, ‘shooting brake’, ‘touring’, ‘tourer’ or ‘avant’.
There is a very fine line between crossovers and traditional SUVs. However, as a norm SUVs have tended to be bigger and based on a truck platform instead of a hatchback – like crossovers. That makes SUVs really powerful vehicles with great cargo and towing capacity and plenty of space. Some may have a four-wheel drive but can’t match true 4x4s off-road.
SUV stands for sport-utility vehicle and whilst they are not cheap nor usually very fuel-efficient, they tick all the boxes for those looking for plenty of space, great visibility and power.
Crossovers are a type of car which can be considered a subcategory of SUV vehicles. They offer the high ride and chunky styling of an SUV, paired with the comforts of a traditional hatchback.
Don’t be deceived by their looks, though. Crossovers were not meant for off-roading and lack the heavy gear of 4x4s. That’s not necessarily a bad thing because they offer reasonably decent fuel efficiency and perform very well on the road. The high position makes them perfect for parents strapping children in the back or elderly drivers that appreciate how comfortable they are to get in too.
A pick-up is a type of car that comes with four-wheel drive, a large loading area at the back and a very powerful Diesel engine capable of towing a lot and taking on off-road terrain. They are perfect if you’re looking for a rugged big vehicle to carry gardening tools, big sports gear or work materials. You’ll find single and double-cab models, depending on how many people you need to carry too.
If you love driving off-road and exploring the toughest terrains, then a proper 4×4 car will be perfect for you. These cars were made to be axle-deep in mud and to tackle the most averse weather conditions.
They sacrifice fuel economy and sometimes comfort, but they have been the favourites of farmers and adventure lovers for such a long time for plenty of reasons. 4×4 cars have, like their name suggests, 4-wheel drive and sitting behind the wheel is an experience like no other.
Sports cars are a dream come true for driving enthusiasts. They may not be the most practical cars nor the cheapest but people buy them for the thrill of sitting behind the wheel and taking the road like quicksilver.
These fun vehicles with a hefty price tag were born for high-performance, with rapid acceleration and outstanding handling at top speeds. Sports cars usually only have two seats, a tiny boot and are definitely not very fuel-efficient. But they do turn all the heads and are great fun to drive.
We hope this guide has helped you understand the differences – subtle or not – between all the different bodystyles in the car market. If you’re still not sure about what your next car should be we can help. Head over to our Buying Guides or Best Of series to help find the best car for you.