Easy Guide to Understanding Car Categories and Body Styles

There are so many different types of cars available on the marketplace that it can be difficult if you’re not a car fanatic to get to grips with what will be the best choice for your needs. From the difference between a city car and a supermini, to coupes and hot hatches – the following guide explains the different terms in simple language so that you can choose the type of car that will give you the best value for your money.

Body Styles

Before we get to the term descriptions of cars, their main body style differences need to be outlined.


A cabriolet is another name for a convertible and is also known as a drop-top.


The term coupe covers a large range of cars depending on the manufacturer, but generally it means a two-door hard top car. A 2+2 coupe describes the seating pattern in the car i.e. two seats in the front and two in the back.


An estate car has a full-size compartment at the back and a bigger boot. Some manufacturers also refer to it as a station wagon (SW) or a sports tourer (ST).


Hatchback’s feature a shared passenger and cargo area, with a third door at the back. A three-door hatchback for example would be a vehicle with a door on each side and a rear door opening into the boot.

Hot Hatch

These are the high-performance version of a hatchback, often having a more powerful engine and extra features such as spoilers and sports seats.


These types of cars are distinguished in most cases by being two-seaters. Sometimes they are also used to describe a convertible but can also refer to cars with a roof. Certain manufacturers have referred to them as a Spider.


Saloons have a separate boot from the main body of the car which is accessible using a ‘lid’.

Car Terms

City car

City car’s, while self explanatory, cover the range of small and very compact cars that are popular and useful in congested urban areas. They are usually highly economical to run and their small engines result in lower insurance premiums. Cit cars will generally only have three doors because of their deliberately small size and their low top speeds mean they’re not ideal for long distance travel (although there are some exceptions).


Some people have the misconception from the name that superminis are smaller or the same size as the traditional mini. In fact these cars are actually larger than city cars and fall just below the size of a family hatchback. Superminis are some of the most popular cars on UK roads today. They are also economical to run and come in three- or five-door versions.

Family car

This term covers a huge range of cars, but is generally used to describe what you would call a ‘normal’ size car. It is larger than a supermini, but could be a hatchback, saloon, estate, or even a small MPV (Multi Purpose Vehicle, otherwise known as a people carrier). There are no set criteria distinguishing a small from a large family car, but generally the smaller versions are hatchbacks or estates, while large family cars cover saloons, estates and MPVs.

Executive or Luxury car

Executive cars generally refer to saloons and estates, whereas luxury vehicles apply to any type of car which boasts top brand names with high levels of equipment and quality.


Put simply, crossovers, a recent manufacturing trend, cover anything which doesn’t fit into the above categories…


Whether you’ve decided a supermini is the right size for your lifestyle or need a family car to pack in more people, your next step now that you understand the main car terms, is to go online and research the car models that best match your tastes and preferences.

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