Sedan (automobile)

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2018 Toyota Camry (ASV70R) Ascent sedan (2018-08-27) 02.jpg
2018 Toyota Camry sedan
1928 Model A Ford.jpg
1928 Ford Model A Tudor sedan
World's first all-steel sedan made by Budd for Dodge Bros, 1919

A sedan or saloon (British English) [1] [2] is a passenger car in a three-box configuration with separate compartments for engine, passenger, and cargo. [3]


Sedan's first recorded use as a name for a car body was in 1912. [4] The name comes from a 17th-century development of a litter, the sedan chair, a one-person enclosed box with windows and carried by porters.

Variations of the sedan style of the body include: close-coupled sedan, club sedan, convertible sedan, fastback sedan, hardtop sedan, notchback sedan, and sedanet/sedanette.


Profiles of a sedan, station wagon and hatchback versions of the same model (a Ford Focus) Three body styles with pillars and boxes.png
Profiles of a sedan, station wagon and hatchback versions of the same model (a Ford Focus)

A sedan ( /sɪˈdæn/ ) is a car with a closed body (i.e. a fixed metal roof) with the engine, passengers, and cargo in separate compartments. [5] This broad definition does not differentiate sedans from various other car body styles, but in practice, the typical characteristics of sedans are:

It is sometimes suggested that sedans must have four doors (to provide a simple distinction between sedans and two-door coupés). [13] However, several sources state that a sedan can have two or four doors. [7] :134 [14] [15] In addition, terms such as sedan and coupé have been more loosely interpreted by car manufacturers since 2010. [16]

When a manufacturer produces two-door sedan and four-door sedan versions of the same model, the shape and position of the greenhouse on both versions may be identical, with only the B-pillar positioned further back to accommodate the longer doors on the two-door versions. [17]


Turkish sedan chair from a historical exhibition Sedan-chair.jpg
Turkish sedan chair from a historical exhibition

A sedan chair, a sophisticated litter, was an enclosed box with windows used to transport one seated person. Porters at the front and rear carried the chair with horizontal poles. [18] Litters date back to long before ancient Egypt, India and China. Sedan chairs were developed in the 1630s. Etymologists suggest the name of the chair very probably came through varieties of Italian from the Latin sedere, meaning "to sit". [19]

Motor World, November 14, 1912 Sedan - Studebaker line radically reconstructed.jpg
Motor World, November 14, 1912

The first recorded use of sedan for an automobile body occurred in 1912 when the Studebaker Four and Studebaker Six models were marketed as sedans. [19] [20]

1900 Renault Type B Renault Type B (1900) (cropped).jpg
1900 Renault Type B

There were fully enclosed automobile bodies before 1912. Long before that time the same fully enclosed but horse-drawn carriages were known as a "brougham" in the United Kingdom, "berline" in France, and "berlina" Italy (the latter two have become the terms for sedans in these countries).

It is sometimes stated that the 1899 Renault Voiturette Type B (a 2-seat car with an extra external seat for a footman/mechanic) was the first sedan, since it is the first known car to be produced with a roof. [21] [22]

However, a sedan is typically considered to be a fixed roof car with at least 4 seats. [19] Based on this definition, the earliest sedan was the 1911 Speedwell, which was manufactured in the United States. [23] :87

International terminology

In American English, Latin American Spanish, and Brazilian Portuguese, the term sedan is used (accented as sedán in Spanish). [24]

In British English, a car of this configuration is called a saloon ( /səˈlun/ ). Hatchback sedans are known simply as hatchbacks (not hatchback saloons); long-wheelbase luxury saloons with a division between the driver and passengers are limousines. An equivalent term for Sports sedan in the United Kingdom is "super saloon". [2]

In Australia and New Zealand sedan is now predominantly used, they were previously simply cars. In the 21st century, saloon is still found in the long-established names of particular motor races.[ citation needed ]

In other languages, sedans are known as berline (French), berlina (European Spanish, European Portuguese, Romanian, and Italian) though they may include hatchbacks. These names, like the sedan, all come from forms of passenger transport used before the advent of automobiles. In German, a sedan is called Limousine and a limousine is a Stretch-Limousine. [25]

In the United States two-door sedan models were punningly called "Tudor"; by extension, Ford used "Fordor" for four-door sedans.

Standard styles

Chrysler 300C notchback sedan 2015 Chrysler 300 rear 4.8.18.jpg
Chrysler 300C notchback sedan

Notchback sedans

In the United States, notchback sedan distinguishes models with a horizontal trunk lid. The term is generally only referred to in marketing when it is necessary to distinguish between two sedan body styles (e.g. notchback and fastback) of the same model range.

Hatchback/liftback sedans

Several sedans have a fastback profile, but instead of a trunk lid, the entire back of the vehicle lifts up (using a liftgate or hatch). Examples include the Chevrolet Malibu Maxx, BMW 4 Series Grand Coupe,Audi A5 Sportback, and Tesla Model S.

The names "hatchback" and "sedan" are often used to differentiate between body styles of the same model. Therefore the term "hatchback sedan" is not often used, to avoid confusion.

Fastback sedans

There have been many sedans with a fastback style.

Hardtop sedans

1957 Cadillac four-door hardtop 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham 4-door hardtop (7143765601) (cropped).jpg
1957 Cadillac four-door hardtop
1957 Sunbeam two-door hardtop SunbeamRapierSeries1.jpg
1957 Sunbeam two-door hardtop

Hardtop sedans were a popular body style in the United States from the 1950s to the 1970s. Hardtops are manufactured without a B-pillar leaving uninterrupted open space or, when closed, glass along the side of the car. [26] [27] [28] The top was intended to look like a convertible's top but it was fixed and made of hard material that did not fold. [25]

All manufacturers in the United States from the early 1950s into the 1970s provided at least a 2-door hardtop model in their range and, if their engineers could manage it, a 4-door hardtop as well. The lack of side-bracing demanded a particularly strong and heavy chassis frame to combat unavoidable flexing. The pillarless design was also available in four-door models using unibody construction. For example, Chrysler moved to unibody designs for most of its models in 1960 and American Motors offered four-door sedans, as well a four-door station wagon from 1958 to 1960 Ambassador. [29] [30]

In 1973 the US government passed Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 216 creating a standard roof strength test to measure the integrity of roof structure in motor vehicles to come into effect some years later. Production of hardtop sedan body style ended with the 1978 Chrysler Newport. For a time roofs were covered with vinyl and B-pillars were minimized by using styling methods like matt black finishes. Stylists and engineers soon developed more subtle solutions. [25]

Mid-20th century variations

1929 Packard Close Coupled Sedan 1929Packard633CloseCoupled5PassengerClubSedanRightSide (cropped).jpg
1929 Packard Close Coupled Sedan

Close-coupled sedans

A close-coupled sedan is a body style produced in the United States during the 1920s and 1930s. Their two-box boxy styling made these sedans more like crossover vehicles than traditional three-box sedans. Like other close-coupled body styles, the rear seats are located further forward than a regular sedan. [7] :43 [31] This reduced the length of the body, so close-coupled sedans (also known as town sedans) were the smallest of the sedan models offered. [32]

Models of close-coupled sedans include the Chrysler Imperial, [33] [34] Duesenberg Model A [35] and Packard 745 [36]

Coach sedans

1947 Bugatti Coach Bugatti Coach Type 73A (1947) pic1 (cropped).JPG
1947 Bugatti Coach
1932 Chevrolet Coach Chevrolet 1932 Standard 2-Door Coach (3593339692) (cropped).jpg
1932 Chevrolet Coach

A two-door sedan for four or five passengers but with less room for passengers than a standard sedan. A Coach body has no external trunk for luggage. Haajanen notes it can be difficult to tell the difference between a Club and a Brougham and a Coach body as if manufacturers were more concerned with marketing their product than adhering to strict body style definitions. [25]

1967 Rover 3-litre coupe Rover 3.5 coupe P5B ca 1967 profile shot showing lowered roofline.jpg
1967 Rover 3-litre coupé

Close-coupled saloons

Close-coupled saloons originated as four-door thoroughbred sporting horse-drawn carriages with little room for the feet of rear passengers.

In automotive use, manufacturers in the United Kingdom used the term for development of the chummy body where passengers were forced to be friendly because they were tightly packed. They provided weather protection for extra passengers in what would otherwise be a two-seater car. Two-door versions would be described in the US and France as coach bodies. [37] A postwar example is the Rover 3 Litre Coupé.

Club sedans

1932 Buick series 90 Club Sedan 1932 Buick Series 90 4-Door Club Sedan Classic Car Club of America Museum (9427583825) (cropped).jpg
1932 Buick series 90 Club Sedan
1954 Kaiser Manhattan Club Sedan 1954 Kaiser Manhattan Club Sedan (34602810421) (cropped).jpg
1954 Kaiser Manhattan Club Sedan

Produced in the United States from the mid-1920s to the mid-1950s, the name club sedan was used for highly appointed models using the sedan chassis. [7] :44 Some people describe a club sedan as a two-door vehicle with a body style otherwise identical to the sedan models in the range. [38] Others describe a club sedan as having either two or four doors and a shorter roof (and therefore less interior space) than the other sedan models in the range. [7] :44

The term "club sedan" originates from the club carriage (e.g. the lounge or parlour carriage) in a railroad train. [7] :44

1947 Buick Sedanet 1947 Buick Sedanette.jpg
1947 Buick Sedanet


From the 1910s to the 1950s, several United States manufacturers have named models either Sedanet or Sedanette. The term originated as a smaller version of the sedan, [39] however it has also been used for convertibles and fastback coupes.

Models which have been called Sedanet or Sedanette include: 1917 Dort Sedanet, [40] King, [39] 1919 Lexington, [39] 1930s Cadillac Fleetwood Sedanette, [41] 1949 Cadillac Series 62 Sedanette, [42] 1942-1951 Buick Super Sedanet [43] [44] and 1956 Studebaker.

See also

Related Research Articles

Station wagon Auto body-style with its roof extended rearward

A station wagon or estate car, is an automotive body-style variant of a sedan/saloon with its roof extended rearward over a shared passenger/cargo volume with access at the back via a third or fifth door, instead of a trunk/boot lid. The body style transforms a standard three-box design into a two-box design — to include an A, B, and C-pillar, as well as a D-pillar. Station wagons can flexibly reconfigure their interior volume via fold-down rear seats to prioritize either passenger or cargo volume.

Convertible Vehicle with a removable roof

A convertible or cabriolet is a passenger car that can be driven with or without a roof in place. The methods of retracting and storing the roof vary between models. A convertible allows an open-air driving experience, with the ability to provide a roof when required. Potential drawbacks of convertibles are reduced structural rigidity and cargo space.

Hatchback car body configuration with a rear door that swings upward to provide access to a cargo area

A hatchback is a car body configuration with a rear door that swings upward to provide access to a cargo area. Hatchbacks may feature fold-down second row seating, where the interior can be reconfigured to prioritize passenger or cargo volume. Hatchbacks may feature two- or three-box design.

Coupe Car body style

A coupe or coupé is a passenger car with a sloping or truncated rear roofline and two doors.

Opel Kadett German small car model

The Opel Kadett is a small family car produced by the German automobile manufacturer Opel from 1936 until 1940 and then from 1962 until 1991, when it was succeeded by the Opel Astra.

Coupé de ville Car body style produced from 1908 to 1939

Coupé de ville — also known as town car or sedanca de ville — is a car body style produced from 1908 to 1939 with an external or open-topped driver's position and an enclosed compartment for passengers. Although the different terms may have once had specific meanings for certain car manufacturers or countries, the terms are often used interchangeably.

Mitsubishi Galant Motor vehicle

The Mitsubishi Galant is an automobile which was produced by Japanese manufacturer Mitsubishi from 1969 to 2012. The model name was derived from the French word galant, meaning "chivalrous". There have been nine distinct generations with total cumulative sales exceeding five million units. It began as a compact sedan, but over the course of its life evolved into a mid-size car. Initial production was based in Japan, but from 1994 the American market was served by vehicles assembled at the former Diamond-Star Motors (DSM) facility in Normal, Illinois.

There are many types of car body styles. They vary depending on intended use, market position, location and the era they were made in.


A hardtop is a rigid form of automobile roof, which for modern cars is typically constructed from metal. A hardtop roof can be either fixed, detachable for separate storing or retractable within the vehicle itself.

Chrysler Imperial Motor vehicle

The Chrysler Imperial, introduced in 1926, was Chrysler's top-of-the-line vehicle for much of its history. Models were produced with the Chrysler name until 1954, after which it became a standalone brand; and again from 1990 to 1993. The company positioned the cars as a prestige marque to rival Cadillac, Continental, Lincoln, Duesenberg, Pierce Arrow, Cord, and Packard. According to Antique Automobile, "The adjective ‘imperial’ according to Webster's Dictionary means sovereign, supreme, superior or of unusual size or excellence. The word imperial thus justly befits Chrysler's highest priced model."

Fastback Type of styling to rear car bodywork

A fastback is an automotive styling feature, defined by the rear of the car having a single slope from the roof to the tail. The kammback is a type of fastback style.


A notchback is a design of a car with the rearmost section that is distinct from the passenger compartment and where the back of the passenger compartment is at an angle to the top of what is typically the rear baggage compartment. Notchback cars have "a trunk whose lid forms a distinct deck." In profile view, the body has a step down from the roof with a downward inclined passenger compartment's rear window to meet an almost horizontal trunk lid extending to the rear of the car.


A liftback is a variation of hatchback with a sloping roofline between 45 to 5 degrees. On the contrary, traditional hatchback designs usually has a 90 to 46 degree slope on the tailgate or rear door. In other words, the liftback is essentially a hatchback with a more sloping roof similar to sedans/saloons. Some liftbacks may also have an appearance similar to a coupé but with a tailgate hinged at the roof that is lifted to open.

Chrysler Saratoga Motor vehicle

The Chrysler Saratoga is an automobile built by Chrysler. The nameplate was used from 1939 to 1952 and from 1957 to 1960 in the U.S. market, in Canada through 1965, and in Europe from 1989 to 1995. In the beginning, it was introduced as a sport luxury model, using the Straight Eight engine from the Chrysler New Yorker which was more formal, and the Imperial which had graduated to special order limousine.

Phaeton body Style of open automobile, popular in the early 20th-century

A phaeton is a style of open automobile without any fixed weather protection, which was popular from the 1900s until the 1930s. It is an automotive equivalent of the horse-drawn fast, lightweight phaeton carriage.

Dodge Polara Motor vehicle

The Dodge Polara is an automobile introduced in the United States for the 1960 model year as Dodge's top-of-the-line full-size car. After the introduction of the Dodge Custom 880 in 1962, the Polara nameplate designated a step below the full-sized best trimmed Dodge model; the Polara that year had been downsized to what was in effect intermediate, or mid-size status. In its various forms, the Polara name was used by Dodge until 1973, when its position in Dodge's line-up was replaced by the Dodge Monaco.

Chrysler Newport Motor vehicle

The Newport was a name used by Chrysler for both a hardtop body designation and also for its lowest priced model between 1961 and 1981. Chrysler first used the Newport name on a 1940 show car, of which five vehicles were produced. The Newport continued the tradition of a large, comfortable luxurious coupe and sedan, while offering a modestly priced product in comparison to the Chrysler New Yorker and Chrysler Imperial. The Newport gradually replaced the Chrysler Windsor which originally replaced the Chrysler Royal. The Newport was initially the brand name for the Windsor with a hardtop body style, then was used for coupes, sedans and station wagons in later decades.

Car body configurations

The configuration of a car body is typically determined by the layout of the engine, passenger and luggage compartments, which can be shared or separately articulated. A key design feature is the car's roof-supporting pillars, designated from front to rear of the car as A-pillar, B-pillar, C-pillar and D-pillar.

Opera window

An opera window is a small fixed window usually behind the rear side window of an automobile. They are typically mounted in the C-pillar of some cars. The design feature was popular during the 1970s and early 1980s that was adopted by domestic U.S. manufacturers most often with a vinyl roof.

Brougham (car body)

A brougham was originally a car body style where the driver sat outside and passengers seated within an enclosed cabin, as per the earlier brougham horse-drawn carriage. Similar in style to the later town car, the brougham style was used on chauffeur-driven petrol and electric cars.


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