Types of Cars – Different Car Body Styles Explained

Do you know one type of car from another? After all, with so many cars on the road and with new ones being released every year, it can be hard to distinguish between them. From sedans to pickup trucks, each type of vehicle has its characteristic shape and is designed for different purposes. 

By knowing the types of cars available, you might be able to make better car purchasing decisions, identify a car when you need to, and maybe even gain a new appreciation for them. So if you’ve ever wondered what is an SUV or what makes a coupe, read on. We’ll discuss what defines each category and what makes it a good choice for you.

Sedan – You Can’t Go Wrong with It

Proton Saga VVT - type of car - sedan

A sedan, also known as a saloon is the most traditional and popular type of car around the world. This car body style typically has a three-box design, where the body is divided into three distinct sections: the bonnet, cabin, and boot. A sedan typically has four doors, two rows of seats, and a boot so it can often fit five people comfortably and has decent cargo space. This is what makes sedans one of the most favored types of vehicles, especially for families. 

Since sedans generally have a lower center of gravity, good aerodynamics, and low weight, they handle better around corners and are less prone to tipping over than taller vehicles like SUVs. These characteristics also help modern sedans to be quite fuel-efficient making them a great choice for all kinds of buyers. However, some sedans, especially in the smaller segments can have limited head- and legroom, which is something to consider when shopping for a car. 

Thanks to the practicality and popularity of this car body style, almost all car brands have sedans in their lineup. They also come in various sizes from small A-segment to large D-segment sedans and beyond. Well-known sedans in Malaysia include the Proton Saga, Toyota Vios, and Honda Civic.

Hatchback – Practicality in a Compact Package

Suzuki Swift - type of car - hatchback

A hatchback traditionally has a similar body shape as a sedan with four doors, a squared-off roof at the rear, and a flip-up boot door. This hatch-style boot door is what gives this type of car the name “hatchback”. Hatchbacks are great for city driving thanks to their shorter length but they do tend to lack cargo space as most A- and B-segment hatchbacks have boots that typically fit one or two small suitcases. 

The tall boot space on a hatchback allows it to carry taller items. Plus, the boot is often expandable via foldable rear seats. And with some brands incorporating versatile configurations in their hatchbacks, such as with Honda’s ULTRA seats, this type of car has the potential to carry a wide range of items despite its compact size. The compact size, ease of ownership, and versatility of hatchbacks make them popular among people from all walks of life as evidenced by the demand for the Perodua Myvi, Malaysia’s best-selling car. Other popular hatchbacks in Malaysia are the Suzuki Swift and Mazda 3 hatchback.

Multi-Purpose Vehicle (MPV) – The King of Versatility

Proton Exora - type of car - MPV

One of the best types of cars for families is the MPV (Multi-Purpose Vehicle). MPVs tend to be taller than sedans and have a one or two-box configuration. They are designed as people carriers and can comfortably transport six or more people depending on the seating configuration. Some have regular hinged doors while others have sliding doors that are easier to operate in tight spaces. The second and third-row seats in MPVs are also usually foldable and can be configured in a number of ways to allow for increased cargo space. Some MPVs have seats that fold up against the side walls to allow the transport of tall items as well. 

Although MPVs are not the sleekest type of vehicles around, they do have fans who love their versatility and style. Although they are generally large and boxy, MPVs are among the most customizable vehicles; you could kit it out with sporty body kits just like sedans, and even install monitors that your passengers can watch their favorite shows on. You could even drive down to the beach and have a picnic straight out of your MPV; just fold away the rear seats and you have ample space to prepare a meal and hang out in. Thanks to its space and versatility, the MPV is great for large families and especially avid travelers. Examples of top MPVs in Malaysia include the Proton Exora and Toyota Vellfire.

Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) – Road Visibility and Comfort

Honda CR-V - type of car - SUV

The demand for SUVs (Sports Utility Vehicles) has grown tremendously in recent years. So what is an SUV? SUVs tend to have a similar shape to hatchbacks but with a larger body and higher ground clearance. This gives it a high center of gravity and a more commanding view of the road. With its large size and rear flip-up hatch door, an SUV provides a large, accessible cargo space that can fit tall items.

Modern SUVs like the Honda CR-V tend to be better suited for city driving as they are designed with passenger comfort, cargo space, and road stability in mind. However, there are other SUVs that are better designed to perform off-road like the Toyota Land Cruiser and Subaru Forester, which have all-wheel drive. Compared to sedans and hatchbacks though, SUVs are not as stable around sharp turns, so drivers need to be more careful when driving an SUV at higher speeds. Like other types of cars, SUVs come in multiple segments from the compact Hyundai Kona to the nine-seater Mazda CX-9.

Coupe – Fun on the Road

Type of car - coupe

A coupe is a two-door car with a three-box sedan-like silhouette, a fixed roof, and a boot. As most coupes emphasize performance, they tend to be low and wide which helps with handling. Coupes usually have a long, sweeping bonnet, a short rear end, and wider doors which emphasizes its sporty characteristics. Additionally, they may or may not have back seats, and even on those that do, the back seats can be cramped for adults. Being performance-oriented, most coupes have high-powered engines and are engineered to handle well at speed.

Coupes can range in size from the compact Audi TT to the large Mercedes S-Class Coupe. It’s an uncommon car body style as it’s not as practical as a regular sedan and often lacks passenger as well as cargo space. That being said, large coupes can usually fit four adults comfortably. But let’s be real, if you’re looking for a coupe, practicality is probably not at the top of your list. What you will get, however, is a car that turns heads and is fun to drive. A sporty coupe would make a great weekend car that you can drive on winding back roads or even on the track. Recently, manufacturers have started to name even their four-door cars as coupes if they have a low and sleek coupe-like styling, though they are still considered sedans. An example of a four-door sedan with coupe styling is the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe.

Convertible – Drive with the Wind in Your Hair

Type of car - Convertible

Convertibles are a type of car with a retractable roof that totally exposes the cabin when folded down. The roof can be made of various materials, with soft-top convertibles having canvas or vinyl roofs and hard-top convertibles built with aluminum, steel, or plastic roofs. Most modern convertibles have powered retractable roofs, though some have manual ones that have to be folded by hand. 

Convertibles can have either one or two rows of seats and just like sedans, range from small to large cars, though most convertibles in Malaysia tend to be small, sport-oriented ones. Driving a convertible lets you feel the breeze in your hair but this type of car isn’t great for the Malaysian weather where it’s usually either hot or raining. If you do decide to purchase a convertible, make sure that the retractable roof is working and that the interior is not sun-damaged. Examples of convertibles include the BMW Z4 and Mazda MX-5.

Pickup Truck – Go Where Others Can’t

Toyota Hilux - pickup truck

A pickup truck is a type of vehicle designed to haul large items on various roads including off-road. It typically has a three-box design, with either a two or four-door passenger cabin and an open cargo bed. Pickup trucks sit taller than other cars and most of them have all-wheel or four-wheel drive to assist with off-road driving. They have a body-on-frame construction, with the body mounted onto the steel frame, unlike many modern cars and SUVs that have unibodies. This design allows pickup trucks to have a higher load capacity than typical passenger cars making them the go-to choice for business owners who regularly haul large items. 

With the open cargo bed, you can transport items of all sizes, even better than what an SUV or MPV can do. Although pickup trucks are synonymous with being gas guzzlers, modern ones have vastly improved fuel economy depending on the model and type of engine. If you regularly need to haul large items or travel to areas without proper tarmac, a pickup truck can serve you well. In fact, you can even pick up off-road driving as a hobby and explore the various trails available in Malaysia’s rainforests. Popular pickup trucks in Malaysia include the Toyota Hilux and Mitsubishi Triton.

We hope this guide can help you better understand the basic car body types available in the market and maybe even give you an idea of the type of car you want to get next. If you’re looking to buy a used car on a reputable platform, do check out CARSOME. You can even filter according to body styles when looking for your perfect car. At CARSOME, we put all our cars through a detailed 175-point check and best of all, there are no hidden charges when you buy from us!