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A BMW 3 Series Is Probably The Best Example Of A Saloon/Sedan

A sedan car, American English terminology (saloon in British English), is one of the most common body styles of the modern automobile. At its most basic, the sedan is a passenger car with a separate hood (bonnet in British English), covering the engine in the front, and a separate trunk (boot in British English), for luggage at the rear—the archetypical "3-box" car, However, 4-door sedans are taller than a 5-door minivan, 5-door hatchback, 5-door SUV or a 5-door station wagon. Variations of the sedan style include the close-coupled sedan, club sedan, convertible sedan, fastback sedan, hardtop sedan, notchback sedan, and sedanet.

Historically, the usage of the term sedan has changed over time. Several versions of the body style exist, including four-door, two-door and fastback models.


Three body styles with pillars and boxes

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.[1] This broad definition does not differentiate sedans from various other car body styles. Still, in practice, the typical characteristics of sedans are:

  • a B-pillar (between the front and rear windows) that supports the roof;[2]
  • two rows of seats;[3]Template:Refpage
  • a three-box design with the engine at the front and the cargo area at the rear;[4][5]
  • a less steeply sloping roofline than a coupé results in increased headroom for rear passengers and a less sporting appearance;[6] and
  • a rear interior volume of at least Template:Convert/ft3.[7][8]

It is sometimes suggested that sedans must have four doors (to provide a simple distinction between sedans and two-door coupés); others state that a sedan can have four or two doors.[3]Template:Refpage[9][10] While the sloping rear roofline defined the coupe, the design element has become common on many body styles with manufacturers increasingly "cross-pollinating" the style so that terms such as sedan and coupé have been loosely interpreted as "'four-door coupes' - an inherent contradiction in terms."[11][12]

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.[13]


A sedan chair, a sophisticated litter, is an enclosed box with windows used to transport one seated person. Porters at the front and rear carry the chair with horizontal poles.[14] 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."[15]

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.[15][16] 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 in 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. A one-off instance of similar coachwork is also known in a 1900 De Dion-Bouton Type D.[17][18]

A sedan is typically considered to be a fixed-roof car with at least four seats.[15] Based on this definition, the earliest sedan was the 1911 Speedwell, which was manufactured in the United States.[19]Template:Refpage

International terminology[]

In American English, Latin American Spanish, and Brazilian Portuguese, the term sedan is used (accented as sedán in Spanish).[20] In British English, a car of this configuration is called a saloon (/səˈlun/).[21] Hatchback sedans are known simply as hatchbacks (not hatchback saloons); long-wheelbase luxury saloons with a division between the driver and passengers are limousines.[citation needed]

In Australia and New Zealand, sedan is now predominantly used; they were previously simply cars. In the 21st century, saloon remains 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.[22]

In the United States, two-door sedan models were marketed as Tudor in the Ford Model A (1927–1931) series.[23] Automakers use different terms to differentiate their products and for Ford's sedan body styles "the tudor (2-door) and fordor (4-door) were marketing terms designed to stick in the minds of the public."[23] Ford continued to use the Tudor name for 5-window coupes, 2-door convertibles, and roadsters since all had two doors.[24] The Tudor name was also used to describe the Škoda 1101/1102 introduced in 1946.[25] The public popularized the name for a two-door model and was then applied by the automaker to the entire line that included a four-door sedan and station wagon versions.[25]

Standard styles[]

Notchback sedans[]

Main article: Notchback

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

Liftback sedans[]

Main article: Liftback

Several sedans have a fastback profile but a hatchback-style tailgate is hinged at the roof. Examples include the Peugeot 309, Škoda Octavia, Hyundai Elantra XD, 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. To avoid confusion, the term hatchback sedan is not often used.

Fastback sedans[]

Main article: Fastback

There have been many sedans with a fastback style.

Hardtop sedans[]

Main article: Hardtop#Pillarless Hardtops

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 vehicle.[26][27][28] The top was intended to look like a convertible's top. However, it was fixed and made of hard material that did not fold.[22]

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 a 4-door hardtop. The lack of side bracing demanded a strong, heavy chassis frame to combat unavoidable flexing. The pillarless design was also available in four-door models using unibody construction.[29] For example, Chrysler moved to unibody designs for most of its models in 1960 and American Motors Corporation offered four-door sedans, as well a four-door station wagon from 1958 until 1960 in the Rambler and Ambassador series.[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. Hardtop sedan body style production ended with the 1978 Chrysler Newport. Roofs were covered with vinyl, and B-pillars were minimized by styling methods like matt black finishes. Stylists and engineers soon developed more subtle solutions.[22]

Mid-20th century variations[]

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 farther forward than a regular sedan.[3]Template:Refpage[31] This reduced the length of the body; close-coupled sedans, also known as town sedans, were the shortest 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[]

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 says 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.[22]

Close-coupled saloons[]

Close-coupled saloons originated as four-door thoroughbred sporting horse-drawn carriages with little room for rear passengers' feet. In automotive use, manufacturers in the United Kingdom used the term to develop 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 United States and France as coach bodies.[37] A postwar example is the Rover 3 Litre Coupé.

Club sedans[]

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.[3]Template:Refpage 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.[3]Template:Refpage

Club sedan originates from a railroad train's club carriage (e.g.,, the lounge or parlour carriage).[3]Template:Refpage


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 that have been called Sedanet or Sedanette include the 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.



The word sedan is possibly derived from a southern Italian dialect derivative of Italian sede "chair" (the first sedan was said to have been introduced from Naples). The derivation from the town of Sedan in France, where it was said to have been made or first used, lacks historical evidence, according to OED. The word sedan was later used to refer to a litter or windowed box containing a passenger seat carried by two or more bearers.

International terminology[]

In North American English, the term sedan is used.

In British English the configuration is called a saloon and has its engine under the bonnet at the front, and a boot for luggage at the rear. The British English term is sometimes used by British car manufacturers in the United States: the Rolls-Royce Park Ward was sold as a saloon in the United States, while the smaller Silver Seraph was called a sedan.

In Australia and New Zealand, the American term is now used, albeit with the British terms of boot and bonnet being retained. In other languages, sedans are known as Limousine (German), Berline (French), Berlina (Spanish and Italian), although these terms also may include hatchbacks. These terms, besides sedan, derive from types of horse-drawn carriages.

See also[]

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  1. "Definition of sedan in English by Oxford Dictionaries". 
  2. Duffy, James (2008). Auto Body Repair Technology (Fifth ed.). Cengage Learning. pp. 27–28. Retrieved 9 September 2015. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 Haajanen, Lennart W. (2007). Illustrated Dictionary of Automobile Body Styles. McFarland. Retrieved 9 September 2015. 
  4. Morello, Lorenzo (2011). The automotive body - Volume I, Components design. Springer. p. 184. Retrieved 9 September 2015. 
  5. "Starting Out: Car Design Glossary - Part 2". 
  6. "What is the difference between coupe and sedan?". 26 August 2017. 
  7. "Club Coupes". 
  8. "Coupe vs. Sedan: What's the Difference and Definitions of the Body Styles?". 12 February 2009. 
  9. Morello, L.; Rossini, Lorenzo Rosti; Pia, Giuseppe; Tonoli, Andrea (2011). The Automotive Body: Volume I: Components Design. Springer Science & Business Media. pp. 184. 
  10. "Coupe vs. Sedan: What's the Difference and Definitions of the Body Styles?". 12 February 2009. 
  11. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'Module:Citation/CS1/Configuration' not found.
  12. Stafford, Eric (24 July 2019). "Sedan vs. Coupe: How Different Are They?". 
  13. "1962 Rambler Brochure". pp. 6–7. 
  14. "Definition of sedan". 
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 Stevenson, Angus, ed (2010). New Oxford American dictionary. (Third ed.). Oxford. 
  16. The Motor World, November 14, 1912, p. 18. Motor World Publishing, New York
  17. "Renault Voiturette Type B (1899)". 26 October 2015. 
  18. "Renault's first ever car attends Paris Motor Show". 
  19. Georgano, G.N. (1985). Cars: Early and Vintage, 1886-1930. London: Grange-Universal. 
  20. "sedán | Diccionario de la lengua española" (in es).án. 
  21. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named cambridgesaloon
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 22.3 Haajanen, Lennart W. (2007). Illustrated Dictionary of Automobile Body Styles. McFarland. 
  23. 23.0 23.1 Gary, Fiske (April 2017). "1930 Ford Model A "Tudor"". Vermont Auto Enthusiasts. 
  24. "1937 Ford Tudor". 2022. 
  25. 25.0 25.1 Cibulka, Zdeněk (25 April 2019). "Škoda Tudor: A Car That Still Has a Lot to Offer". Škoda Storyboard. 
  26. "Definition of: Hardtop". Engineering Dictionary. 2008. 
  27. Thomas, Alfred; Jund, Michael (2009). Collision repair and refinishing: a foundation course for technicians. Cengage Learning. p. 164. 
  28. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'Module:Citation/CS1/Configuration' not found.
  29. "Chrysler moves to Unibody (unit-body construction): 1960". 14 January 2021. 
  30. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'Module:Citation/CS1/Configuration' not found.
  31. Severson, Aaron (15 August 2009). "From Pillar to Post: More Automotive Definitions". 
  32. Cummings, Christopher (2014). Cadillac V-16s Lost and Found: Tracing the Histories of the 1930s Classics. McFarland. p. 50. 
  33. "1931 Chrysler Imperial Close Coupled Sedan". 
  34. "1931 Chrysler Imperial Close-Coupled Sedan". 22 July 2017. 
  35. "1925 Duesenberg Model A Close Coupled Sedan - Amazing Original Car!". 
  36. "1930 Packard". 
  37. Haajanen, Lennart W. (2007). Illustrated Dictionary of Automobile Body Styles. McFarland. Retrieved 24 December 2018. 
  38. "Club Coupes". 
  39. 39.0 39.1 39.2 Haajanen, Lennart W. (2017). Illustrated Dictionary of Automobile Body Styles, 2d ed.. McFarland. p. 136. Retrieved 25 November 2018. 
  40. Dort Motor Car Co, Wisconsin Motorist November 1916, H A Apple, publisher, Milwaukee
  41. GM Heritage Centre
  42. Willson, Quentin (1997). Classic American Cars. DK Publishing. Retrieved 25 November 2018. 
  43. "1948 Buick Series 40 Special Sedanet – Just A Few Inches Short Of A GM's Greatest Hit". 
  44. "Fastback Fascination – 1949 Buick Model 56-S Super Sedanet". 

External links[]

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