Coupe, or hatchback? A guide to different car types

Coupe, or hatchback? A guide to different car types
With so many sizes, shapes and styles to choose from, it’s hardly surprising that many motorists are bewildered by the variety of cars on offer.

Hatchbacks, saloons, MPVs, SUVs, coupes… they all offer different things for different people.

Find out which kind of vehicle is right for you with our essential guide to car body types, then a quiz so that you can test your newfound motoring knowledge.

Guide contents

Car body types quiz


As the UK’s most popular body style, the hatchback comes in a range of sizes, from small city runabouts to larger family cars. They all have one thing in common though – the whole rear end opens to allow access to the boot. The rear seats will also fold down to create more loading space.

The obvious advantage of hatchbacks is that they’re easy to drive around town because of their compact size, and parking is straightforward.

Many hatchbacks have a fun, youthful image, and most models are available with either three or five doors. Three-door cars are usually less expensive than their five-door equivalents but they’re not ideal if you regularly carry passengers in the back seats.

Examples: Peugeot 108, Renault Clio, Ford Fiesta, Vauxhall Corsa

Perfect for… new drivers and those who mainly drive in towns and cities.

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These days, saloon cars in the UK are mainly the domain of premium brands such as Audi and Mercedes, although the likes of Kia and Hyundai also make them.

Saloons are called sedans in the US, and have longer wheelbases than conventional family hatchbacks, giving you a more comfortable ride and more legroom, particularly for backseat passengers.

The boot, which is completely separate from the passenger compartment, is a more awkward space than a hatchback, so loading can be tricky.

Examples: Mercedes C-Class, Audi A4, BMW 3 Series,

Perfect for… business executives who want a smart, well-built car to match their professional image.


Estate cars have been the mainstay of British family life for generations. They’re usually based on hatchbacks and saloons but tend to be a bit longer. This type of car is characterised by a big, boxy rear end – it gives you more boot space, so very practical if you often transport bulky luggage or flat-pack furniture.

While the main advantage of estate cars is the big boot, the longer shape also makes it easier to carry loads on the roof. They’re not always the most attractive vehicles, however, and can be awkward to park.

Examples: Volvo V60, Peugeot 308 SW, Skoda Octavia Estate, Volkswagen Passat Estate

Perfect for… holidaying families and adventurers who carry around a lot of luggage and load the roof with bikes and other sports equipment.


If space and versatility are your must-haves, an MPV – or multi-purpose vehicle – could be just what you’re looking for. They used to be known as people carriers but have become much more than that.

You benefit from a range of possible layouts inside, with seats that slide, fold and can even be removed. Larger models often have seven seats, typically with the rear rows folding flat to the floor to turn the car into something more resembling a van.

MPVs have a slightly higher driving position, which can give you more confidence behind the wheel.

Although not always easy on the eye, MPVs have boomed in popularity in the past decade as they’re extremely practical and can be just as economical as smaller family cars.

Examples: Ford Galaxy, Vauxhall Zafira, Citroen Grand C4 SpaceTourer

Perfect for… parents who regularly transport their kids and kids’ friends to sports clubs and parties.


SUV, or sports utility vehicle, has become an umbrella term for a variety of hardy vehicles including crossovers, 4x4s and off-roaders.

Initially, SUVs were big, four-wheel drive machines built for rugged terrains, with a powerful engine, large boot and spacious interior. While some are still made for life off-road, many modern SUVs are designed only to be used on the tarmac.

What they do all offer, however, is a comfortable, solid drive at motorway speeds. Many are just as easy to drive as a family hatchback, and smaller models and hybrids are perfect for zipping around town. They have sturdy bodies and sit a bit higher off the ground which, as well as making you feel more in control, can make it easier for people with mobility issues to get in and out.

Examples: Mazda CX5, Nissan Qashqai, Kia Sorento, Land Rover Discovery

Perfect for… families with large dogs who enjoy walks on remote beaches and adventures in the great outdoors.


Coupes are primarily two-door versions of saloon cars, with a hard roof. They’re great-looking cars, with a sleek, sporty image, and are fun to drive as they sit a little lower to the ground.

While under normal circumstances they’re not big on space and practicality as most coupes are two-door models, there’s a growing trend for four-door designs to make them more family-orientated.

Because coupes are considered desirable cars, manufacturers can often charge more for them than an equivalent saloon.

Examples: BMW 2 Series Coupe, Mercedes E-Class Coupe, Audi TT, Lexus RC

Perfect for… style kings and queens who are too cool for school.  

Sports car

If you get a kick out of driving, a sports car is the ultimate dream vehicle. It’s something you buy because you really have to have it, not because you need it to get you from A to B.

Sports cars are designed for high-performance, with rapid acceleration and superior handling at top speeds. They usually only have two seats, making them less practical than most other cars, but some do have four, and fuel economy has improved on newer models.

Examples: Toyota GT86, Nissan GT-R, Porsche 911, Maserati GranTurismo

Perfect for… those who live life in the fast lane and can afford to splash the cash.


Convertibles are cars with retractable roofs. You can get both soft and hard tops, made from fabric or metal. Some convertibles are out-and-out sports cars, but others are based on hatchbacks and saloons.

They’re appealing because they give you the chance to soak up the sun on those balmy summer days – making you the envy of other drivers.

This type of car is more style than substance, and has limited space, especially when the top comes down as it usually retracts into the boot. However, you can get both two and four-seat models, and some have reasonably-sized boots.

Examples: MINI Convertible, Audi A5 Cabriolet, BMW 4 Series Convertible, Mazda MX-5

Perfect for… sun-worshippers who love to feel the wind in their hair when they drive.     

Car body types quiz


Still not sure what your next car should be? Head to our car reviews page. We have thousands of reviews and every car on the market is covered so even the pickiest of motorists should find something they like.

Did you know, you can get fined for moving out of the way of an ambulance?

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