Explaining the Basic Car Body Types

There are those among us who will always see a car merely as a means of getting from A to B. For others, motoring can be a hobby, a passion and indeed a way of life. Somewhere in the middle are those of us who would be more interested in the intricacies of the modern motor vehicle, if only we knew just what it all meant! Here then, we begin a series of items which will attempt to demystify some of the terms - whether the very basic or the more technical - which you may come across within your used car warranty policy. We hope that you find them illuminating reading...


The saloon car is the most popular body style of the modern car. They normally have 4 doors, or sometimes 2 door variations. The bonnet is separate, covering the engine at the front of the vehicle, along with a separate boot for luggage at the rear. A saloon car seats four or more passengers and has a fixed roof that is of a full-height up to the rear window.

Examples of popular saloon cars:
Ford Mondeo, Vauxhall Insignia, Peugeot 407, BMW 5 Series, Honda Accord.


The hatchback always has a sloping back with a hinged rear boot door that opens upwards, the inside boot lid and window lift and open as a complete unit. The rear boot door opens to the inside of the car. The hatchback is often regarded as a vehicle with great storage space because the back seats nearly touch the top edge of the hatch.

Examples of popular hatchbacks:

Ford Focus, Toyota Yaris, Vauxhall Astra, BMW 1 Series, MINI Cooper

Multi-Purpose Vehicle (MPV)

The MPV is a minivan/minibus type vehicle. Basically it can carry lots of people and goods. It is a very versatile. Its body resembles a van but the rear side doors, windows and interior fittings are those associated with accommodating passengers. It is very similar to a US station wagon.

MPVs are higher than normal saloons and estates and are usually designed for maximum interior space. Internally MPVs often have three seat rows and are able to seat 7 or more people.

Examples of popular MPVs:
Vauxhall Zafira, Volkswagen Touran, Ford Galaxy, Kia Carens

Four-Wheel Drive (4x4)

A four-wheel drive, 4WD, 4x4 ("four by four"), all wheel drive, and AWD are all common terminology that are used to describe a four-wheeled vehicle of this type. They are designed with a drive train to transmission that enables all of the four wheels to receive power from the engine simultaneously. There have been derived from the original larger goods vehicle or truck that had a 2 wheel drive mode for roads and a four-wheel drive mode for cross country driving and driving in severe weather conditions such as ice, mud, or loose gravel.

Examples of popular 4x4's:
BMW X5, BMW X6, Land Rover Range Rover, Land Rover Freelander, Audi Q7


A convertible or cabriolet is a car with a folding or retracting roof hence the name "soft top". The folding roof section is usually made of a canvas or vinyl. However, more recently, plastic, aluminium and steel have been used but only in the more elaborately designed cars, these are often referred to as a retractable hardtop, not convertible. Nowadays, the majority of them are electrically retracted.. Convertibles are usually 2 door models, only a few 4 door models exist.

Examples of popular convertibles:
Mazda MX5, BMW Z4, Vauxhall Astra Twintop, Porsche Boxster


A van is a vehicle usually used for transporting goods. It is normally rather square in appearance and approximately the same width and length as a large car, but taller. They are also derived from the larger car, sometimes including open backs like the pick-up. Vans really are always available in all shapes and sizes depending on your needs.

Examples of popular vans: Mercedes Sprinter, Ford Transit, any vehicles larger than this are classified as lorries or trucks.


The Estate car is a car similar to the saloon, but the rear passenger and boot area is always extended. Most of the Estate ranges are modified saloons. The Estate is also the full height of the passenger area, with side windows over the boot area. The popularity of the MPV in recent years has added to the decline of the traditional Estate car. They are sometimes referred to as station wagons, particularly in the US.


A coupé or coupe will always vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. They are often the sportier type of car in the model range. They are usually 2-door types, with the close-coupled interior. That being that the rear seats are further forward than normal giving usually only 2 seats, sometimes 2 in the rear.

Examples of popular coupes in the UK:
Peugeot 407 Coupe, Audi TT, Nissan 350z

Whatever your preferred style, there are many considerations to take into account when buying a new or used car. Make sure that you have done your research and that you know what you are getting into, and ensure that you protect yourself against financial loss by taking out an extended car warranty if the manufacturer's warranty cover is due to expire.