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Decoding Car Body Styles

3 min read
Some of us may be confused by crossovers and SUVs (aren’t they the same?), or have trouble discerning a sedan from a coupe. What are the popular car body types available here and how are they different?

Cars, like people, come in all shapes and sizes. While we are naturally born the way we are, cars have evolved into many types to meet the changing needs and tastes of customers. Over the years, the number of body styles available in the market has made it a little complicated for car buyers. Is it a SUV? Is it a crossover?

SEDAN VS COUPEAlso referred to as a saloon in other parts of the world, the sedan is a popular choice for Singaporeans. It has a traditional body shape that features four doors and a three-box configuration. This means it has three distinct compartments: the engine, the cabin, and the boot. The typical sedan has a long wheelbase that offers the rear passengers good headroom and legroom, with a decent-sized boot. While the sedan has a solid body style, some find them quite plain and not terribly exciting.

What the sedan is, the coupe is not. A traditional coupe features a closed-body style with just two doors, and has a sporty appearance with performance to match. Where the typical sedan has a steady roofline, the coupe boasts a sleek profile with a sloping roofline. However, where there’s space a-plenty in the sedan, the coupe offers just two seats upfront and maybe a really tiny one in the rear. The shorter wheelbase of the coupe, while not great for space and comfort, provides for a better experience behind the wheel.

SUV VS CROSSOVERThe Sports Utility Vehicle, or SUV, is usually a high-riding four-wheel drive vehicle that can, in theory, go off-road and work well in the rugged outdoors. In Singapore, we don’t have the terrain to go off-road, but buyers like the combination of large interior space and the flexibility of ferrying up to six more passengers. These SUVs are usually bulky, which make them tricky to manoeuvre and park.

The crossover was conceived to cater to buyers looking at an SUV body style, but on a smaller scale. The interesting thing is that, while the crossover looks similar to an SUV, it is actually built on a smaller single frame car platform, whereas the SUV is built on a truck-like separate-frame platform. This means the crossover handles more like a car compared to the SUV. When tackling corners, the crossover’s lower ride height offers less body roll than a high-riding SUV. However, it doesn’t have the four-wheel drive, and it takes a brave soul with deep pockets to try venturing into unknown terrain in a front-wheel drive crossover!

Hatchback VS Liftback
Unlike the sedan, the smaller hatchback has a two-box design, where the second half unifies the passenger and boot as one compartment. Hatchbacks these days are also referred to as a five-door — the fifth door being the rear tailgate or hatch. While it may be smaller than sedans, hatchbacks can surprise with not only their cargo capacity, but also the versatile ways they can ferry taller and odd-shaped items a sedan may struggle to fit with its fixed-height boot.

So what’s a liftback? Also called a fastback, this body style is the intermediate shape between a sedan and a hatchback. Like a hatchback, it has a two-box design, but with more definition between the passenger and boot compartment — like a more sophisticated hatchback. While the hatchback has an abrupt end, the liftback rear protrudes with a more pronounced overhang that gives it a sedan-like stance. Some even liken the rear overhang slope to a coupe, and believe it gives the liftback a sleeker look. This also means that, while the liftback is more versatile than a sedan, it still lacks the height advantage a hatch offers to transport taller items.