Home / General / What’s The Difference: Coupe, Sedan, Hatchback, Wagon , SUV, and Crossover…

What’s The Difference: Coupe, Sedan, Hatchback, Wagon , SUV, and Crossover…

Have you ever wondered what the difference between SUVs and Crossovers are? How about the difference between Hatchbacks and Wagons? Have you ever looked at a BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe and wondered what kind of car that really is? It looks like a sedan but yet they call it a coupe. This confusion got us wondering: What kind of car are we actually driving and how can we tell cars apart?

Let’s start out with an easy one…

SUVs VS. Crossovers

If you want the quick answer: Crossovers are small SUVs. The long answer involves knowing the individual platforms the body style resides on. A Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) is a passenger car that is placed on top of a truck chassis. Another name of this design style is “body on frame” where a body has been placed on top of a rolling chassis. A great example of an SUV is a GMC Yukon Denali, which is a luxury tank. The GMC Yukon Denali resides on the GMT K2XX platform which is shared with other General Motors SUVs such as the Chevrolet Tahoe, the Chevrolet Suburban, and the Cadillac Escalade. This platform is also used for their trucks such as the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra.


If an SUV is more of a truck than a car, then a Crossover is more of a jacked up car than a truck. A Crossover is based on a car’s platform, and as a result Crossovers or Crossover Utility Vehicles (CUVs) are typically smaller than an SUV. The body and frame of a Crossover are typically made of a one piece construction called a Unibody. Crossovers also have a noticeably better miles per gallon, due to the relatively lightweight construction, as seen in our latest review of the Hyundai Santa Fe.

Hyundai Santa Fe 5

From a marketing perspective there’s a double edged sword in classifying a vehicle as an SUV. Customers will like the size that is implied, but they may also be deterred by the image of low miles per gallon. Though generally car companies aren’t shy to call their Crossovers SUVs, because the car-like mileage rating is usually heavily advertised.

Hatchbacks VS. Wagons

Both of these vehicles make for great utility cars because they possess the utility of SUVs and Crossovers, while maintaining the agility and efficiency of a car. They’re based off their sedan counterparts and they favor an additional door in lieu of a traditional trunk. When it comes to telling Hatchbacks and Wagons apart it becomes slightly more obscure, however, there is one big giveaway: The rear overhang.


2013 WRX Hatch 5 main

Wagons are designed to provide a lot more cargo space and typically have a roofline that extends almost to the rear edge of the vehicle. The Wagon’s rear overhang extends a good amount to allow for greater storage capacity, whereas the Hatchback’s rear overhang does not extend far behind the rear axle as seen in the Subaru WRX. The rear hatch of the vehicle can also define the look, as Wagons typically possess a more vertical line for its hatch. Though the latest Volvo V90 and Audi A6 Avant seems to think that rule is stale.

Sedans VS. Coupes

The simple rule is this: If it has four doors it’s a sedan and if it has two doors it’s a coupe. If you’re satisfied with this definition then you should stop reading right here, as this rule plays a dominant role in how a car is classified. However, if you really want to get technical with useless information then feel free to continue on.

regal gs side

The more pedantic definition of a sedan is a car that features two rows of seating and possess fixed A, B, and C pillars. The A pillars support the front windshield, the C pillars support the rear windshield, and the B pillars provides structural support for the roof and the floor of the car, while also providing support points for the doors. The Buick Regal GS, which we have reviewed and found to be Ron Burgundy’s automobile incarnate, is an example of a traditional sedan. In contrast to sedans, a coupe is a car that only features an A and C pillars, and at least one row of seating. Another lesser known design feature of a coupe is the closeness of the driver’s seating position to the rear axle.

With the above definitions it is possible for a car to be considered a two-door sedan. In fact a lot of coupes today fall under the definition of two-door sedans. The Honda Accord Coupe, the Honda Civic Coupe, the BMW 4 Series, and the Mercedes Benz C-Class Coupe possess distinct A, B, and C pillars and offer two rows of seating. They’re technically not coupes.


Actual coupes are the Mercedes Benz AMG GT-S, the Scion FR-S, the Jaguar F-Type, and the Audi R8. These cars have indistinctive B and C pillars and have a driving seating position noticeably close to the rear axle. The Scion FR-S may have rear seats, but as evidenced in our review, it’s only there to give the illusion of utility.


Four-Door Coupes

Lately there has been a bunch of cars that blur the sedan vs coupe line altogether. Cars like the BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe, the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe, the Audi A5 Sportback, and the Mercedes Benz CLS, just to name a few, are all considered Four-Door Coupes. This is mostly a marketing tactic to appeal to the consumers who are looking for a four-door utility but desire the sleeker coupe styling. However, these cars all have a distinct look evident in the long continuous line that runs from the A pillar all the way to the trunk area. You can say Four-Door Coupes are basically Fastbacks with four doors because they share a similar profile.

porsche-panamera audi-a5-sportback bmw-4-door-coupeFour-Door Coupe SUVs

This type of vehicles is a true testament to consumer’s increasingly discerning tastes and needs. These cars exhibit a similar Fastback style to the Four-Door Coupes but have the higher ground clearance of SUVs. They’re typically much more agile and powerful than their full size SUV counterparts as well. There aren’t many examples currently on the road, with only the BMW X6 and the Mercedes Benz GLE Coupe being the only options available.

bmw-x6 mb-gle-coupe

And What The Hell Is This…

Then there are some vehicles that don’t really fall into any distinct categories. We are still trying to figure out what the Nissan Murano Convertible really is, besides automotive heresy…


Have you come across any vehicles that’s just plain weird? Share it with us below!

About Hansen

The engineer amongst the crew, Hansen once built a mini baja car with his bare hands. Hansen had the opportunity to join Honda’s R&D team in Ohio but chose the life of the east coast and the defense industry instead. A die hard auto enthusiast he religiously follows the auto industry and loves long walks in the auto shows.

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