Car classification is a somewhat subjective subject, as many vehicles fall between classes or even outside all of them. Not all car types are sold in all countries and names differ in some cases between British and American English. Where applicable, the relevant EuroNCAP classifications are shown.
|United States||EuroNCAP||Euro size||Example|
|–||Supermini||A class||Fiat Panda|
|Subcompact||B class||Ford Fiesta|
|Compact||Small family car||C class||Ford Focus|
|Mid-size||Large family car||D class||Volkswagen Passat|
|Full-size||E class||Chrysler 300|
|Luxury||Executive car||F class||Mercedes-Benz S-Class|
|–||Small MPV||MIni MPV||Opel Meriva|
|–||Compact MPV||Renault Scénic|
|Minivan||MPV||Large MPV||Toyota Previa|
|Crossover SUV||Small Off-Roader||–||Honda CR-V|
|SUV||Large Off-Roader||–||Jeep Grand Cherokee|
Straddling the boundary between car and motorbike, these vehicles have engines of only a few hundred ccs, typically seat only 2 people, and are generally unorthodox in construction. Many only have three wheels. They are especially associated with post-war Europe, where their appearance led them to called Bubble cars. A contrast to the traditional microcar is the modern Smart.
Examples of microcars
A city car is a small car intended for use in urban areas. Unlike microcars, city car”s greater speed and occupant protection allow relative safety in mixed traffic environments and in all weather conditions. While it may be capable of freeway speeds this is not the main purpose of the car.
In Japan, a specially restricted type of these (under 3.40m long) are called the keicar, where taxes and insurance are lower.
Examples of city cars
Supermini / Subcompact car
This class, known as superminis in Europe and subcompact cars in North America, covers the not-so-small hatchbacks and the smallest sedans. These vehicles are the smallest cars widely sold in the North American market. They have usually three, four or five doors and are designed to seat comfortably four adults and a child, but can take five adults. Current supermini hatchbacks are around 3.90m long and sedans 4.20m long.
In Europe, the first superminis were the Fiat 500 of 1957 and the Austin Mini of 1959. Today, superminis are some of the biggest selling cars in Europe.
Examples of superminis / subcompact cars
This category is equivalent to the EuroNCAP class ”Superminis”.
Small family car / Compact car
Compact cars are usually referred to the longest hatchbacks or the smallest family cars. Nowadays they are about 4.25 metres long, have room for five adults and their engines are usually around 1.6 L to 2.0 L.
Examples of hatchback small family cars / subcompact cars
This category is equivalent to the EuroNCAP class ”Small Family Cars”.
Sedan/saloon and station wagon / estate
Longer than hatchbacks, they have room for five adults and a larger boot, depending on the size. The most popular layouts are sedan/saloon and station wagon / estate. This class makes up the largest percentage of vehicles in most developed countries.
Examples of sedan/estate small family cars / compact cars
This category is equivalent to the EuroNCAP class ”Small Family Cars”.
Examples of large family cars / mid-size cars
This category is equivalent to the EuroNCAP class ”Large Family Cars”.
Executive car / Luxury car
An executive car or luxury car are typically four-door sedan/saloon cars. They are usually very roomy, powerful and luxurious, which is highly estimated by most of the people. This is why they are much more expensive than “standard” sedans.
Examples of mid-size executive cars / mid-size luxury cars
Examples of large executive cars / full-size luxury cars
Lincoln Town Car
This category is equivalent to the EuroNCAP class ”Executive Cars”.
A hot hatch is a performance hatchback based on standard superminis or small family cars, with improved straight line performance, handling and styling. Hot hatches make up a large section of the market for hatchbacks.
Examples of hot hatches
Ford Focus RS
Ford Escort RS Cosworth
Peugeot 205 GTI
Renault 5 Turbo
Renault Clio 182
SEAT León Cupra R
Vauxhall Astra VXR
VW Golf GTI
Thess are high performance versions of saloon cars. Originally homologated for production based motorsports and like saloon cars, seats four people.
Examples of sports saloons
Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution
Nissan Skyline GT-R
This small lightweight class combines performance and handling. Often inspired by racing vehicles. This class ranges from sporty vehicles such as the MX-5 to derivatives of true racing thoroughbreds such as the Lotus Elise.
Examples of sports cars
Larger, more powerful and heavier than sports cars, these vehicles typically have a FR layout and seating for four or 2+2. They are more expensive than sports cars but not than supercars, and often combine modern technology with hand-built construction.
Examples of grand tourers
Aston Martin DB9
Ferrari 612 Scaglietti
They are ultra-high performance cars, typically very expensive, luxurious and exceptionally fast. Supercars typically contain cutting-edge technology, and can be assembled partly or completely by hand.
Examples of supercars
Aston Martin Vanquish
The Muscle car is a peculiarly American type of sports car, popular from the 1960s until a combination of spiralling insurance costs and the 1973 energy crisis largely killed off the category. A smaller offshoot, the pony car, still exists in the form of the Ford Mustang. The epitome of brute-force power, these cars shoe-horned giant engines into mid-sized cars (by the then US standard) which were often, from the factory, inadequate to handle the power and performance; handling was subordinate to straight-line acceleration.
Examples of muscle cars
Plymouth Road Runner
Cabriolet / convertible
Also called an open saloon, roadster or drop-head coupe, this type of car has a roof (fabric, vinyl, metal or glass) which can be folded away. Convertibles were very popular in hotter places before the advent of automotive air-conditioning. They remain popular in certain countries, paradoxically including the UK with its relatively wet climate. Many models are small sports cars with two seats, but there are also popular convertible versions of larger cars such as the Saab 9-3 and the BMW 3-Series.
Examples of cabriolets / convertibles
Mazda MX-5/Miata/Eunos Roadster
Also know as off-roaders, there are two general trends among them: SUVs and crossover SUVs.
SUVs are off-road vehicles with a truck chassis, all-wheel-drive and true offroad capability. SUVs have severe problems with crash incompatibility, and are typically of more primitive design than smaller cars. Combined with serious handling issues in some vehicles due to the high centre of gravity, this makes them a dangerous vehicle in inexperienced hands.
Examples of 4x4s / SUVs
Land Rover Defender
Toyota Land Cruiser
This category is equivalent to the EuroNCAP class ”Large Off-Roaders”.
Crossover SUVs have a monocoque chassis and low ground clearance. Some of them use electronic systems like traction control and pneumatic/hydraulic suspension, which give them good capability in many offroad situations, particularly sand and graded roads.
Examples of crossover SUVs
This category is equivalent to the EuroNCAP class ”Small Off-Roaders”.
Minivan / MPV
Also known as people carriers, this class of cars resemble family cars but are taller with a shorter hood/bonnet and are designed for maximum practicality. The larger minivans may have seating for seven or eight people.
The increased height of these vehicles above a family car improves visibility for the driver (while reducing visibility for other road users) and may help access for the elderly or disabled. They also offer more seats and increased load capacity over their similar low-roof models.
Examples of mini MPVs
Examples of compact MPVs
Chrysler PT Cruiser
Ford Focus C-Max
Opel Zafira – also Chevrolet, Holden, Subaru or Vauxhall
Both categories are equivalent to the EuroNCAP class ”Small MPVs”.
Examples of large MPVs / minivans
Chrysler Minivans such as Caravan, Voyager, and Town & Country
Mitsubishi Space Wagon
This category is equivalent to the EuroNCAP class ”MPVs”.
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