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Car classification

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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
Microcar Microcar Smart Fortwo
 – 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
Sports Sports Porsche 911
Convertible Cabriolet BMW 3-Series
Roadster Roadster Roadster BMW Z4
 – 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


smart_fortwo_passion_frontSmart Fortwo

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

Fend Flitzer
Messerschmitt microcar
Heinkel microcar
Trojan (automobile)
Electric Sparrow


City car

citroen_c1_front_20080417Citroën C1

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

Daihatsu Mira
Fiat Cinquecento
Fiat Seicento
Smart Fortwo
Mazda Carol
Mitsubishi Minica
Peugeot 107
Renault Twingo
Suzuki Alto

Supermini / Subcompact car

ford_fiesta_mk7_seit_2008_front_mjFord Fiesta

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

Austin Metro
Austin Mini
Citroën AX
Dacia Logan
Fiat Punto
Fiat Palio
Fiat Uno
Ford Fiesta
Kia Rio
Mercedes-Benz A-Class
Nissan Micra/March
Opel Corsa
Peugeot 205
Renault 5
Renault Clio
Rover Metro
Volkswagen Polo

This category is equivalent to the EuroNCAP class ”Superminis”.

Small family car / Compact car

2011_volkswagen_golf_5k_90tsi_trendline_5-door_hatchback_2011-10-12Volkswagen Golf

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

Citroën Xsara
Citroën ZX
Ford Escort
Ford Focus
Honda Civic
Opel Astra
Peugeot 306
Peugeot 307
Renault Mégane
Toyota Corolla
Volkswagen Golf

This category is equivalent to the EuroNCAP class ”Small Family Cars”.

Sedan/saloon and station wagon / estate

Family car

Opel_Insignia_front_20100516Opel Insignia

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

Ford Focus
Honda Civic
Opel Astra
Toyota Corolla
Volvo S40
Volkswagen Jetta

This category is equivalent to the EuroNCAP class ”Small Family Cars”.

Examples of large family cars / mid-size cars

Ford Taurus
Ford Mondeo
Honda Accord
Nissan Primera
Opel Vectra
Peugeot 406
Renault Laguna
Toyota Camry
Volkswagen Passat

This category is equivalent to the EuroNCAP class ”Large Family Cars”.

Executive car / Luxury car

lexus_is250_2008_tungsten_pearlLexus IS

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

Audi A6
BMW 5-Series
Infiniti Q45
Lexus GS
Mercedes-Benz E-Class
Jaguar S-Type
Volvo S80

Examples of large executive cars / full-size luxury cars

Audi A8
Bentley Arnage
BMW 7-Series
Cadillac DeVille
Jaguar XJ
Holden Commodore
Lexus LS
Lincoln Town Car
Mercedes-Benz S-Class
Rolls-Royce Phantom

This category is equivalent to the EuroNCAP class ”Executive Cars”.

Sportive cars

Hot hatch

abarth_500_-_flickr_-_david_villarreal_fernandez_51Abarth 500: a hot hatc

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

Sports saloon

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

Lotus Cortina
Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution
Nissan Skyline GT-R
Subaru Impreza

Sports car

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

Jaguar E-type
Lotus Elise
Chevrolet Corvette
Honda S2000
Mazda Miata/MX-5
Toyota MR2

Grand tourer

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
Jaguar XK8
BMW 6-Series


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
Dodge Viper
Ferrari Enzo
Ford GT
Lamborghini Murciélago
McLaren F1
Plymouth Superbird
Porsche 959

Muscle car

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

Chevrolet Camaro
Chevrolet Chevelle
Dodge Charger
Holden Monaro
Mercury Cougar
Plymouth Barracuda
Plymouth Road Runner
Plymouth Superbird
Pontiac GTO

Cabriolet / convertible

1967_ambassador_dpl_conv_top-down-winter-fl_palmFull-sized 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
Fiat Barchetta
Toyota MR2
Saab 9-3
BMW 3-Series


Also know as off-roaders, there are two general trends among them: SUVs and crossover SUVs.


2004-2006_chrysler_pacifica_touringChrysler Pacifica Touring

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

Cadillac Escalade
Jeep Cherokee
Jeep Wrangler
Land Rover Defender
Range Rover
Nissan Patrol
Suzuki Sidekick
Suzuki Samurai
Toyota Land Cruiser

This category is equivalent to the EuroNCAP class ”Large Off-Roaders”.

Crossover SUV

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

Ford Escape
Mercedes-Benz M-Class
Suzuki SX4
Toyota RAV4
Volvo XC90

This category is equivalent to the EuroNCAP class ”Small Off-Roaders”.

Minivan / MPV

opel_zafira_b_20090713_frontOpel Zafira B

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

Fiat Idea
Hyundai Matrix
Opel Meriva
Peugeot 1007
Renault Modus

Examples of compact MPVs

Chrysler PT Cruiser
Citroën Picasso
Ford Focus C-Max
Opel Zafira – also Chevrolet, Holden, Subaru or Vauxhall
Renault Scénic
Volkswagen Touran

Both categories are equivalent to the EuroNCAP class ”Small MPVs”.

Examples of large MPVs / minivans

Chevrolet Venture
Chrysler Minivans such as Caravan, Voyager, and Town & Country
Ford Galaxy
Hyundai Trajet
KIA Sedona
Mitsubishi Space Wagon
Peugeot 807
Renault Espace
Toyota Previa
Pontiac Montana

This category is equivalent to the EuroNCAP class ”MPVs”.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.


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