Types of car

From city cars to luxury SUVs - we explain the different types of car

BuyaCar team
Nov 9, 2021

If you’re searching for your next car or have simply been anywhere near a remotely busy road, you will likely have noticed that there is no such thing as ‘just a car’. Instead, the choices and variations are so broad that searching for your next car can be a minefield of jargon, technical terms and an almost overwhelming amount of options to choose from.

Sometimes even the simplest aspects of car buying can be clouded by ambiguous language, but you should still have an idea of what you need from your car - such as how many seats or how much boot space you require - but does that mean you need a hatchback or a coupe? Or, maybe, you're looking at a crossover or an SUV, but is there even a difference between the two?

Perhaps you need something with a bit more boot space? Well you could go for an estate car, but you could also have a shooting brake, or an Avant - different manufacturers have an unhelpful habit of using different names for the same thing.

It can quickly get frustrating, so we've decided to bring all of that to an end with a one-size-fits-all guide to all of the types of cars you can find and how you can put them to use. Read on for all the info on every type of car from hatchbacks to coupes to SUVs.

Different types of car

Small cars

City cars

Small, light and very affordable, city cars are built for urban roads, where they can sneak into tight parking spaces and rarely need to go fast - so there’s no need for a big engine that uses a lot of fuel.

Thanks to their lightness, they can be extremely agile and respond sharply when you turn the steering wheel, making them fun to drive. They also tend to be affordable too, with some excellent value finance deals available.

City cars

Fiat 500

Used deals from £4,690
Monthly finance from £0*

Volkswagen Up

Used deals from £5,000
Monthly finance from £152*

Citroen C1

Used deals from £4,990
Monthly finance from £0*

Peugeot 108

Used deals from £6,281
Monthly finance from £224*

Toyota Aygo

Used deals from £5,000
Monthly finance from £0*

Kia Picanto

Used deals from £6,800
Monthly finance from £142*

What is a three-door car?

This is a hatchback, which means that the rear of the car, from the bumper to the roof, opens up as one bootlid. As this gives access to the car’s interior, it’s classed as a door. Three-door cars only have one door on each side of the car, so you have to lean the front seats forward to get into the back.

City cars are the ideal car for

✔  Easy parking
✔ Low-cost finance
✔  Good fuel economy

They are not so good for

More than two people
Luggage space
Longer trips

Superminis

Their name might hint at micro dimensions but, in fact, many superminis can carry four adults and a week’s worth of shopping in their boot. Many households won’t need anything more.

Thanks to this, they can be the only car you'll need. Manufacturers are also increasingly packing them with all the equipment you could ever want. Touchscreens, the latest phone software such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto - even intelligent systems that allow the car to speed up and slow down automatically in response to traffic conditions (adaptive cruise control) are increasingly common.

More luxurious models, such as the Audi A1 and Ford Fiesta Vignale bring even more upmarket features.

Popular superminis

Ford Fiesta

Used deals from £4,990
Monthly finance from £178*

Vauxhall Corsa

Used deals from £4,490
Monthly finance from £186*

Mini Hatchback

Used deals from £5,297
Monthly finance from £280*

Skoda Fabia

Used deals from £4,390
Monthly finance from £194*

Dacia Sandero

Used deals Limited stock

Mazda 2

Used deals Limited stock

What is a five-door car?

This is a hatchback with four side doors for front and rear passengers. The bootlid counts as the fifth door. They tend to offer more interior space than three-door cars.

Superminis are the ideal car for

✔  Nimble, fun cornering
✔  Use as a second family car
✔  Value for money

They are not so good for

Interior space
Quiet and smooth journeys
Carrying lots of luggage

Small crossovers

Crossovers are generally built on the same base as superminis, meaning they tend to be similar in length and width to those smaller cars, but are just a bit taller. This makes them easy to drive and park despite their SUV-ish appearance, and what makes this type of car so popular. Because it's taller, it also gives the driver a better view of the road and usually means more interior space.

However, the extra height can cause a crossover to lean in corners, so there's often a compromise to be made between soft suspension for a comfortable ride and firm suspension to prevent leaning. You'll likely have more fun driving a supermini or hatchback.

Popular small crossovers

Nissan Juke

Used deals Limited stock

Toyota C-HR

Used deals Limited stock

BMW X1

Used deals Limited stock

Peugeot 2008

Used deals Limited stock

Renault Captur

Used deals Limited stock

Seat Arona

Used deals Limited stock

Small crossovers are the ideal car for

✔  Visibility
✔  Ease of getting in and out
✔  Driving on rough ground

They are not so good for

Boot space
Tough off-road conditions
Driving fun

Family cars

Family hatchbacks

Volkswagen Golf rear three quarters view

The typical family hatchback will be a bigger version of a supermini, for example the Volkswagen Golf is a larger alternative to the Volkswagen Polo. With their practical hatchback boot, these cars are built to do everything: the school run, shopping trips and fast motorway journeys. There’s plenty of choice, with the best being spacious, economical, comfortable and fun-to-drive. Larger models are best if you’ll have adults in the back.

Popular hatchbacks

Volkswagen Golf front three quarters view

Volkswagen Golf

Used deals Limited stock

Audi A3

Used deals Limited stock

Ford Focus

Used deals Limited stock

Vauxhall Astra

Used deals Limited stock

Mercedes-Benz A-Class

Mercedes A-Class

Used deals Limited stock

Renault Megane

Used deals Limited stock

What is a hatchback? 

Lift the boot lid of a hatchback and you open up the entire back of the car from bumper to roof, including the rear screen. This makes it easy to load bulky luggage. Because you can access the interior of the car from the boot, it counts as an extra door. This is why hatchbacks are described as three- or five-door. Some manufacturers, primarily Audi, will refer to their hatchbacks as 'Sportbacks' but they are otherwise identical in premise.

Family hatchbacks are the ideal car for

✔  Families
✔  Low-cost motoring
✔  Choice of cars

They are not so good for

Seating five adults
High seating positions
Lots of luggage  

Family saloons

Saloon cars are often quieter and more fun to drive than a hatchback, but often at the cost of a smaller boot. Many buyers think they look more stylish, too. Larger models are typically more comfortable in the back seats thanks to more leg and headroom. Saloons are often considered the posh cars in a manufacturer's range, so they will often be equipped with all the latest technology and features.

The term saloon will sometimes be styled as 'executive saloon'. Within the British market, this usually refers to mid-sized saloons.

Popular saloons

BMW 3 Series front three quarters view

BMW 3 Series

Used deals Limited stock

Mercedes C-Class

Used deals Limited stock

Audi A4

Used deals Limited stock

Volkswagen Passat

Used deals Limited stock

Volvo S60

Used deals Limited stock

Jaguar XE

Used deals Limited stock

What is a saloon?

Unlike hatchbacks, the boot in saloon cars is separate to the rest of the interior. With a smaller opening and less luggage space, saloon cars tend to be less practical for carrying bigger and longer items, but the fact the cabin is separated from the boot often makes them quieter to sit in. This also gives a saloon car a sturdier frame that can make the car more precise and fun to drive.

Some have a slot in the back seats that can be opened so longer items such as skis can fit, although this will encroach on the availability of rear seats.

What is a four-door car?

Only a saloon car will be classed a four-door, due to the boot being entirely separate from the interior. This means that only the side doors - for front and rear passengers - are counted.

Saloons are the ideal car for

✔  Driving enthusiasts
✔  Long-distance journeys
✔  Comfort and passenger space

They are not so good for

Buyers on a budget
Versatile luggage space
Easy parking

Crossovers/SUVs

Blending the comfort of a family car with the practicality and height of an off-roader, many crossovers come close to offering the best of both worlds. Several have four-wheel drive (these cars may be called SUVs). Crossovers are an ideal height for installing child seats, meaning families are increasingly buying them over hatchbacks.

Popular crossovers/SUVs

Nissan Qashqai

Used deals Limited stock

Ford Kuga

Used deals from £5,995
Monthly finance from £198*

Skoda Karoq

Used deals from £15,450
Monthly finance from £256*

Mazda CX-5

Used deals from £9,595
Monthly finance from £330*

Volvo XC60

Used deals from £12,500
Monthly finance from £427*

BMW X3

Used deals from £14,490
Monthly finance from £311*

What is a crossover?

This usually describes a vehicle with the mechanical parts from a traditional car (usually a hatchback), crossed with the high driving position and practicality of an off-roader. This results in a large car that’s more economical to drive.

What is an SUV? 

The letters stand for Sport Utility Vehicle. The first SUVs had lots of space for extreme sports equipment and four-wheel drive, so adventurers could reach the best surfing beaches or hill-tops for paragliding.

Crossovers/SUVs are the ideal cars for

✔  Practical interior
✔  Driver and passenger visibility
✔  Towing

They are not so good for

Driving fun
Bargain prices
Performance 

People carriers/MPVs

These family-sized cars are essentially a small version of a minibus. They are designed to maximise interior space and practicality for a reasonable price. This does mean that they aren’t the most stylish cars on the road, or much fun to drive, but they will carry families and their luggage in comfort, with both five-, six- and seven-seat versions available. These are commonly referred to as MPVs in the trade, standing for multi-purpose vehicle.

Popular MPVs

Citroen C4 SpaceTourer

Used deals Limited stock

Ford Galaxy

Used deals from £7,790
Monthly finance from £357*

Vauxhall Zafira Tourer

Used deals from £4,999
Monthly finance from £236*

Renault Scenic

Used deals Limited stock

Toyota Prius+

Used deals Limited stock

Volkswagen Touran

Used deals from £13,895
Monthly finance from £323*

People carriers/MPVs are the ideal cars for

✔  Large families
✔  Bulky luggage (with seats folded)
✔  Value

They are not so good for

Style
Driving fun
Performance

Large cars

Luxury cars

The clue is in the name here, these are among the most comfortable vehicles you can buy, with the latest technology and the finest fittings in the front and back for owners who like to be chauffeured. In the most upmarket cases, you might find cars of this style referred to as limousines.

Popular luxury cars

Mercedes S-Class

Used deals from £18,000
Monthly finance from £0*

BMW 7 Series

Used deals Limited stock

Audi A8

Used deals Limited stock

Jaguar XJ

Used deals Limited stock

Porsche Panamera

Used deals Limited stock

Bentley Flying Spur

Used deals Limited stock

Luxury cars are the ideal car for

✔  Smooth ride
✔  Being chauffeur driven
✔  Cutting-edge technology

They are not so good for

Anyone who has to ask the price
Versatile luggage space
Narrow roads 

Luxury SUVs

With a spacious interior and comfortable air suspension, you can enjoy the prestigious life while tackling tough off-road routes. In most cases, these will be equipped with four-wheel drive.

Popular luxury SUVs

Bentley Bentayga

Used deals Limited stock

Range Rover

Used deals Limited stock

Mercedes GLS

Used deals Limited stock

Volvo XC90

Used deals Limited stock

Audi Q7

Used deals Limited stock

BMW X7

Used deals Limited stock

Luxury SUVS are the Ideal car for

✔  All-weather and surfaces
✔  Vast interior space
✔  Comfort

They are not so good for

Parking
Price
Sporty driving 

Estate cars

Add a rear extension to a hatchback and you get an estate car with a huge boot. Ideal for families who need to cram in buggies and bags, modern estates are more stylish than the boxy designs of the past. Depending on the manufacturer, estate cars can go by a wide range of names such as Fastback, Shooting Brake, Touring, Tourer or Avant. These names may sound exciting, but they all mean the same thing - a hatchback with a big boot.

Popular estate cars

Volvo V90

Used deals Limited stock

BMW 5 Series Touring rear

BMW 5 Series Touring

Used deals Limited stock

Skoda Superb Estate

Used deals Limited stock

Mazda 6 Tourer

Used deals Limited stock

Mercedes E-Class Estate

Used deals Limited stock

Audi A6 Avant

Used deals Limited stock

Estate cars are the ideal car for

✔  Families
✔  Carrying flat-pack furniture
✔  Versatile interior

They are not so good for

Tight parking spots
Very cheapest running costs
Nimble driving

Pick-ups

Typically fitted with four-wheel drive and powerful diesel engines, pick-ups could easily carry the contents of your garden shed on their large loading area at the back. Their power and grip also make them great tow cars. Double-cab models are also available if you need four or five seats.

Popular pick-ups

Volkswagen Amarok front three quarters view

Volkswagen Amarok

Used deals from £15,495
Monthly finance from £0*

Isuzu D-Max

Used deals Limited stock

Ford Ranger

Used deals from £15,995
Monthly finance from £574*

Mitsubishi L200

Used deals from £12,490
Monthly finance from £0*

Toyota Hilux

Used deals from £21,000
Monthly finance from £0*

Nissan Navara

Used deals Limited stock

Pickups are the ideal car for

✔  Large luggage capacity
✔  Off-roading
✔  Towing

They are not so good for

Comfort
Hi-tech parts
Narrow streets

 

Fun cars

Coupes

Style, sportiness and comfort are all meant to come together in coupes. These cars traditionally have big engines, two doors, and a swooping roof. But you can now buy four-door coupes and SUVs, with roofs that sweep down at the back, such as the BMW X4, Mercedes GLC Coupe and Audi Q5 Sportback.

Popular Coupes

Jaguar F-Type

Used deals from £27,989
Monthly finance from £547*

BMW 4 Series

Used deals from £14,500
Monthly finance from £325*

Ford Mustang

Used deals from £28,490
Monthly finance from £0*

Audi A5

Used deals from £12,000
Monthly finance from £407*

Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe

Mercedes C-Class Coupe

Used deals from £9,995
Monthly finance from £340*

Bentley Continental GT

Used deals from £62,948
Monthly finance from £0*

Coupes are the ideal car for

✔  Looking stylish
✔  Performance and comfort
✔  Couples

They are not so good for

Rear space
Luggage
Cost

Sports cars

Sports cars have flamboyant styling and are built with fast acceleration, speed and driving fun in mind. This, along with having only two seats, means that they are usually less comfortable and practical than a coupe. Their performance can only really be tested at a racing circuit on a track day.

Popular sports cars

Mercedes-AMG GT

Used deals Limited stock

Porsche Cayman

Used deals Limited stock

Aston Martin Vantage

Used deals Limited stock

Lotus Evora

Used deals Limited stock

Sports cars are the ideal car for

✔  Speed
✔  Fun
✔  Noise

They are not so good for

More than two people
Cheap motoring
Shy and retiring drivers 

Convertibles

Convertibles allow you to lower the roof and let in the sun and fresh air. With Britain’s weather being the way it is, these cars still remain surprisingly popular. Generally, there are two options when it comes to convertible roofs. You can choose from a heavy folding hardtop metal roof or a soft-top fabric one that’s lighter but less secure. Sportier convertibles tend to be called roadsters, but there's no actual difference between the two.

These sun-seeking models will also be branded as cabriolets, soft-tops, hardtops and spiders. No matter what you call it, though, there's little else that can match the experience of driving with the roof down.

Popular convertibles

Mazda MX-5

Used deals Limited stock

Mercedes SLC

Used deals Limited stock

Audi TT Roadster

Used deals Limited stock

BMW Z4

Used deals Limited stock

Mini Convertible

Used deals Limited stock

Fiat 124 Spider

Used deals Limited stock

Convertibles are the ideal car for

✔  Driving for leisure
✔  Country roads
✔  Using as a second car

They are not so good for

Rainy days
Cost-conscious buyers
Practicality 

Supercars

Big on noise, speed and power, supercars are even bigger on price. With lightweight materials and sophisticated engine parts, they can accelerate from 0-62mph in around 2-3 seconds and reach up to 200mph or more. But many owners stick to posing as they cruise around slowly in expensive parts of town.

Popular supercars

Porsche 911

Used deals Limited stock

Audi R8

Used deals Limited stock

Ferrari 812 Superfast

Used deals Limited stock

Lamborghini Huracan

Used deals Limited stock

Supercars are the ideal car for

✔  Top speed
✔  Hi-tech parts
✔  Getting attention

They are not so good for

Fuel economy
Speed bumps
Insurance costs 

Hot hatches

By boosting a hatchback’s engine until it screams under the bonnet, engineers created the hot hatch, which has all the practicality of a family car and the performance to take sports cars head on. The best models have upgraded mechanical parts that make the car’s steering more fun and precise in corners, too.

Popular hot hatches

Volkswagen Golf R rear three quarters view

Volkswagen Golf R

Used deals Limited stock

Renault Megane RS

Used deals Limited stock

Honda Civic Type R

Used deals from £21,299
Monthly finance from £0*

Hyundai i30 N

Used deals Limited stock

Audi RS3

Used deals Limited stock

Mercedes-AMG A35

Used deals Limited stock

Hot hatches are the ideal car for

✔  Driving enthusiasts with a family
✔  Affordable performance
✔  Easy and affordable servicing

They are not so good for

Fuel economy
Comfortable ride
Subtlety 

4x4s

Most crossovers and SUVs never stray off-road, so they are designed to be best on tarmac. Proper 4x4 off-roaders are most at home when they are axle-deep in mud and are set up to tackle the toughest terrain. This can make them feel a bit bouncy and unsettled on the road.

Popular 4x4s

Jeep Wrangler

Used deals Limited stock

Land Rover Discovery

Used deals from £19,379
Monthly finance from £817*

Land Rover Defender

Used deals from £56,948
Monthly finance from £888*

Dacia Duster

Used deals from £11,237
Monthly finance from £0*

Suzuki Jimny

Used deals Limited stock

Kia Sportage front three quarters view

Kia Sportage

Used deals from £8,999
Monthly finance from £0*

4x4s are the ideal car for

✔  Farmers
✔  Off-road enthusiasts
✔  Treacherous weather

They are not so good for

Comfortable and quiet road use
Fuel economy
Luxury fittings 

 

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