What is a saloon car?

Looking long, low and sleek, it's often seen as a sophisticated choice of car; what makes it a saloon?

Dominic Tobin
Jan 11, 2019

A saloon car is not the vehicle to choose if you struggle to find parking. With a self-contained boot that usually pokes out of the car, these are longer than most hatchbacks, and can be tougher to manoeuvre too - especially if they aren't fitted with parking sensors.

But the design does pay dividends for passengers: it can make the interior quieter than other types of cars because separating the boot from the interior helps to keep road noise out, while occupants often have more space to stretch out because the long design allows the front and rear seats to be spaced further apart.

If you listen to a car manufacturer's marketing, then you'll hear how a saloon car's long and low profile gives vehicles a sophisticated and subtly stylish look. Not sure if that's true? Compare the Audi A3 Sportback and the Audi A3 saloon (below). 

 

Saloon cars are generally less practical than hatchbacks because the boot opening is usually small: the boot lid opens upwards but the rear screen stays in place. Some saloons have fixed rear seats, so there's no option to expand the space in the boot.

Other saloon cars offer more flexibility. Ski-flaps are common: by folding down the central armrest in the back, you reveal an opening through which you can slide long bits of luggage such narrow planks of wood, or indeed skis. Many models offer the option of folding rear seats, so larger items of luggage can be pushed into the back of the car. You're still limited by the narrow boot opening though. In a hatchback, the back of the car is opened up entirely and the seats fold to create a van-like space.

 

The increased popularity of taller crossover and SUV cars mean that saloon sales are falling, but certain models are still in-demand. For example the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes C-Class, Jaguar XE and Audi A4 are big-selling family cars. These four manufacturers typically design their cars to feel sporty and fun to drive, or to focus on exceptional comfort. And although big SUVs such as the Range Rover set the standard for comfort, climbing out of the back of a big saloon such as the Mercedes S-Class or BMW 7 Series is still a prestigious way to arrive to an event.

Family-sized saloon cars will often also be offered in a more sensible flavour, in the shape of an estate car that combines the length of a saloon with a tall hatchback boot.

  

Reasons to buy a saloon car

✔  Long, low and stylish design
✔  A little quieter than hatchbacks
✔  Generally spacious inside

   

What's wrong with saloon cars

Less practical and versatile than a hatchback, crossover or SUV
Lower driving position than in SUVs and crossovers
More expensive than a hatchback

  

What to look for in a saloon

Make the most of a saloon by finding one with the following features:

  • A deep, low, and wide boot opening. 
  • Seats in the rear that fold, in order to boost luggage space.
  • A flat floor in the rear. This means there is more room for passengers.

 

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