The first full-scale, self-propelled car was built by Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot in 1769: it was a steam-powered tricycle. A variety of steam cars were then built during the first half of the 19th century.
In 1886, a German engineer invented the first practical automobile, which is designed to be propelled by an internal combustion engine. Due to several improvements and advancements over the next decades, cars became widely available in the early 20th century.
Today, there are about 1 billion cars in use worldwide, and the number is increasing substantially, especially in newly industrialized countries like India and China.
All cars available in the market can be classified on different parameters. For example, according to the energy sources, cars can be classified as diesel, petrol, electric, and hybrid ones.
In fact, private organizations and governments have created car classification schemes, which are used for a variety of purposes, ranging from description and regulation to categorization of vehicles.
Below, we have categorized cars according to their designs. Each design has its own pros and cons, and it’s up to people which one suits them better and how they want to use it.
Since there are different categorizations in Europe, North America, Australia, and other parts of the world, we have listed the most popular car types as per their shapes and purposes.
Table of Contents
Holden Astra (BK) R hatchback
Example: Holden Astra, Kia Picanto
Plus point: A utilitarian small car with impressive fuel efficiency
A hatchback car features a hatch-type rear door that opens upwards and is hinged at the roof level, providing convenient access to cargo space.
The modern form of the hatchback body style became popular in the 1970s. Although this type of body style refers to a small car, hatchback doors are also used in SUVs, sports cars, and mid-size luxury cars.
They are extremely popular in cities where the parking space is limited, and fuel prices are very high.
2. Sedan (Saloon)
Toyota Camry (ASV70R) Ascent sedan
Example: Honda Accord, BMW 5 Series
Plus point: Elegant and comfortable
Sedan is the most popular type of cars worldwide. It has a three-box configuration with a separate engine compartment, passenger seating, and cargo trunk.
Typically a sedan features two rows of seats and a B-pillar that supports the roof. They may differ in class and size, which leads to further categorization, such as full size, mid-size, sports, and luxury sedans.
This type of car was first used in 1912. During the 20th century, close-coupled sedans and coach sedans were very popular in the United States.
Lincoln Navigator Stretch Limousine
Example: Cadillac One, Hongqi L5
Plus point: Custom build, have a private passenger compartment
The word ‘limousine’ comes from the French region ‘Limousin.’ It’s an ultra-luxury car designed to fulfill owners’ sumptuousness needs.
The limousine body features a partition that separates the driver from the rear passengers. In German-speaking countries, these cars are also called sedans, while a greatly lengthened wheelbase is known as Stretch-Limousine.
As the name suggests, stretch-limousines are longer than normal limousines with extra seating along the sides of the cabin. They are mostly used for parties, weddings, and other social events.
4. Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV)
Volkswagen Tiguan compact SUV
Example: Chevrolet Tahoe, Toyota Highlander
Plus point: Raised ground clearance, better off-road abilities
There is no standard definition of SUVs, and their usage varies between countries. Many definitions consider any vehicle with off-road design features to be an SUV, while some claim that an SUV should be developed on a light-truck chassis.
Generally, an SUV combines elements of off-road vehicles and road-going passenger cars. It features four-wheel drive, increased ground clearance, large wheels, and aggressive exterior design.
Based on the size, they can be further categorized into mini, compact, mid-size, full-size, and extended-length SUVs. As of 2019, SUVs are the world’s largest automotive segment, accounting for more than 36% of the world’s passenger car market.
Lexus RX 450h F Sport
Example: Audi Q5, Nissan Rogue,
Plus point: Better comfort and fuel economy than SUVs
Crossover and SUV are often confused as both types of cars have a lot in common. Crossovers are built with unibody construction and are often based on platforms shared with passenger cars.
Compared to SUVs, crossovers have a more compliant ride, better fuel economy, and superior interior comfort. However, they have less off-road capabilities than pickup truck-based SUVs.
As of 2006, crossover models dominated more than half of the overall SUV market in the United States. Since the early 2010s, they have also become increasingly popular in Europe. By 2018, European sales of mid-sized and compact crossover models continued to surge.
Renault Clio IV Estate
Example: Ford Mondeo, Mazda 6
Plus point: More headspace, a large cargo area
A wagon car is similar to a hatchback car but with a longer body (to provide the same cabin space as sedans) and an extended roofline (to maximize the cargo space).
Unlike hatchback, they have steeper rake at the rear, D-pillar, the third row of seats, and rear suspension built for increased load capacity.
Wagon cars were well sold between the 1950s and 1907s; however, their popularity gradually declined with the introduction of SUVs and minivans. The vehicle has evolved over the years, and it continues to influence the automotive industry.
7. Pickup Truck
Example: Foton Tunland, GMC Canyon
Plus point: Impressive off-road performance and towing capabilities
Pickup trucks are light-duty trucks with an open cargo area and an enclosed cab. A regular pickup consists of a single door set and single seat row, while extended pickups add another row of small seats behind the main seat.
They are generally used for passenger transport and equipped with the all-wheel-drive system. Integrating the vehicle with a camper shell can provide a small living space for camping, while slide-in truck campers can be used as a motorhome.
They are mostly used as a passenger car in North America and accounts for nearly 18% of the total vehicles purchased in the US. Full-sized pickups are a major source of revenue for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Ford, and General Motors.
Example: Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna
Plus point: Spacious, comfortably transports passengers
All minivans — also called multi-purpose vehicles in Europe — are primarily designed to transport people in the rear seating rows, which can be reconfigured in two or three rows.
It comes with a ‘two-box’ or ‘one-box’ body configuration, a high H-point seating, a sliding door for rear passengers, and a higher roof.
Today, minivans are available with a wide range of tech options, stylish interiors, impressive handling, and performance. As of 2018, the three highest selling minivans in Europe were SEAT Alhambra, Ford S-Max, and Volkswagen Sharan.
Electric-powered Tazzari Zero
Example: REVAi, Smart K
Plus point: Cause less-traffic congestion, economical
The term ‘microcar’ is often used for the smallest size of cars with engines smaller than 700 CC. Although most of them are powered by diesel or petrol, electric microcars have become more popular in the last decade.
They have 3 or 4 wheels. Specific types of microcars (also called Kei cars in Japan) include voiturettes, quadricycles, bubble cars, and cyclecars.
Many European countries classify microcars separately from other conventional cars, using the same regulations as mopeds or motorcycles. Thus, this type of car often has relaxed criteria for licensing and registration. Also, they are subject to lower insurance costs and taxes.
Bentley Continental GT
Example: BMW M2, Audi R8
Plus point: Sportier look, better acceleration and braking performance
A coupe is a two-door body type with a sloping rear roofline, typically based on the full-size sedan. However, many automobile companies have been marketing four-door cars as coupes for almost two decades.
The body type of a coupe features a two- or four-seat cabin with limited space in the back row. It includes top of the range trim level and engines. Nowadays, most sports and muscle cars come with a coupe body, including Lamborghini Aventador, Bugatti Veyron, and Ford Mustang.
They are well known for their high-performance, luxury features, and stylish looks. But since this type of car is reserved for the luxury market, affordable car manufacturers do not offer that many coupe models.
10A. Muscle Car
Ford Shelby GT350
Example: Dodge Challenger, Ford Mustang GT
Plus point: High-performance at an affordable price
The term ‘muscle car’ originated for the 1960s and 70s special editions of mass-production cars that were specially designed for drag racing. It’s an American term for high-performance cars.
Usually, a muscle car features rear-wheel drive, a large V8 engine with a powerful configuration, and a lightweight two-door body. This type of car is quite less expensive than sports and personal luxury cars.
In other words, they are an extension of the hot rodding concept, in which a large-displacement engine is fitted in a small car in order to boost straight-line speed.
11. Convertible (Cabriolet)
Example: Chevrolet Camaro, Porsche 911
Plus point: Breathtakingly stylish, allows an open-air driving experience
Convertibles give you an option to drive without a roof in place. The retracting and storing mechanism of the roof depends on the car model. The most common type of retractable roofs are detachable hardtop and folding textile roof.
Modern convertibles come with a sporting appearance and all necessary safety features such as rollover protection structures, safety cage construction, door-mounted side-impact airbag, and heated rear window for better visibility.
The potential drawbacks of these cars are reduced structural rigidity and cargo space. They are also not preferred in cities with high air pollution and traffic congestion.
12. Hot Rod
A classic-style hot rod
Example: Rover 10, Ford Popular
Hot rods are classic American cars with heavy engines tuned for faster speed. Although the origin of the car’s name is not clear, some claim that ‘hot’ refers to ‘hotting up’ the car for higher performance, and ‘rod’ relates to the camshaft that was often upgraded to increase power output.
The vibrant culture of hot rods is still present, especially in the US, UK, Canada, Sweden, and Australia. The hot rod community is divided into two groups: hot rodders and street rodders. Members of both groups are really car nuts.