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A sedan car (American English, pronunciation ) or saloon car (British English) is a passenger car with two rows of seats and adequate passenger space in the rear compartment for adult passengers. The vehicle usually has a separate rear trunk (boot in British English) for luggage, although some manufacturers such as Chevrolet, Tatra, and Volkswagen have made rear-engined models. It is one of the most common body styles for modern automobiles.

Types of sedan

Several versions of the body style exist, including four-door, two-door, and fastback models.

A sedan seats four or more people and has a fixed roof that is full-height up to the rear window. The roof structure will typically have a fixed "B" pillar on sedan models. Most commonly it is a four-door; two-door models are rare, but they do occur (more so historically). In the U.S., the term sedan has been used to denote a car with fixed window frames, as opposed to the hardtop style without a "B" pillar and where the sash, if any, winds down with the glass. However, true hardtops have become increasingly rare.

Notchback sedans

1962 Chevrolet Impala, a typical notchback sedan
A notchback sedan is a three-box sedan, where the passenger volume is clearly distinct from the trunk volume of the vehicle (when seen from the side). The roof is on one plane, generally parallel to the ground, the rear window at a sharp angle to the roof, and the trunk lid is also parallel to the ground. Historically, this has been a popular and arguably the most traditional form of passenger vehicle.

Fastback sedans

1941 Plymouth fastback sedan
A fastback sedan is a two-box sedan, with continuous slope from the roof to the base of the decklid, but excludes the hatchback feature.Marketing terminology is often misleading in this area - for example, Daimler AG calls the Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class sedan a four-door coupé because its semi-fastback design tries to give the impression of a coupé. Certain sedans are edging close to being one-box vehicles, where the windshield is steeply raked from the hood and the rear window slopes toward almost the end of the car, leaving just a short rear deck that is part of the trunk lid - the 2006 4-door Honda Civic is an example of this. They are not fastbacks because their bodyline changes from the roof to the rear deck. Their steeply raked rear windows end with a decklid that does not continue down to the bumper. Instead, their rear ends are tall - sometimes in a Kammback style - to increase trunk space.

Typically this design is chosen for its aerodynamic advantages. Automakers can no longer afford the penalty in fuel consumption produced by the traditional notchback three box form.

Two-door sedan

The Society of Automotive Engineers defines such a vehicle as any two-door model with rear accommodation greater than or equal to in volume (a calculation made by adding the legroom, shoulder room, and headroom). By this standard, the Chevrolet Monte Carlo, Ferrari 612 Scaglietti, and Mercedes-Benz CL-Class coupés are all two-door sedans. Only a few sources, however (including the magazine Car and Driver), use the two-door sedan label in this manner.

In the popular vernacular, a two-door sedan is defined by appearance and not by volume; vehicles with a B-pillar between the front and rear windows are generally called two-door sedans, while hardtops (without the pillar, and often incorporating a sloping backlight) are called coupés.

In 1970 GM introduced its first subcompact car. The Chevrolet Vega two-door sedan was referred to as a 'thin-pillar' sedan.

The Mazda RX-8 meets the volume requirement to be called a sedan, but it has vestigial rear-hinged rear doors, so some call it 2+2-door sedan . Another term for a coupé endowed with rear-hinged doors is a "quad coupé." Although this may simply be vernacular, based on a possible copyright by General Motors, for its Saturn Ion Quad-Coupe.

Hardtop sedans

See main article: Hardtop
In historic terminology a sedan will have a frame around the door windows, while the hardtop has frameless door glass. A true hardtop sedan design also has no "B" pillar (the roof support behind the front doors). This body style has an open feel, but requires extra underbody strengthening for structural rigidity. The hardtop design can be considered separately (i.e., a vehicle can be simply called a four-door hardtop), or it can be called a hardtop sedan. During the 1960s and 1970s, hardtop sedans were often sold as sport sedans by American manufacturers and were among the top selling body styles. During the 1980s, automakers in the U.S. focused on removing weight and increasing strength, and their new four-door sedans with B-pillars were called pillared hardtops or pillared sedans. The sport sedan term has since been appropriated for other uses. In Japan, and among Japanese manufacturers worldwide, the hardtop design was popular among luxury sedans throughout the 1990s.

Hatchback sedan

Chevy Malibu Maxx hatchback sedan
Hatchback (a.k.a. liftback) sedans typically have the fastback profile, but instead of a trunk lid, the entire back of the vehicle lifts up (using a liftgate or hatch). A vehicle with four passenger doors and a liftgate at the rear can be called a four-door hatchback, four-door hatchback sedan, or five-door sedan. An example of such is the Chevrolet Malibu Maxx. There can also be two-door hatchback sedans (three-door sedans), by the same technical explanation for two-door sedans. Examples of this design are the Volkswagen Golf, and Chevrolet Chevette.

Chauffeured sedans

The Lincoln Town Car is used as a chauffeured car in the U.S.

Strictly speaking limousine sedans have a separate compartment for the driver and the passenger compartment is long enough to contain at least two comfortable, forward facing bench seats. The term limousine can refer to a large sedan, especially if hired from a limo service. Chauffeured limousines are primarily used by individuals for weddings, businesses for meetings, as well as for airport and sightseeing transportation. Vehicles used for these means are usually Lincoln Town Car, Cadillac, or Mercedes.Chauffeurs are professional drivers, usually with experience in the transportation industry or tourism industry. Chauffeured sedans are owned either by private owners, livery services, or corporations. Large corporations as well as governments commonly provide luxury sedans to top executives, as well as VIP guests. Chauffeured sedans, such as the Lincoln Town Car, may also be stretched into limousines that are capable of seating up to twenty people.


Sedan chair carried by two people


The word sedan is possibly derived from a southern Italian dialect derivative of Italian sedia "chair" (the first sedan was said to have been introduced from Naplesmarker). However, Portuguese and Spanish navigators and colonists encountered litter of various sorts in Indiamarker, Japanmarker, Mexicomarker, and Perumarker. They were imported into Spainmarker in the late sixteenth century. Soon the fashion spread into Francemarker and then Englandmarker. All the names for these derived from the root "sed-" from the Latin "sella" - the traditional name for a carried chair. The first automobile to use that configuration was the 1899 Renault Voiturette Type B.

The derivation from the town of Sedanmarker in France, where it was said to have been made or first used, lacks historical evidence, according to OED. The word sedan was later used to refer to a litter or windowed box containing a passenger seat carried by two or more bearers.

International terminology

In North American English and American Spanish, the term sedan is used (accented as "sedán" in Spanish).

In British English, a car of this configuration is called a saloon and has its engine under the bonnet at the front, and has a boot for luggage at the rear. Hatchback sedans are usually just called hatchbacks; chauffeured sedans are referred to as limousines. The British English term is sometimes used by British car manufacturers in the United States. For example, the Rolls-Royce Park Ward was sold as a saloon in the United States, while the smaller Silver Seraph was called a sedan.

In Australia the American term sedan is used, albeit with the British terms boot and bonnet being retained. In New Zealandmarker the British terms are used, but the American terms are understood by most of the population. In other languages, sedans are known as berline (French), berlina (European Spanish, European Portuguese, Romanian, and Italian); although these terms also may include hatchbacks. These terms, besides sedan, derive from types of horse-drawn carriages. In German, the term Limousine is used for sedans, as well as for limousines.

See also


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