In the crowded automotive market, there are 10 basic types of vehicles. Sedans and hatchbacks both fall into the category of "passenger cars," vehicles that are neither a truck, a minivan, or an SUV. But while it was once easy to tell a sedan from a hatchback, that's no longer the case. Let us clear up the confusion for you, as we explain each type's key characteristics and their pros and cons.
The Volkswagen Jetta is the sedan version of the Golf.
The current definition of a sedan is much the same as it's always been: a passenger car with four doors and a separate trunk. A trunk is a wholly enclosed cargo hold, separated from the passenger compartment by the rear seatback and the immovable package tray below the rear window. Many sedans do offer a fold-down rear seatback that opens a pass-through to accommodate large objects that wouldn't normally fit in the trunk. But with the seatback in its upright position, the trunk is sealed off from access and prying eyes.
Sedans are described as having "three-box" bodies: the front box is home to the engine; the middle box is larger and houses the passengers; and the third box, located in the rear, is the trunk. These are the classic proportions of a sedan and have been for more than 70 years.
The squared-off Volkswagen Golf is a direct descendant of the econoboxes of yesteryear.
Deciding what is and what is not a hatchback, however, isn't as easy. Not long ago, hatchbacks were small, cheap, boxy, economy cars—Car and Driver coined the derisive term "econobox" to describe them. They were called "two-box" cars, with the engine up front in the first box and a second box for the passengers and cargo area—but no trunk. Hatchbacks had either two or four doors and a one-piece flip-up tailgate, called a hatch, on their squared-off tails. Cars like the early VW Golfs, Renault Le Cars, Ford Escorts, and Dodge Omnis were typical of that breed.
Mazda 3 Hatchback
Today, most small hatchbacks are hardly what we would call econoboxes; they're much sleeker, with stylish rooflines that sweep gently down to their rear bumpers. They're well-built, often nicely appointed inside, and in some cases, anything but cheap. Examples of newer hatchbacks include the Mazda 3, Honda Civic Sport, Hyundai Elantra GT, and Toyota Corolla hatchback. Volkswagen has stood by its squared-off, traditional two-box design for the Golf, though the model has been given much more modern styling. (If you want a Golf with a trunk, VW offers the Jetta.)
The New Generation
But hatchbacks have also grown up—way up, into an entirely new breed. Today, there are numerous vehicles that might pass for four-door sedans but in fact have a rear hatch incorporated into their low, sleek roofline that flips up to reveal a large cargo hold. These cars tend to be compact or mid-size sporty or luxury-oriented cars. The list includes cars like the Audi A5 Sportback and A7, Buick Regal Sportback, Kia Stinger, and Mercedes-AMG GT53.
Their lines are sexy, and their roofs slope into what could be taken for a small trunk. Confusing things further, manufacturers refer to some of these cars as four-door coupes, because their low, fastback rooflines recall the look of two-door sports coupes or sports cars of the past. It may be marketing mumbo jumbo, but one thing's for certain: these racy cars are indeed hatchbacks.
Beyond differences in how hatchbacks and sedans look, the biggest difference in what they provide an owner is found in their relative cargo-hauling capabilities. For a given-size car, a hatchback body style can carry larger pieces of cargo and can be loaded and unloaded more easily than a sedan. A hatchback's large, flip-up rear hatch door opens to a tall, unimpeded space because there's no package tray in the way.
The wide-open hatch and cargo area of this VW Golf hatchback enables it to handle bulkier objects than the VW Jetta’s smaller trunk (seen in the photo below).
Most hatchbacks have either a solid, swing-up package tray or a soft pull-out cargo-area cover to hide valuables from view—both of which are easily removed. The large hatch door enables tall, bulky objects that you could never fit into a sedan's trunk to be slid into the rear of the car once the rear seat is folded (virtually all hatchbacks have fold-down rear seats). Flip the rear seat down, and a hatchback morphs into a mini-SUV.
The size of the VW Jetta’s trunk opening and the height of its rear package tray limit its cargo-carrying capability compared with its golf sister ship (seen above).
The size of the objects you can load into a sedan's trunk is limited by both the rear-deck opening when the lid is raised, and by the height of the rear package tray, which is fixed in place at the bottom of the rear window. That also keeps you from piling cargo high, much like you can in an SUV.
Hatchback Pros and Cons
Hatchbacks come with two minor potential downsides. If a hatchback lacks a cargo cover, then whatever is in the wayback will be visible to passersby. And because the rear area of a hatchback isn't sealed off from the rest of the cabin as well as it is in a sedan, some additional road noise can seep in.
With Chevy's Cruze and Ford's Focus regrettably dead, few automakers today offer both sedan and hatchback versions of the same model. One that does is Honda, whose compact Civic hatchback boasts 22.6 cubic feet of cargo room with the rear seat up, versus 15.1 cubic feet of trunk space for the sedan. Fold the Civic hatchback's rear seat down, and that cargo area swells to 46.2 cubic feet of cargo space. Of course, you can pile extra cargo into the rear-seat area of a sedan, especially if the parcels are smaller. But a hatchback almost always will be more flexible and better able to accommodate larger, bulkier objects.
If you're in the market and trying to decide between hatchback and sedan models, we advise researching to narrow your choices—as always. But then it's imperative that you visit car dealers to check out the models you're interested in. And be sure to take an extended test drive. Brochures, measurements, and test numbers can tell you only so much. Experiencing the differences between hatchbacks and sedans yourself is the best way to make a final decision.
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Director, Buyer's Guide
Rich Ceppos has evaluated automobiles and automotive technology during a career that has encompassed 10 years at General Motors, two stints at Car and Driver totaling 19 years, and thousands of miles logged in racing cars. He was in music school when he realized what he really wanted to do in life and, somehow, it's worked out. In between his two C/D postings he served as executive editor of Automobile Magazine; was an executive vice president at Campbell Marketing & Communications; worked in GM's product-development area; and became publisher of Autoweek. He has raced continuously since college, held SCCA and IMSA pro racing licenses, and has competed in the 24 Hours of Daytona. He currently ministers to a 1999 Miata and a 1965 Corvette convertible and appreciates that none of his younger colleagues have yet uttered "Okay, Boomer" when he tells one of his stories about the crazy old days at C/D.
What is the difference between sedan and a hatchback? ›
Both sedans and hatchbacks are passenger vehicles that seat up to five people. They have similar features and are comparable in size. The major difference between a sedan and a hatchback is the trunk space — in a sedan, the trunk is separate from the passenger area. In a hatchback, the two areas are connected.Which is better hatchback or sedan? ›
Hatchbacks are better for those that want added utility while a sedan is better for those that prefer a more comfortable passenger cabin.Which is better for long drive sedan or hatchback? ›
Sedans also offer better leg room since they are longer as compared to hatchback cars. Further, in terms of noise, a Sedan is less noisy as compared to a hatchback. Highway friendly – if you like traveling and especially love long drives, then your go-to option has to be Sedan.How do I know if my car is a hatchback? ›
You can identify hatchbacks by their unique boot door, which is attached to the car's roof above the rear window. Although it may not be the most efficient way of entering a car, you could technically get in a hatchback through the boot door by climbing over the rear seats.What makes a car a hatchback? ›
“A sedan is a 4-door passenger car with a separate trunk built on a three-box body, while a hatchback is a 4-door vehicle assembled on a two-box body with a tailgate that flips up. ”Which car is safer hatchback or sedan? ›
Sedans are considered safer than hatchbacks due to the additional metal shield they offer at the back. The boot area of a sedan can absorb the impact of a crash (from the rear) before it reaches the driver and passengers.What are the disadvantages of a hatchback? ›
Hatchbacks come with two minor potential downsides. If a hatchback lacks a cargo cover, then whatever is in the wayback will be visible to passersby. And because the rear area of a hatchback isn't sealed off from the rest of the cabin as well as it is in a sedan, some additional road noise can seep in.Why do people prefer hatchback over sedan? ›
Hatchbacks can also be easier for parking as well. Better Fuel Efficiency: Compared to Sedans, hatchbacks offer better fuel efficiency as they are lighter in weight. Larger Boot Space: Sedans are generally said to have larger boot space but it does have some limitations.Why do people buy hatchbacks? ›
Hatchback models almost always come with more cargo space than their sedan counterparts. The trunk space is more accessible and typically larger in hatchbacks. So, if interior space is your thing, a hatchback may be the better option.What are the pros and cons of a hatchback? ›
- Hatchbacks generally offer more cargo space in the back than a sedan, making it an ideal family car.
- If you need to carry more stuff, folding the rear seats in a hatchback reveals a cavernous trunk space comparable to a small crossover or SUV.
Do hatchbacks get better gas mileage? ›
Hatchbacks are good for fuel economy. While hatchbacks tend to be smaller than sedans, they also have shorter wheelbases and shorter engines. As a result, they can get better gas mileage than any other type of car you can buy in the India.Do sedans or hatchbacks get better gas mileage? ›
Its added size can also equate to a lower fuel economy, where sedans are one of the most efficient vehicles you can purchase or lease. Though some hatchback models remain close to the sedan's gas mileage, it may save you more at the pump in the long road by purchasing or leasing a sedan.What is so special about hatchback? ›
Hatchbacks typically have removable cargo covers in the cargo area that can be removed when valuables need to be hidden. With hatchbacks, it is very easy to fold down the back seats to accommodate bulky objects that cannot fit in a sedan's trunk.What do hatchbacks look like? ›
Hatchbacks look a lot like a sedan or coupe, but the hatchback has more available cargo room and the trunk is connected to the main cabin. The trunk door also opens to allow for more room to store cargo, and the trunk is accessible from the back row of seats.What are hatchbacks known for? ›
The distinguishing feature of a hatchback is a rear door that opens upwards and is hinged at roof level (as opposed to the boot/trunk lid of a saloon/sedan, which is hinged below the rear window). Most hatchbacks use a two-box design body style, where the cargo area (trunk/boot) and passenger areas are a single volume.Do hatchbacks cost more on insurance? ›
Hatchbacks do tend to be more expensive to insure than their sedan variants, though the difference is pretty small. The differences in insurance rates, on the other hand, can be a bit wider, as you'll see.What is the back of a hatchback called? ›
A hatchback is a car with a cargo-access door (a hatch) on the rear of the vehicle that opens to the passenger compartment. The hatch is typically a liftgate with hinges on the top, so it is simple to open and pass cargo through.Are hatchbacks easier to drive than sedans? ›
The ease of driving a hatchback in the city can be attributed to its superior visibility too. Because hatchbacks are more “upright” than sedans, there are more glass area around the car. These bigger windows make it easier to see out of a hatchback, especially when it comes to rear visibility.What is the disadvantage of sedan? ›
Disadvantages of a Sedan
Fuel Consumption– Due to their higher kerb weight, they consume more fuel than hatchbacks. Difficult to Manoeuvre – In cities with high traffic, these cars are difficult to drive through small spaces and require more parking space than hatchbacks.
- Acura Integra.
- Honda Civic.
- Mazda 3.
- Toyota Corolla.
- Hyundai Sonata.
- Subaru Legacy.
- Toyota Camry.
- Genesis G90.
Which car body type is more comfortable? ›
A popular choice for a company car, saloons have a sleek shape with a long body, offer plenty of interior space, and boast a longer wheelbase that can make this car category more comfortable than others.Why do people prefer SUVs over hatchbacks? ›
Hatchback vs Compact SUV – Verdict
A hatchback is also easier to maintain, which means you continue to save money in the long run. Also, some of the hatchbacks are better cornering tools than most of the compact SUVs. On the flip side, a compact SUV will offer you a higher street presence along with more ruggedness.
Sedans also tend to be quieter than hatchbacks. One of the benefits of the third cargo compartment being walled-off is that it isolates some of the road noise from the rear wheels. In a hatchback, by contrast, you'll hear all of the road noise from the rear of the vehicle since you're seated in the same compartment.What is the most popular hatchback? ›
- Honda Civic.
- Vauxhall Astra.
- Ford Focus.
- Toyota Corolla.
- Skoda Scala.
- Mazda 3.
- Volkswagen Golf.
- Mercedes A-Class.
The simplest answer is that it's too expensive for car companies to bring over these hatchbacks.What is the most sold hatchback? ›
Maruti Suzuki Swift
The Swift has always performed well in sales, and the same was true for 2022 as it sold over 1.70 lakh cars this year. Its impressive looks, responsive handling, and long feature list have ensured it stays popular amongst Indians. It's no surprise to still see the hatchback do so well in sales.
To answer your question: It does not matter which one you buy since the performance in snow is not dependant on the vehicle being a hatchback or a sedan. AWD means next to nothing for traction if your tires are junk. Incidentally, a FWD will generally do just fine in the snow with proper snow tires. See here.Are hatchbacks more stable? ›
Hatchbacks have more ground clearance or ride height than a sedan. Because of this, the undercarriage of a hatchback dodges most of these not so metaphorical bumps in the road. Since hatchbacks do not have too much ride height like an SUV they are shorter and more stable.Are hatchbacks safer than SUVs? ›
With more metal between them and the road, SUV drivers enjoy a higher rate of safety than those in sedans and smaller cars, which may be more easily damaged. With otherwise equal safety features (such as side airbags and anti-lock breaks), SUVs typically have the edge over smaller cars when it comes to safety.What mileage of car is the best value? ›
The average car gets in 10,000 to 12,000 miles per year, so used cars with an annual average lower than that can be considered as having good mileage. Simply divide the odometer number by the car's age in years to determine it's annual average.
Why does a hatchback cost more? ›
In the US hatchbacks are outsold by sedans by a large margin. As such, many hatchbacks come with more content than the equivalent sedans as OEMs have decided (often mindlessly, in my opinion) that people who want hatchbacks will simply be willing to pay more for them and have loaded them with more features.Are hatchbacks cheaper than sedans? ›
Hatchback sales are rapidly on the rise, but today more drivers continue to buy a larger number of sedans than hatchbacks. One of the reasons for this is simple mathematics, hatchbacks generally cost more than sedans. And the price increase for a hatch can be significant.Are hatchbacks easier to break into? ›
One of the advantages of a sedan is that the trunk offers a place to put valuables where they can be locked away out of sight. On a hatchback, extra storage pieces have to be used to hide belongings you don't want visible through the windows. The storage area of a hatchback can be easier to break into.Is a hatchback a good family car? ›
Family hatchbacks offer great fuel economy and plenty of space in a compact package, and the best examples are great all-rounders with a good mix of qualities. A number of buyers, though, will need the extra space of an SUV or estate.What is the advantage of sedan? ›
Because they are smaller and low to the ground, sedans are less likely to tip and they usually have a smaller turning radius than some of their larger counterparts like full-size SUVs and trucks. In fact, many sedans are turned into performance vehicles because of their excellent handling.Is a 3 door car a hatchback? ›
Put simply, any car with a rear hatchback (a large door which includes the rear window, which opens so you could technically climb into the back seats through the boot) plus one regular door on each side is classed as a three-door car.Is a Mini Cooper a sedan or hatchback? ›
The standard setup is a three-door hatchback, but a five-door hatchback and a convertible are also offered, and all of them feature Mini's iconic retro-modern styling.What is a 3 door car called? ›
When describing the body style, the hatch is often counted as a door, therefore a hatchback with two passenger doors is called a three-door and a hatchback with four passenger doors is called a five-door.Is an SUV a sedan or hatchback? ›
A sedan offers a more spacious cabin as compared to a hatchback, but often lesser than an SUV. Also, its interiors are plusher than sedans, and sometimes even starter SUVs. In comparison between SUV vs hatchback vs sedan, an SUV will have the most spacious and often luxe cabin, as compared to the other two.Why is it called hatchback? ›
Hatchbacks had either two or four doors and a one-piece flip-up tailgate, called a hatch, on their squared-off tails.
How many doors do hatchbacks have? ›
Hatchbacks are often classified into 3-door vehicles and 5-door vehicles. A 3-door hatchback generally consists of two passenger-entry doors and the hatch, while a 5-door hatchback consists of two passenger doors in front, two doors for the second row of seating, and the hatch.Can a hatchback have 2 doors? ›
A traditional hatchback features a two-box configuration with either two or four doors. The engine bay is separate and distinct from the passenger compartment and cargo area, which is a combined and shared space.Is a hatchback a midsize car? ›
Mid-size cars are manufactured in a variety of body styles, including sedans, coupes, station wagons, hatchbacks, and convertibles. Compact executive cars can also fall under the mid-size category.Is a hatchback a small car? ›
What does hatchback mean? The term dates back decades but today it's generally used to refer to smaller cars with a boot lid that incorporates the rear window and is hinged at the top. Think of a Ford Focus, or a Volkswagen Golf and you're probably envisioning what most people picture when they hear the word.Is A MINI Cooper a luxury car? ›
They indeed are, but many drivers wonder whether or not they're actually luxury cars. We're here to tell you that vehicles like the MINI Cooper Countryman are considered luxury cars, and when you visit MINI of Glencoe, we'll show you why.Is an Outback a hatchback? ›
The Subaru Outback is an automotive nameplate used by the Japanese automaker Subaru for two different vehicles: a crossover station wagon, the Outback (1994–present, also sold as Legacy Outback (Japanese: スバル・レガシィアウトバック, Hepburn: Subaru Regashi Autobakku) in some markets), and an Impreza-derived hatchback, the Outback ...What are the pros of hatchback? ›
Hatchbacks are typically more fuel-efficient than sedans, given their smoother and more aerodynamic shape. New models like the 2022 Honda Civic Hatchback are sportier, have better handling, and have stiffer underpinnings to deliver a more exhilarating driving experience than its sedan brethren.Is a Mini Cooper a hatchback? ›
One example of a hatchback is the MINI Hardtop 4 Door. This vehicle comes with a 1.5L turbo engine able to pump out 134 horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque.How do I identify a sedan car? ›
The main feature of a sedan is that it is designed with separate passenger and boot space. Sedans feature four-doors and a boot or trunk. A sedan is designed as a 3-box configuration vehicle — engine, passenger and cargo. The word sedan is used in American English, while the word saloon is used in British English.Why is it called a sedan? ›
The first recorded use of the word "sedan" in reference to an automobile body occurred in 1912. The name derives from the 17th-century litter known as a sedan chair, a one-person enclosed box with windows and carried by porters.
Are hatchbacks easier to drive? ›
Hatchbacks have better handling and are easier to drive at high speeds. They also have excellent fuel economy compared to sedans. Hatchbacks have more cargo room and a higher load capacity than sedans. They're also easier to load.