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Cars can come in a large variety of different body styles. Some are still in production, while others are of historical interest only. These styles are largely (though not completely) independent of a car's classification in terms of price, size and intended broad market; the same car model might be available in multiple body styles.

Please note that while each body style has a historical and technical definition, in common usage such definitions are often blurred. Over time, the common usage of each term evolves. For example, people often call 4-passenger sport coupes a 'sports car', while purists will insist that a sports car by definition is limited to two-place vehicles.

Styles in current use

4x4 or 4WD ("four-by-four" or "four-wheel drive")

A four-wheeled vehicle with a drivetrain that allows all four wheels to receive power from the engine simultaneously. The terms are usually (but not exclusively) used in Europe to describe what is referred to in North America as a sport utility vehicle or SUV (see below).

Cabrio coach or Semi-convertible

A form of automobile roof, where a retractable textile cover amounts to a large sunroof. Fundamental to various older designs such as the Citroën 2CV; sometimes an option on modern cars.


A term for a convertible (see below).


Removable or completely retractable roof. A body style with a removable or retractable roof and rear window. The convertible has roll-up side windows as contrasted with the roadster, which does not.

Coupé (Europe) or coupe (US)

A 2-door, 2- or 4-seat car with a fixed roof. Its doors are often longer than those of an equivalent sedan and the rear passenger area smaller; the roof may also be low. In cases where the rear seats are very small and not intended for regular use it is called a 2+2 (pronounced "two plus two").

Coupé convertible

A type of convertible with a rigid roof (as opposed to a fabric or vinyl roof) that retracts into the lower bodywork.

Coupe Utility (ute)

the Coupe Utility is a passenger-car derived light truck with coupe passenger cabin lines and an integral cargo bed. See Coupe Utility for more details.

Crossover SUV (or XUV)

A type of Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) which is based on a car platform rather than truck chassis. This also refers to a vehicle which is marketed as neither an SUV, a minivan nor a wagon, but combines design elements of those types.

Estate car (or just "estate")

The British English term for what North Americans call a station wagon.


A design where the roof slopes at a smooth angle to the tail of the car, but the rear window does not open as a separate "door".


A style of automobile roof. Originally referred to a removable solid roof on a convertible; later, also a fixed-roof car whose doors have no fixed window frames, which is designed to resemble such a convertible.


Identified by a rear door including the back window that opens vertically to access a storage area not separated from the rest of the passenger compartment. May be 2 or 4 door and 2 or 4 seat, but generally called in British English 3 door, 5 door eg: 2006 SAT X 2-door hatchback.

Leisure activity vehicle

A small van, generally related to a supermini, with a second or even a third seat row, and a large, tall boot.


A style of coupe with a hatchback; this name is generally used when the opening area is very sloped (and is thus lifted up to open).


By definition, a chauffeur-driven car with a (normally glass-windowed) division between the front seats and the rear. In German, the term simply means a sedan.


North American term for a boxy wagon-type of car usually containing three or four rows of seats, with a capacity of six or more passengers. Often with extra luggage space also. As opposed to the larger van, the minivan was developed primarily as a passenger vehicle, though is more van-like than a station wagon. In Britain, these are generally referred to as people carriers.


Multi-purpose vehicle, a large car or small bus designed to be used on and off-road and easily convertible to facilitate loading of goods from facilitating carrying people.


A cross between the smooth fastback and angled sedan look. It is a sedan type with a separate trunk compartment.

People carrier

European name to describe what is usually referred to in North America as an MUV or MPV.

Pickup truck aka pick-up

Small or medium sized truck. Not based on a passenger car, but of similar size. This light commercial vehicle features a separate cabin and rear load area (separate cargo bed).


Usually a prefix to coupé, fastback or hardtop; completely open at the sides when the windows are down, without a central pillar, e.g. the Sunbeam Rapier fastback coupé.


An open car like a Roadster, but with a soft top (cloth top) that can be raised or lowered. Unlike a convertible, it has no roll-up side windows.


Originally a two-seat open car with minimal weather protection no top was provided, neither any side glass. In some cases an optional hard or soft top might be offered, along with side curtains, but there was no side glass. In modern usage, the term is often used mean simply a convertible two-seat sports car, similarly to spyder.


The British English term for a sedan.


A car seating four or more with a fixed roof that is full-height up to the rear window. Normally a 4 door; 2 door is rarer in the US but they do occur (more so historically). This is the most common body style. In the U.S., this term has been used to denote a car with fixed window frames, as opposed to the hardtop style where the sash, if any, winds down with the glass. As hardtops have become rarer, this distinction is no longer so important.

Sport utility vehicle (SUV)

Derivative of off-road or four-wheel drive vehicles but with car-like levels of interior comfort and drivability. Also sometimes called a "soft-roader".

Spyder (or Spider)

Similar to a roadster but originally with even less weather protection. The term "Spyder" originated from a small two-seat horse-cart with a folding sunshade made of four bows. With its black cloth top and exposed sides for air circulation, the top resembled an eight-legged spider. Nowadays it simply means a convertible sports car.

Shooting brake

A two-door estate car/station wagon in British usage; generally for vintage or extremely expensive vehicles. They were vehicles for the well-off shooter and hunter, giving space to carry shotguns and other equipment. Usually made to order by coachbuilders.

Station wagon

A car with a full-height body all the way to the rear; the load-carrying space created is accessed via a rear door or doors.

Surrey top

Similar to the Porsche Targa top, the surrey top was developed by Triumph in 1962 for the TR4.


A derivative of the Targa top, called a T-bar roof, this fixed-roof design has two removable panels and retains a central narrow roof section along the front to back axis of the car (e.g. Toyota MR2 Mk 1.)

Targa top

A semi-convertible style used on some sports cars, featuring a fully removable hard top roof panel which leaves the A and B pillars in place on the car body. (e.g. Fiat X1/9). Strictly, the term originated from and is trademarked by Porsche for a derivate of its 911 series, the Porsche 911 Targa, itself named after the famous Targa Florio rally. A related styling motif is the Targa band, sometimes called a wrapover band which is a single piece of chrome or other trim extending over the roof of the vehicle and down the sides to the bottom of the windows. It was probably named because the original Porche Targa had such a band behind its removable roof panel in the late 60's.


Australian English term for the Coupe Utility body style (see above). Sometimes used informally to refer to any utility vehicle, particularly light trucks such as a pickup truck. In American English, ute infrequently is used to refer to an SUV (see above).


In North America 'van' refers to a truck-based commercial vehicle of the wagon style, whether used for passenger or commercial use. Usually a van has no windows at the side rear (panel van), although for passenger use, side windows are included. In other parts of the world, 'van' denotes a passenger-based wagon with no rear side windows.

Sport Activity Vehicle (SAV)

This name is used by BMW for their sport utility vehicle models. It was first used on the X5 and later on the X3.

Sport sedan or Sports sedan

is how General Motors calls its models by Saab automobile.


This term, which has been used by GM for several European models, has been applied to a number of body styles: A sporty liftback or hatchback (e.g. Opel Manta), and a sporty variant of a 2-door estate car (e.g. Vauxhall Magnum Sportshatch).

Sports Wagon

A term used by a number of manufacturers in the North American market for their station wagon models, an example of the Sports Wagon would be the 1960's Buick Sport Wagon and the current Dodge Magnum. Auto manufacturers in recent years perceive a stigma attached to the term 'station wagon', and attempt to make these models sound more exciting. In Europe, a few manufacturers, notably Alfa Romeo, have used the name Sport Wagon.


A term used by Peugeot to describe estates (eg. Peugeot 407 SW)


Used by BMW and Mercedes-Benz in Europe for its station wagon/estate car models. In North America, "Sports Wagon" is used instead.


Name applied to the Mini's estate version. Later co-opted by Nissan and used for estate versions of the Sunny and Primera in Europe.


Used by Ford in Europe for its station wagon/estate car models. Alternatively called Clipper in some markets.


Used by Volkswagen for its station wagon/estate car models.


Used by Toyota for MPV versions of the Yaris/Vitz, Corolla and Avensis.


Used by Aston Martin for convertibles.


Used by Fiat for station wagons since the 1980s, including the Regata, Tempra and Marea, as well as the small Brazilian-built world car estates Duna and Palio.


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