Different car body types & their functions explained


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Cars are classified differently based on body types and they can cause confusion sometimes but don't worry because we have compiled all car body types with their functions here in this post. Check out!

Reading time: 4 minutes

Everyone wants the perfect car for sale in Nigeria which is why it is important that you get over the confusion that comes with car body types. Having good knowledge of car body types will not only help you show off when you are arguing amongst friends but also help you see cars for the main purpose they were built.


We have various types of body styles

Give me your undivided attention as I take you through the world of different car body types and their functions. I will later point out the confusing body types and call it a wrap.

It is very wrong to just wake up one morning and buy a car without knowing what the function of its body type.

Most people just say 'I want a Toyota Corolla, I want a Ford Edge, I want a Chevrolet Camaro'. That is cool but do you know that a Camaro will never work for you if you are a certain type of height. Do you know that a Corolla will frustrate you if you are into buying and selling of products like bags and hair?.

Car body types and their functions explained

There are 9 different body types out there today. Every other body type falls under these 9 classes.

1. Hatchback

Hatchbacks are simply cars that have a 'two-box' design. The first box contains the engine while the second contains the cabin and trunk/boot space combined.


A perfect example of a Hatchback: The Toyota Corolla

Hatchbacks are often referred to as 5 door or 3 door cars because the trunk serves as a door that can also lead you into the cabin area of the car.

Hatchbacks can have their seats flattened out to create a larger extension of the boot space.


The space in the rear makes Hatchbacks functional 

The function of hatchback cars is to carry passengers at a maximum of 4 and then still have space for luggage that you can access from within the car. Hatchbacks are also mostly compact meaning they are very economical.

Typical examples of hatchback cars you can buy in Nigeria are the Volkswagen Golf, Toyota Matrix, Mazda 3, Mercedes-Benz A-Class, Honda Jazz, Kia Picanto, Hyundai Getz and others. 

2. Saloon

A saloon is a car that simply has a 'three-box' design. They have three separate areas for the engine bay, cabin area and boot space.


A perfect example of a Saloon/Sedan

This is the common type of car body we see in Nigeria. Most seat five passengers and they have a fixed roofline that is maintained from the front to the end of the cabin area.

The main function of Saloon cars a.k.a sedan is its interior space for passengers. This interior provides better comfort for passengers because of its longer legroom and quiet cabin compared to hatchbacks. Sedans with very large interior space in Nigeria are called full-size sedans while there is also a mid-size and compact sedan.

The major drawback of Sedan/Saloon cars is that they have limited boot space compared to hatchbacks.


The function of Saloon cars is to move people 

Typical examples of saloon cars in Nigeria include the Toyota Camry, Kia Optima, Honda Accord, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Nissan Altima and other 4 door cars that carry a maximum of 5 persons. 

3. Coupe

A Coupe used to be essentially a 2-door version of sedan cars. A coupe always carries a sloping roofline, unlike sedans that are straight. This sloping roofline gives the car a sporty and sleek appearance while the headroom is reduced towards the end.


This is what a Coupe looks like

This is why a lot of coupes have only 2 seats and 2 doors but these days, there are coupes with 4 doors and 5 doors. The term Coupe is strongly affiliated to the sloping roofline and no longer 2 doors or 2 seats.

The function of coupes is just to have a car that looks sleek and drives like a sports car with less space for passengers. It is often a show-off car in Nigeria that draws a lot of attention especially when they have been pimped or maintained very well.


A BMW 4 door Coupe

Most coupes with 2 doors never have enough legroom for rear-seat passengers.

The common examples of coupes in Nigeria include the Honda Accord Coupes, BMW 3 Series Coupe, Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe, Volkswagen Scirocco, Toyota Solara and others.

4. Estate/Station Wagon

Estates a.k.a station wagons are cars totally based on hatchbacks but with extended boot space with the boot of estates going from the bottom of the car to the top.

Just see an estate as a "three box car" but with a trunk space that is connected with the cabin area and maintained at the same height.


Explanation of an Estate/Station Wagon

Unlike saloon cars in Nigeria with large boot spaces, the major function of estates is to create a lot more of boot space and still maintain the size of a saloon car. Estate just fuses a saloon and a hatchback all in one. 


Enough space to keep all your stuff

Typical examples of estates in Nigeria include the Toyota Camry Wagon, Dodge Magnum, Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate, Volkswagen Passat Estate, Renault 21 Estate and others.

5. SUV

The term SUV represents 'Sport Utility Vehicle'  which confuses people because its function is everything apart from sporty.

An SUV originally meant rugged cars that always had a four-wheel drive for off-road use. They offered a spacious interior and large trunk space too.


Explanation of an SUV 

However, nowadays the term SUV refers to a bigger model car that offers more power and bigger luggage capacity than other types of cars but doesn't have a four-wheel drive as standard anymore.


An SUV in its natural habitat

Any car can have four-wheel drive these days which is why SUVs just refer to big cars. Today we have a new class of SUV type cars called crossovers. The main difference between SUVs and crossovers is in the chassis.

The main function of SUVs is to carry passengers and luggage at the same time and drive over any type of road condition without hassle. 


Yep! there you have the luggage

Typical examples of SUVs in Nigeria include the Honda Pilot, Nissan Pathfinder, Mazda CX-9, Volkswagen Touareg and others. There are about 12 SUVs you can buy in Nigeria that are very economical based on maintenance and that is not common with SUVs. 

6. MPV

The term 'MPV' refers to a Multi-Purpose Vehicle. These are cars that are built to be people carriers built like an extended estate with a raised ceiling and larger cabin area.


Explanation of an MPV

The main purpose of MPVs is to carry 7 to 8 people all at once with a lot of space to make you feel like you are in moving home. These cars are best for family road trips.


MPV is the people carrier

Typical examples of MPVs in Nigeria are; Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna, Mazda MPV, Mercedes-Benz V-Class, Opel Zafira, Mitsubishi Space Wagon and others.

7. Pick-up

A pick-up has a passenger area that is referred to as a double cab for four people or single cab for two people but to the rear of the vehicle is a large area for storage that is called the 'bed'. The bed area in most pick-up trucks is covered which then makes them look like SUVs.


Explanation of Pick-Up Trucks

The main purpose of pick-up trucks is to carry a lot of luggage on high ground clearance without any height restriction when the bed has an open space.


Pick Up trucks can carry luggage with no height restriction

The typical examples of pick-up trucks you can buy in Nigeria include the Nissan Titan, Honda Ridgeline, Toyota Tacoma, Mitsubishi L200 and others. 

8. Convertible 

A convertible is a coupe body style car but with a retractable/removable roof that can either be fabric (soft-top) or metal (hardtop). They are very attractive cars based on appearance. I mean, it is the coolest thing to have your roof down when the weather is friendly.


Explanation of Convertibles

However, they lack boot space because that is where the retracted roof goes to hide when the roof is down.

The main function of convertibles is just to have a show car that has its roof down and attracts the attention of everyone. Convertible cars are the best cars to use to create awareness while on the move.

Typical examples of convertibles in Nigeria include the Toyota Solara convertibles, Bentley Continental GT convertible, Rolls-Royce dawn, Mercedes S-Class cabriolet, Mercedes-Benz SL convertible and others.

The confusing body types 

The confusing body types are in pairs and with the explanations, I have given above, it will be very easy for your confusion to be taken care of.

1. Hatchbacks and Estates

Estates have an extended trunk space that is on the same level of height as the cabin area of the car while hatchbacks have their trunk space sloping downwards.


The red is the hatchback(shorter) the white is the estate (longer)

The extended trunk space is a major difference.

2. Saloon and Sedans

Saloon and Sedans are the same things. If you didn't catch it previously, please do now. The sedan is just an American term while Saloon is more of a European and more widely accepted term.

3. SUVs and Crossovers

SUVs are big cars based on a ladder chassis that holds all the components together while crossovers have a unibody type of chassis design just like cars which makes them smaller than SUVs.


Crossover vs SUV: the difference is in the chassis 

4. Coupes with 4 doors

A coupe is not based on how many doors the car has. A coupe is based on the fixed sloping roofline of a car. A Coupe can have either 2 doors, 4 doors or 5 doors depending on how it is built.


It can be 2 doors, 4 doors or 5 doors

The constant in a coupe remains the sloping roofline.  


You have now learnt about different car body types and their functions. Buy a car that suits you the most would be easier now.

At Naijauto.com we care about your knowledge and safety as a driver in Nigeria. You should see details on how to maintain every car brand in Nigeria from the common Toyota, Honda, Mazda to BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, and others.

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Crank - the head of content for 234DRIVE is a mechanic/car enthusiast/car vlogger that writes and creates relatable motoring experiences. Whenever he lays his hands on any car, he reviews them in depth. He calls himself the 'Educative Car Guy'.

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