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Governments and private organizations have developed car classification schemes that are used for various purposes including regulation, description and categorization, among others. This article details commonly used classification schemes in use worldwide.
- 1 Summary of classifications
- 2 Microcar / kei car
- 3 A-segment / City car / Minicompact
- 4 B-segment / Supermini / Subcompact
- 5 C-segment / Compact / Small family
- 6 D-segment / Large family / Mid-size
- 7 E-segment / Executive / Full-size
- 8 Minivans / MPVs
- 9 Luxury vehicles
- 10 Sports / performance cars
- 11 SUVs / off-road vehicles
- 12 Station wagons / Estate cars
- 13 Classification methods
- 14 Other car classification terms
- 15 See also
- 16 References
- 17 External links
Summary of classifications
This following table summarises common classifications for cars.
Microcar / kei car
Microcars and their Japanese equivalent— kei cars— are the smallest category of automobile.
Microcars straddle the boundary between car and motorbike, and are often covered by separate regulations to normal cars, resulting in relaxed requirements for registration and licensing. Engine size is often 700 cc (43 cu in) or less, and microcars have three or four wheels.
Examples of microcars and kei cars:
A-segment / City car / Minicompact 
The smallest category of vehicles that are registered as normal cars is called A-segment in Europe, or "city car" in Europe and the United States. The United States Environmental Protection Agency defines this category as "minicompact", however this term is not widely used.
Examples of A-segment / city cars / minicompact cars:
B-segment / Supermini / Subcompact
The size of a subcompact car is defined by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as having a combined interior and cargo volume of between 85–99 cubic feet (2,410–2,800 L). Since the EPA's smaller minicompact category is not as commonly used by the general public, A-segment cars are sometimes called subcompacts in the United States. In Europe and Great Britain, the B-segment and supermini categories do not any formal definitions based on size.
Examples of B-segment / supermini / subcompact cars:
C-segment / Compact / Small family
The largest category of small cars is called C-segment or small family car in Europe, and compact car in the United States.
The size of a compact car is defined by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as having a combined interior and cargo volume of 100–109 cu ft (2.8–3.1 m3).
Examples of C-segment / compact / small family cars:
D-segment / Large family / Mid-size
In Europe, the third largest category for passenger cars is called D-segment or large family car.
In the United States, the equivalent term is mid-size or intermediate cars. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines a mid-size car as having a combined passenger and cargo volume of 110–119 cu ft (3.1–3.4 m3).
Examples of D-segment / large family / mid-size cars:
E-segment / Executive / Full-size
In Europe, the second largest category for passenger cars is E-segment / executive car, which are usually luxury cars.
In other countries, the equivalent terms are full-size car or large car, which are also used for relatively affordable large cars that aren't considered luxury cars.
Examples of non-luxury full-size cars:
Minivans / MPVs
Minivan is an American car classification for vehicles which are designed to transport passengers in the rear seating row(s), have reconfigurable seats in two or three rows. The equivalent terms in British English are Multi-purpose Vehicle (MPV), people carrier and people mover. Minivans often have a 'one-box' or 'two-box' body configuration, a high roof, a flat floor, a sliding door for rear passengers and high H-point seating.
Mini MPV is the smallest size of MPVs and the vehicles are often built on the platforms of B-segment hatchback models.
Examples of Mini MPVs:
Compact MPV is the middle size of MPVs. The Compact MPV size class sits between the mini MPV and large MPV (minivan) size classes.
Compact MPVs remain predominantly a European phenomenon, although they are also built and sold in many Latin American and Asian markets.
Examples of Compact MPVs:
The largest size of minivans is also referred to as 'Large MPV' and became popular following the introduction of the 1984 Renault Espace and Dodge Caravan. Since the 1990s, the smaller Compact MPV and Mini MPV sizes of minivans have also become popular. If the term 'minivan' is used without specifying a size, it usually refers to a Large MPV.
Examples of Large MPVs:
The premium compact class is the smallest category of luxury cars. It became popular in the mid-2000s, when European manufacturers— such as Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz— introduced new entry level models that were smaller and cheaper than their compact executive models.
Examples of premium compact cars:
Compact executive / luxury compact
A compact executive car is a premium car larger than a premium compact and smaller than an executive car. Compact executive cars are equivalent size to mid-size cars and are part of the D-segment in the European car classification.
Examples of compact executive cars:
Executive / mid-size luxury 
An executive car is a premium car larger than a compact executive and smaller than an full-size luxury car. Executive cars are classified as E-segment cars in the European car classification.
In the United States and several other countries, the equivalent categories are full-size car (not to be confused with the European category of "full-size luxury car") or mid-size luxury car.
Examples of executive cars:
Luxury saloon / full-size luxury
The largest size of luxury car is known as a luxury saloon in the United Kingdom and a full-size luxury car in the United States. These cars are classified as F-segment cars in the European car classification.
Vehicles in this category are often the flagship models of luxury car brands.
Examples of luxury saloons:
Sports / performance cars
Cars which prioritise handling or straight-line acceleration are often loosely grouped as sports cars or performance cars. These cars can either be built on unique platforms or be upgraded versions of regular cars. Common types of sports/performance cars are summarised below.
A grand tourer (GT) is a car that is designed for high speed and long-distance driving, due to a combination of performance and luxury attributes. The most common format is a front-engine, rear-wheel-drive two-door coupé with either a two-seat or a 2+2 arrangement.
The term derives from the Italian language phrase gran turismo which became popular in the English language from the 1950s, evolving from fast touring cars and streamlined closed sports cars during the 1930s.
Examples of grand tourers:
Hot hatch (shortened from hot hatchback) is a high-performance version of a mass-produced hatchback car.
The term originated in the mid-1980s, however factory high-performance versions of hatchbacks have been produced since the 1970s.
Front-mounted petrol engines, together with front-wheel drive, is the most common powertrain layout, however all-wheel drive has become more commonly used since around 2010. Most hot hatches are manufactured in Europe or Asia.
Examples of hot hatches:
Muscle car is an American term for high-performance cars, usually rear-wheel drive and fitted with a large and powerful V8 engine. The term originated for 1960s and early 1970s special editions of mass-production cars which were designed for drag racing.
Examples of muscle cars:
Pony car is an American class of automobile launched and inspired by the Ford Mustang in 1964. It broke all post-World War II automobile sales records, "creating the 'pony car' craze soon adopted by competitors." The term describes an affordable, compact, highly styled car with a sporty or performance-oriented image
Examples of pony cars:
A sports car, or sportscar, is a small, usually two-seater automobile designed for spirited performance and nimble handling. The term "sports car" was used in The Times, London in 1919. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, USA's first known use of the term was in 1928. Sports cars started to become popular during the 1920s.
Sports cars may be spartan or luxurious, but high maneuverability and light weight are requisite. Sports cars are usually aerodynamically shaped (since the 1950s), and have a lower center of gravity than standard models. Steering and suspension are typically designed for precise control at high speeds. Traditionally sports cars were open roadsters, but closed coupés also started to become popular during the 1930s, and the distinction between a sports car and a grand tourer is not absolute.
Examples of sports cars:
Sports sedan / sports saloon
A sports sedan — also known as "sports saloon" — is a subjective term for a sedan/saloon car which is designed to have sporting performance or handling characteristics.
In the United Kingdom, the term super saloon is used instead of sports saloon. However, super saloon can also be used to describe a racing car that is based on a road-going family car, for example the New Zealand Super Saloon car racing series.
Examples of sports sedans:
Supercar / Hypercar
A supercar — also called exotic car — is a loosely defined description of certain high-performance sportscars. Since the 1990s or 2000s, the term "hypercar" has come into use for the highest performing supercars.
Examples of supercars:
SUVs / off-road vehicles
Off-road vehicles, or "off-roaders" are sometimes referred to as "four-wheel drives", "four by fours", or 4x4s — this can happen colloquially in cases where certain models or even an entire range does not possess four-wheel drive.
Sport utility vehicle
Sport utility vehicles are off-road vehicles with four-wheel drive and true off-road capability. They most often feature high ground clearance and an upright, boxy body design. Sport Utilities are typically defined by a body on frame construction which offers more off-road capability but reduced on-road ride comfort and handling compared to a cross-over or car based utility vehicle.
Crossover SUVs are derived from an automobile platform using a monocoque construction with light off-road capability and lower ground clearance than SUVs. They may be styled similar to conventional "off-roaders", or may be look similar to an estate car or station wagon.
Examples of crossover SUVs:
Station wagons / Estate cars
A station wagon, also called an estate car, estate or wagon, is a car body style which has a two-box design, a large cargo area and a rear tailgate that is hinged to open for access to the cargo area. The body style is similar to a hatchback car, however station wagons are longer and are more likely to have the roofline extended to the rear of the car(resulting in a vertical rear surface to the car) to maximize the cargo space.
Examples of estates/station wagons:
Vehicles can be categorized in numerous ways. For example, by means of the body style and the level of commonality in vehicle construction, as defined by number of doors and roof treatment (e.g., sedan, convertible, fastback, hatchback) and number of seats that require seat belts to meet safety regulations.
Regulatory agencies may also establish a vehicle classification system for determining a tax amount. In the United Kingdom, a vehicle is taxed according to the vehicle's construction, engine, weight, type of fuel and emissions, as well as the purpose for which it is used. Other jurisdictions may determine vehicle tax based upon environmental principles, such as the user pays principle. In another example, certain cities in the United States in the 1920s chose to exempt electric-powered vehicles because officials believed those vehicles did not cause "substantial wear upon the pavements".
Another standard for road vehicles of all types that is used internationally (except for Australia, India, and the U.S.) is ISO 3833-1977.
In an example from private enterprise, many car rental companies use the ACRISS Car Classification Code to describe the size, type and equipment of vehicles to ensure that rental agents can match customer needs to available vehicles, regardless of distance between the agent and the rental company or the languages spoken by either party.
In Australia, the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries publishes its own classifications.
A similar set of classes is used by the Canadian EPA. The Canadian National Collision Database (NCDB) system defines "passenger car" as a unique class, but also identifies two other categories involving passenger vehicles—the "passenger van" and "light utility vehicle"—and these categories are inconsistently handled across the country with the boundaries between the vehicles increasingly blurred.
In the United States, since 2010 the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety uses a scheme it has developed that takes into account a combination of both vehicle shadow (length times width) and weight.
|US Highway Loss Data Institute classification||Definition|
|Regular Two Door||Two door sedans and hatchbacks|
|Regular Four Door||Four door sedans and hatchbacks|
|Station Wagons||Four doors, a rear hatch and four pillars|
|Minivans||Vans with sliding rear doors|
|Sports||Two seaters and cars with significant high performance features|
|Luxury||Relatively expensive cars that are not classified as sports (price in USD to curb weight in pounds more than 9.0 in 2010) (small cars over $27,000, midsize cars over $31,500, large cars over $36,000, etc.)|
|US Insurance Institute for Highway Safety | Highway Loss Data Institute 'Guide to car size groups' (includes minivans)|
|Shadow (square footage of exterior length × width)|
|Curb Weight||70 to 80 sq ft (6.5–7.4 m2)||81 to 90 sq ft (7.5–8.4 m2)||91 to 100 sq ft (8.5–9.3 m2)||101 to 110 sq ft (9.4–10.2 m2)||>110 sq ft (10.2 m2)|
|2,001 to 2,500 lb (900–1,150 kg)||Mini||Small||Small||Small||Midsize|
|2,501 to 3,000 lb (1,150–1,350 kg)||Small||Small||Midsize||Midsize||Midsize|
|3,001 to 3,500 lb (1,350–1,600 kg)||Small||Midsize||Midsize||Large||Large|
|3,501 to 4,000 lb (1,600–1,800 kg)||Small||Midsize||Large||Large||Very Large|
|>4,000 lb (1,800 kg)||Midsize||Midsize||Large||Very Large||Very Large|
|US IIHS|HLDI Guide to SUV size groups|
|Mini||<=3,000 lb (1,350 kg) and shadow <80 sq ft (7.4 m2)|
|Small||3,001 to 3,750 lb (1,350–1,700 kg)|
|Midsize||3,751 to 4,750 lb (1,700–2,150 kg)|
|Large||4,751 to 5,750 lb (2,150–2,600 kg)|
|Very large||>5,750 lb (2,600 kg) or shadow >115 sq ft (10.7 m2)|
The United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) separates vehicles into classes by the curb weight of the vehicle with standard equipment including the maximum capacity of fuel, oil, coolant, and air conditioning, if so equipped.
|US NHTSA classification||Code||Curb weight|
|Passenger cars: mini||PC/Mi||1,500 to 1,999 lb (700–900 kg)|
|Passenger cars: light||PC/L||2,000 to 2,499 lb (900–1,150 kg)|
|Passenger cars: compact||PC/C||2,500 to 2,999 lb (1,150–1,350 kg)|
|Passenger cars: medium||PC/Me||3,000 to 3,499 lb (1,350–1,600 kg)|
|Passenger cars: heavy||PC/H||3,500 lb (1,600 kg) and over|
|Sport utility vehicles||SUV||–|
The United States Federal Highway Administration has developed a classification scheme used for automatically calculating road use tolls. There are two broad categories depending on whether the vehicle carries passengers or commodities. Vehicles that carry commodities are further subdivided by number of axles and number of units, including both power and trailer units.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) has developed a classification scheme used to compare fuel economy among similar vehicles. Passenger vehicles are classified based on a vehicle's total interior passenger and cargo volumes. Trucks are classified based upon their gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR). Heavy duty vehicles are not included within the EPA scheme.
|US EPA car class||Total passenger and cargo volume (cu. ft.)|
|Two-seaters||Any (designed to seat only two adults)|
|Minicompact||Less than 85 cu ft (2,400 l)|
|Subcompact||85 to 99 cu ft (2,400–2,800 l)|
|Compact||100 to 109 cu ft (2,850–3,100 l)|
|Mid-size||110 to 119 cu ft (3,100–3,350 l)|
|Large||120 cu ft (3,400 l) or more|
|Small station wagons||Less than 130 cu ft (3,700 l)|
|Mid-size station wagons||130 to 159 cu ft (3,700–4,500 l)|
|Large station wagons||160 cu ft (4,550 l) or more|
Other car classification terms
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- refers to cars made in the early 1900s in Europe. Baquet means bath tub. These cars had two rows of raised seats similar to horse-drawn carriages. Baquets usually did not have front doors, a top, or windshield.
- Cabrio coach
- Normally a two-door body design with special form of car roof, where a retractable textile cover amounts to a large sunroof.
- 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"). Originally, a coupé was required to have only one side window per side, but this consideration has not been used for many years. Occasionally seen as Fixed Head Coupé, or FHC, particularly when referring to a hardtop version of a convertible.
- Flower car
- in US used in the funeral industry to carry flowers for burial services. Typically a coupe-style, forward-passenger compartment with an open well in the rear.
- Incorporates a shared passenger and cargo volume, with rearmost accessibility via a rear third or fifth door, typically a top-hinged liftgate—and features such as fold-down rear seats to enable flexibility within the shared passenger/cargo volume. As a two-box design, the body style typically includes A, B and C-pillars, and may include a D-pillar.
- Originally 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 (sometimes also called "Fixed Head Coupé", or FHC.)
- A converted car (often a station wagon), light truck or minivan usually used to transport the dead. Often longer and heavier than the vehicle on which they are usually based. Can sometimes double up as an ambulance in some countries, such as the United States, especially in rural areas.
- Originally, a car with a tapered rear that cuts off abruptly.
- A limousine with the passenger section covered by a convertible top.
- 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 broad marketing term for a hatchback, which incorporates a shared passenger and cargo volume, with rearmost accessibility via a top-hinged liftgate.
- 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.
- Term for a boxy wagon-type of car that is smaller than a conventional minivan; often without rear sliding door(s). Examples are Citroën Picasso, Renault Scénic, Toyota Yaris Verso or Mercedes-Benz A-Class. In Japan, this term is used for Kei car based vans.
- Designed to carry fewer people than a full-size bus, generally up to 16 people in multiple rows of seats. Passenger access in normally via a sliding door on one side of the vehicle. One example of a van with a minibus version available is the Ford Transit.
- 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 configuration where the third box of a three-box styling configuration is less pronounced — especially where the rear deck (third box) is short or where the rear window is upright.
- People carrier or people mover
- European name to describe what is usually referred to in North America as a Minivan.
- Personal luxury car
- An American car classification describing a highly styled mass produced, luxury vehicle with an emphasis on image over practicality characteristically a two-door coupé or convertible with two-passenger or 2+2 seating.
- A Phaeton is a style of open car or carriage without proper weather protection for passengers.
- Pickup truck (or pickup)
- A light-duty, open-bed truck.
- 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.
- Originally an open car like a roadster, but with a soft top (cloth top) that can be raised or lowered. Unlike a convertible, it had no roll-up side windows. Now often used as slang for a convertible.
- Retractable Hardtop
- aka Coupé convertible or Coupé Cabriolet. A type of convertible forgoing a foldable textile roof in favor of a multi-segment rigid roof retracts into the lower bodywork.
- Originally a two-seat open car with minimal weather protection — without top or side glass — though possibly with optional hard or soft top and side curtains (i.e., without roll-up glass windows). In modern usage, the term means simply a two-seat sports car convertible, a variation of spyder.
- A car seating four or more with a fixed roof that is full-height up to the rear window. Known in British English as a saloon. Sedans can have 2 or 4-doors.
- Sedan delivery
- North American term for a vehicle similar to a wagon but without side windows, similar to a panel truck but with two doors (one on each side), and one or two rear doors
- Initially a vehicle used to carry shooting parties with their equipment and game; later used to describe custom-built wagons by high-end coachbuilders, subsequently synonymous with station wagon or estate; and in contemporary usage a three or five-door wagons combining features of a wagon and a coupé.
- Sport utility vehicle (SUV)
- Derivative of a pickup truck or 4-wheel-drive vehicle, but with fully enclosed passenger cabin interior and carlike levels of interior equipment.
- Station wagon
- A variant of a sedan/saloon, (also known as estate or estate car) or with its roof extended rearward over a shared passenger/cargo volume; access at the back via a third or fifth door instead of a trunk lid; flexible configurations to vary passenger or cargo volume; and two or three rows of seating — in a two-box design with a A, B & C-pillar, as well as a D pillar.
- 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 Mark I.)
- 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.
- Town car (US)
- Essentially the inverse of the landaulet, a historical body style in which the front seats were open and the rear compartment closed, normally with a removable top to cover the front chauffeur's compartment. In Europe the style is also known as Sedanca de Ville, often shortened to Sedanca or de Ville. Note that the modern Lincoln Town Car derives its name, but nothing else, from this style.
- A term used originally in Australia and New Zealand to describe usually two-wheel-drive, traditionally passenger vehicles with a cargo tray in the rear integrated with the passenger body; as opposed to a pickup whose cargo tray is not integrated with the passenger body.
- Wagon delivery
- North American term (mainly U.S. and Canada). Similar to a sedan delivery, with four doors.
- 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.
Some non-English language terms are familiar from their use on imported vehicles in English-speaking nations even though the terms have not been adopted into English.
- Italian term for a roadster with no roof. The name, roughly "small boat", comes from an exclamation when the Ferrari 166MM Touring was shown.
- Italian and Spanish term for a sedan.
- French term for a sedan.
- Italian term for a sport coupé.
- French term for a station wagon.
- Brazilian Portuguese term for a station wagon (specially in the state of Rio de Janeiro). Spanish term also used in Argentina and Uruguay.
- Portuguese term for a station wagon. Not used in Brazilian Portuguese.
- Spanish term for a sport cars.
- Portuguese nickname for a limousine (the same word for Sword – long piece of metal). Not used in Brazilian Portuguese.
- Spanish and Polish term for a van, in the latter language almost always used in its diminutive form furgonetka.
- Portuguese alternative term (less used) for a van. Used in Brazilian Portuguese, most often for vans but sometimes for panel van variants of passenger cars.
- is a German abbreviation of "Kombinationswagen" (Combination Car) and it is German name for station wagon. Since Germany is a major producer of cars for many European countries, the term Kombi in this meaning is also used in Swedish, Czech, Slovak, Polish, Hungarian, Spanish, Portuguese, Bulgarian.
In Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian, Slovenian kombi refers to a van. In Afrikaans and in Australia, Kombi is also used to refer to a Volkswagen Microbus. In Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay the word specifically refers to the VW Microbus.
- ACRISS Car Classification Code
- Car color
- Car safety and road safety
- Commercial vehicle
- Production vehicle
- Truck classification
- Vehicle category
- Vehicle size class
- Car body configurations
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