Sedan (automobile)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
2018 Toyota Camry sedan
1928 Ford Model A sedan

A sedan /sɪˈdæn/ — also called saloon — is a passenger car in a three-box configuration with separate compartments for engine, passenger and cargo.[1]

The modern implementation of sedans was introduced in 1912[2] and the body style has remained popular up to the present. The name "sedan" originates from the sedan chair, an enclosed box which was carried by porters to transport one person.

Car manufacturers in the United States up until the 1960s have marketed several models as variations of the sedan style, such as close-coupled sedan, club sedan, convertible sedan, fastback sedan, hardtop sedan, notchback sedan and sedanet/sedanette.


Typical profiles of a sedan, station wagon and hatchback

The current definition of a sedan is a car with a closed body (i.e. a fixed metal roof) with the engine, passengers and cargo in separate compartments.[3] This broad definition does not differentiate sedans from various other car body styles, but in practice the typical characteristics of sedans are:

  • a B-pillar (between the front and rear windows) that supports the roof[4]
  • two rows of seats[5](p134)
  • a three-box design with the engine at the front and the cargo area at the rear[6][7]
  • a less steeply sloping roofline than a coupé, which results in increased headroom for rear passenger and a less sporting appearance.[8]
  • a rear interior volume of at least 33 cu ft (0.93 m3)[9][10]

It is sometimes suggested that sedans must have four doors (to provide a simple distinction between sedans and two-door coupés).[11] However, several sources state that a sedan can have two or four doors.[5](p134)[12][13] In addition, terms such as sedan and coupé have been more loosely interpreted by car manufacturers since 2010.[14]

When a manufacturer produces two-door sedan and four-door sedan versions of the same model, the shape and position of the greenhouse on both versions may be identical, with only the B-pillar positioned further back to accommodate the longer doors on the two-door versions.[15]


Prior to the invention of the automobile, the "sedan chair" (also known as litter) was an enclosed box used to transport one person, which was carried by porters at the front and rear using horizontal poles.[16] This style of transport dates back to ancient Egypt, India and China.

The name sedan chair originated in the 1630s, from either the southern Italian dialect derivative of Italian word sedia ("chair) or the Latin word sedere ("to sit").[17] All the names for these derived from the root "sed-" from the Latin "sella" - the traditional name for a carried chair.[18]

1901 Renault Voiturette (Type D shown, similar body style to Type B)

The first recorded use of the term for automobiles was in 1912, when it was described as a closed automobile (i.e. with sides and roof) seating four or more.[17] Prior to this, the 1899 Renault Voiturette Type B added doors and a roof to the Voiturette Type A body. This resulted in the first vehicle considered to be a sedan,[19][20] although it was a two-door vehicle where the rear passengers sat outside the cabin. Other early cars which used a body style that would later be known as sedan are the 1905 Rational four-door limousine,[21](p573), 1907 Renault four-door limousine[21](p578) and 1910 Stella two-door saloon.[21](p649) At the time, the names saloon and limousine were used for cars both with and without fixed roofs.[21]

The earliest usage of the name which is accordance with modern definition of a sedan (i.e. a fixed roof car seating at least 4 people) was the 1911 Speedwell Sedan, which was manufactured in the United States.[22](p87)

International terminology[edit]

In 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. Hatchback sedans are known simply as hatchbacks (not hatchback saloons); long-wheelbase luxury saloons may be referred to as limousines. The term Super saloon is commonly used to describe a high performance saloon car, though the term sports saloon has been used in the past. The British term saloon 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.

In Australia and New Zealand the term "sedan" is predominantly used, with "saloon" only finding occasional usage, particularly in the field of motor racing.

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, and "Stretch-Limousine" for limousines.


Close-coupled sedans[edit]

1929 Packard Close Coupled Sedan.

Close-coupled sedans are a body style produced in the United States and Great Britain during the 1920s and 1930s. Like other close-coupled body styles, the rear seats are located further forward than a regular sedan.[5](p43)[23] This reduced the length of the body, so close-coupled sedans (also known as town sedans) were the smallest of the sedan models offered.[24]

Due to the reduced size of the steel body, close-coupled sedans were slightly lighter and less expensive than regular sedan models, however there is less rear legroom than regular sedan. The rear suspension of a close-coupled sedan could not be a Hotchkiss drive.[citation needed]

Models of close-coupled sedans include the Chrysler Imperial,[25][26] Duesenberg Model A[27] and Packard 745[28]

Club sedans[edit]

1938 Cadillac "Club Sedan" limousine with division

Produced in the United States from the mid-1920s to the mid-1950s, the name club sedan was used for highly appointed models using the sedan chassis.[5](p44) Some people describe a club sedan as a two-door vehicle with a body style otherwise identical to the sedan models in the range.[29] Others describe a club sedan as having either two or four doors and a shorter roof (and therefore less interior space) than the other sedan models in the range.[5](p44)

The term "club sedan" originates from the club carriage (e.g. the lounge or parlour carriage) on a railway train.[5](p44)

Convertible sedans[edit]

A term used in the United States in the 1930s for a four-door convertible car with a folding soft-top roof.[5](p50) As per the cabriolet models of the time, convertible sedans were fitted with side doors and windows to provide full weather protection when needed.[30]

Fastback sedans[edit]

Although the term "fastback" is typically associated with coupé models, there have been various sedans produced with a fastback rear end, starting in the 1930s.

Hardtop sedans[edit]

1958 AMC Ambassador four-door hardtop sedan

Pillarless hardtop cars, often called "hardtops", were produced in the United States in the 1950s and 1960s. Hardtops are manufactured without a B-pillar between the front and rear doors, which creates an impression of uninterrupted glass along the side of the car.[31][32][33]

Hardtop cars that are a sedan body style are called hardtop sedans.

Notchback sedans[edit]

1971 Chevrolet Vega notchback sedan

In the United States, the term "notchback sedan" has been used to distinguish models with a horizontal bootlid from the fastback sedans.


From the 1910s to the 1950s, several United States manufacturers have named models either Sedanet or Sedanette. The term originated as a smaller version of the sedan,[34] however it has also been used for convertibles and fastback coupes.

Models which have been called Sedanet or Sedanette include: 1917 Dort Sedanet,[35] King,[34] 1919 Lexington,[34] 1930s Cadillac Fleetwood Sedanette,[36] 1949 Cadillac Series 62 Sedanette,[37] 1942-1951 Buick Super Sedanet[38][39] and 1956 Studebaker.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Car Design Glossary - Part 2: One-Box (Monospace or Monovolume)". Car Design News. Archived from the original on 3 December 2013. Retrieved 9 September 2015. The principal volumes of the traditional sedan can be split into separate compartments or boxes: the hood/bonnet is the first box; the passenger compartment the second, and the trunk/boot the third - i.e. it's a 'three-box' car.
  2. ^ "Where Does the Word "Sedan" Come From?". 10 January 2017. Retrieved 25 November 2018.
  3. ^ "Definition of sedan in English by Oxford Dictionaries". Retrieved 25 November 2018.
  4. ^ Duffy, James (2008). Auto Body Repair Technology (Fifth ed.). Cengage Learning. pp. 27–28. ISBN 9781418073541. Retrieved 9 September 2015.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Haajanen, Lennart W. (2007). Illustrated Dictionary of Automobile Body Styles. McFarland. ISBN 9780786437375. Retrieved 9 September 2015.
  6. ^ Morello, Lorenzo (2011). The automotive body - Volume I, Components design. Springer. p. 184. ISBN 9789400705128. Retrieved 9 September 2015.
  7. ^ "Starting Out: Car Design Glossary - Part 2". Archived from the original on 3 December 2013.
  8. ^ "What is the difference between coupe and sedan?". Retrieved 25 November 2018.
  9. ^ "Club Coupes". Retrieved 7 December 2018.
  10. ^ "Coupe vs. Sedan: What's the Difference and Definitions of the Body Styles?". 12 February 2009. Retrieved 7 December 2018.
  11. ^ "A Sedan or a Coupe? What's the difference?". 31 July 2013. Retrieved 25 November 2018.
  12. ^ Morello, L.; Rossini, Lorenzo Rosti; Pia, Giuseppe; Tonoli, Andrea (2011). The Automotive Body: Volume I: Components Design. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 184. ISBN 9789400705135.
  13. ^ "Coupe vs. Sedan: What's the Difference and Definitions of the Body Styles?". Retrieved 25 November 2018.
  14. ^ "Range Rover's $295K Coupe SUV Proves No Niche Is Too Small". Retrieved 25 November 2018.
  15. ^ "1962 Rambler Brochure". pp. 6–7. Retrieved 9 September 2015.
  16. ^ "Definition of sedan".
  17. ^ a b "sedan (n.)". Retrieved 17 November 2018.
  18. ^ T. Atkinson Jenkins. "Origin of the Word Sedan", Hispanic Review, Vol. 1, No. 3 (Jul., 1933), pp. 240-242.
  19. ^ "Renault Voiturette Type B (1899)". Retrieved 18 November 2018.
  20. ^ "Renault's first ever car attends Paris Motor Show". Retrieved 18 November 2018.
  21. ^ a b c d Georgano, G.N. (1973). The Complete Encyclopedia of Motorcars: 1885 to the Present. New York: Dutton. ISBN 0-525-08351-0.
  22. ^ Georgano, G.N (1985). Cars: Early and Vintage, 1886-1930. London: Grange-Universal.
  23. ^ Severson, Aaron (15 August 2009). "From Pillar to Post: More Automotive Definitions". Retrieved 11 December 2018.
  24. ^ Cummings, Christopher (2014). Cadillac V-16s Lost and Found: Tracing the Histories of the 1930s Classics. McFarland. p. 50.
  25. ^ "1931 Chrysler Imperial Close Coupled Sedan". Retrieved 24 November 2018.
  26. ^ "1931 Chrysler Imperial Close-Coupled Sedan". 22 July 2017. Retrieved 24 November 2018.
  27. ^ "1925 Duesenberg Model A Close Coupled Sedan - Amazing Original Car!". Retrieved 24 November 2018.
  28. ^ "1930 Packard". Retrieved 24 November 2018.
  29. ^ "Club Coupes". Retrieved 18 November 2018.
  30. ^ "1936 Ford Convertible Sedan". Retrieved 18 November 2018.
  31. ^ "Hardtop meaning". Engineering Dictionary. Retrieved 6 March 2018.
  32. ^ Thomas, Alfred; Jund, Michael (2009). Collision repair and refinishing: a foundation course for technicians. Cengage Learning. p. 164. ISBN 978-1-4018-8994-4. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  33. ^ "Rambler has everything new - even a hardtop wagon". Popular Mechanics. 105 (1): 116–117. January 1956. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  34. ^ a b c Haajanen, Lennart W. (2017). Illustrated Dictionary of Automobile Body Styles, 2d ed. McFarland. p. 136. ISBN 9780786499182. Retrieved 25 November 2018.
  35. ^ Dort Motor Car Co, Wisconsin Motorist November 1916, H A Apple, publisher, Milwaukee
  36. ^ GM Heritage Centre
  37. ^ Willson, Quentin (1997). Classic American Cars. DK Publishing. ISBN 9780789420831. Retrieved 25 November 2018.
  38. ^ "1948 Buick Series 40 Special Sedanet – Just A Few Inches Short Of A GM's Greatest Hit". Retrieved 25 November 2018.
  39. ^ "Fastback Fascination – 1949 Buick Model 56-S Super Sedanet". Retrieved 25 November 2018.