Sedan (automobile)

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Typical pillar configurations of a sedan (three box), station wagon (two box) and hatchback (two box) from the same model range (1998-2005 Ford Focus)

A sedan /sɪˈdæn/ (American, Canadian, Australian, and New Zealand English) or saloon (British, Irish and Indian English) is a passenger car in a three-box configuration with A, B, & C-pillars and principal volumes articulated in separate compartments for engine, passenger and cargo.[1] The passenger compartment features two rows of seats and adequate passenger space in the rear compartment for adult passengers. The cargo compartment is typically in the rear, with the exception of some rear-engined models, such as the Renault Dauphine, Tatra T613, Volkswagen Type 3 and Chevrolet Corvair. It is one of the most common car body styles. A battery electric liftback such as the Tesla Model S has no engine compartment, but a front cargo compartment and a rear compartment for cargo.

Types of sedan

1962 Rambler Classic 2- and 4-door sedans

The primary purpose of the sedan is to transport people and their baggage on ordinary roads.[2] Sedan versions of the automobile body style have a central pillar (B-pillar) that supports the roof and come in two- and four-door versions.[3] Sedans usually have a two-box or three-box body.[2]

The shape and position of the automobile greenhouse on both two- and four-door sedans may be identical, with only the center B-pillar positioned further back to accommodate the longer doors on the two-door versions. For example, 1962 Rambler Classic sedans feature identical windshield, A-pillar, roof, C-pillar, and rear window. The two-door sedans have longer doors and include roll down rear side window and even a quarter window that is shaped to follow the reverse slant of the C-pillar, just like on the rear doors of the four-door sedans.[4]

Club sedan

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.[6] 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 sedan

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.[7]

Notchback sedans

1962 Chevrolet Impala, a typical notchback sedan

A notchback sedan is a three-box sedan, where the passenger volume is clearly distinct from the trunk volume of the vehicle (when seen from the side). The roof is on one plane, generally parallel to the ground, the rear window at a sharp angle to the roof, and the trunk lid is also parallel to the ground.

Fastback sedans

1941 Plymouth fastback sedan

A fastback sedan is a two-box sedan, with continuous slope from the roof to the base of the decklid (trunk lid), but excludes the hatchback feature. Marketing terminology is often misleading in this area - for example, Daimler AG incorrectly calls the Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class sedan a four-door coupé because its semi-fastback design tries to give the impression of a coupé.[citation needed] Certain sedans are edging close[weasel words] to being one-box vehicles, where the windshield is steeply raked from the hood/bonnet and the rear window slopes toward almost the end of the car, leaving just a short rear deck that is part of the trunk lid—the 2006 4-door JDM Honda Civic is an example of this.[citation needed] They are not fastbacks because their bodyline changes from the roof to the rear deck. Their steeply raked rear windows end with a decklid that does not continue down to the bumper. Instead, their rear ends are tall—sometimes in a Kammback style—to increase trunk space.

Typically this design is chosen for its aerodynamic advantages. Automakers can no longer afford the penalty in fuel consumption produced by the traditional notchback three box form.[citation needed]

Hardtop sedans

1958 AMC Ambassador four-door hardtop

In historic terminology, a sedan-door will have a frame around the door windows, while the hardtop doors end at the waist line. There is no center or "B" pillar for roof support behind the front doors.[8] This pillarless body style offers greater visibility.[9] However, it requires extra underbody strengthening for structural rigidity. The hardtop design can be considered separately (i.e., a vehicle can be simply called a four-door hardtop), or it can be called a hardtop sedan. During the 1960s and 1970s, hardtop sedans were often sold as sport sedans by several American manufacturers and they were among the top selling body styles. During the 1980s, automakers in the U.S. focused on removing weight and increasing strength, and their new four-door sedans with B-pillars were called pillared hardtops or pillared sedans. The sport sedan term has since been appropriated for other uses. In Japan the hardtop design was used for several luxury-type sedans during the 1990s.

Hatchback sedans

Chevrolet Malibu Maxx hatchback sedan

Hatchback (a.k.a. liftback) sedans typically have the fastback profile, but instead of a trunk lid, the entire back of the vehicle lifts up (using a liftgate or hatch). A vehicle with four passenger doors and a liftgate at the rear can be called a four-door hatchback, five-door hatchback, four-door hatchback sedan, or five-door sedan. An example of such is the Chevrolet Malibu Maxx and Audi A5 Sportback. There can also be two-door hatchback sedans (three-door sedans), by the same technical explanation for two-door sedans. Examples of this design are the Ford Focus, Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Golf, Chevrolet Chevette and Daewoo Nexia (Opel Kadett E).

Chauffeured sedans

The Lincoln Town Car is often used as a chauffeured car in the U.S.

Strictly speaking, limousine sedans have a separate compartment for the driver and the passenger compartment is long enough to contain at least two comfortable, forward-facing bench seats. Vehicles used for these means are usually Lincoln Town Car, Cadillac, Mercedes-Benz, or Rolls-Royce.[citation needed]

The term limousine can refer to a large sedan, especially if hired from a service. Chauffeured limousines are primarily used by individuals for weddings, businesses for meetings, as well as for airport and sightseeing transportation. Chauffeurs are professional drivers, usually with experience in the transportation industry or tourism industry. Chauffeured sedans are owned either by private owners, livery services, or corporations. Large corporations as well as governments commonly provide luxury sedans to top executives, as well as VIP guests.[citation needed] Chauffeured sedans, such as the Lincoln Town Car, may also be stretched into limousines that are capable of seating up to twenty people.

Close-coupled sedan

A close-coupled sedan is an obsolete type of car body which disappeared from the United States market by World War II, though it survived elsewhere for a time. It was a four-windowed sedan with a trunk that from front to rear was almost as thin as an upright suitcase. Such a vehicle was a bit lighter, and hence less expensive, than a regular sedan of the day, which had its rear-seat passengers sitting over the differential, and had room for a wider trunk at the rear, sometimes being a compartment added on not at the factory but by specialists. The passengers in a close-coupled sedan sat a little bit forward of the differential, so they had somewhat less room.

The mechanical particular was that the rear suspension could not be a Hotchkiss drive. Ford Motor Company, which used a transverse spring suspension until 1949, could offer such a vehicle, and called its version a "Victoria" in the 1930s.


1918 Dort sedanet
1948 Buick sedanet

Haajanen in his Illustrated Dictionary of Automobile Styles considered the name should indicate a small sedan body then adds that it does not appear to have been so[5] but see the last known mention, 1956 Studebaker below.

  • 1917 Dort Sedanet: "The Sedanet is an entirely different year 'round car. It is as comfortable as a limousine for bad weather driving—with the plate glass windows and side panels removed it is a handsome touring car.
Quick acting side curtains are provided for use when necessary."[10]
In the 1920s other brands with similarly named bodies included King and Lexington.[5]
  • For 1930 Cadillac's catalogue included—among the fourteen Fleetwood Special Custom Bodies—their Fleetwind Four-passenger Sedanette Cabriolet and their Fleetwind Four-passenger Sedanette.[11] They may have been convertibles (Fleetwind) with wind-down plate glass side-windows because they were listed immediately after their Phaeton.
  • Buick and Cadillac had fully enclosed two-door fastback models they called Sedanets / Sedanettes in the 1940s
  • As late as 1956 the Studebaker catalogue included a two-door sedanet (not a fastback) as well as a two-door sedan, the sedanet was shorter.



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.[12] 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").[13] All the names for these derived from the root "sed-" from the Latin "sella" - the traditional name for a carried chair.[14]

The first recorded use of the term for automobiles was in 1912, when it was described as a closed automobile (ie with sides and roof) seating four or more.[13] 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,[15][16] 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,[17](p573), 1907 Renault four-door limousine[17](p578) and 1910 Stella two-door saloon.[17](p649) At the time, the names saloon and limousine were used for cars both with and without fixed roofs.[17]

The earliest usage of the name sedan for a fixed roof car seating at least 4 persons was the 1911 Speedwell Sedan, which was manufactured in the United States.[18](p87)

International terminology

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.

See also


  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. ^ a b Morello, Lorenzo (2011). The automotive body - Volume I, Components design. Springer. p. 184. ISBN 9789400705128. Retrieved 9 September 2015.
  3. ^ Duffy, James (2008). Auto Body Repair Technology (Fifth ed.). Cengage Learning. pp. 27–28. ISBN 9781418073541. Retrieved 9 September 2015.
  4. ^ "1962 Rambler Brochure". pp. 6–7. Retrieved 9 September 2015.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Haajanen, Lennart W. (2007). Illustrated Dictionary of Automobile Body Styles. McFarland. ISBN 9780786437375. Retrieved 9 September 2015.
  6. ^ "Club Coupes". Retrieved 18 November 2018.
  7. ^ "1936 Ford Convertible Sedan". Retrieved 18 November 2018.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ "Rambler has everything new - even a hardtop wagon". Popular Mechanics. 105 (1): 116–117. January 1956. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  10. ^ Dort Motor Car Co, Wisconsin Motorist November 1916, H A Apple, publisher, Milwaukee
  11. ^ GM Heritage Centre
  12. ^ "Definition of sedan".
  13. ^ a b "sedan (n.)". Retrieved 17 November 2018.
  14. ^ T. Atkinson Jenkins. "Origin of the Word Sedan", Hispanic Review, Vol. 1, No. 3 (Jul., 1933), pp. 240-242.
  15. ^ "Renault Voiturette Type B (1899)". Retrieved 18 November 2018.
  16. ^ "Renault's first ever car attends Paris Motor Show". Retrieved 18 November 2018.
  17. ^ 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.
  18. ^ Georgano, G.N (1985). Cars: Early and Vintage, 1886-1930. London: Grange-Universal.

External links

  • Media related to Sedans at Wikimedia Commons
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