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A sedan is a vehicle body style that has front and rear seats with a closed cabin. To be called a sedan, a car typically must have enough cabin space to comfortably fit four or five adult occupants. This requires a sedan to include a full-height roof that extends all the way to the back of the cabin. Popular sedan body styles on the American auto market today include the Honda Accord, Volkswagen Passat and Chevrolet Impala.

2-Door and 4-Door Sedans

The majority of sedans are of the 4-door variety. However, if enough rear-passenger room is available in a 2-door vehicle, it may be classified as a sedan. According to the Society of Automotive Engineers, a 2-door vehicle must have at least 33 cubic feet of rear cabin space to be classified as a sedan. Vehicles with smaller cabin volumes are typically classified as a coupe. The inclusion or absence of a B-pillar between the front and rear side windows may also contribute to the ultimate classification of a vehicle. Oftentimes, a car manufacturer will use this styling choice to determine which category a particular vehicle falls into, regardless of rear cabin volume. The presence of a B-pillar traditionally leads to a sedan classification.

Sedan Subcategories

The sedan body style is a flexible category that includes several different styling variations. Some distinct types of sedans include:

  • Hatchback Sedans: This type of sedan incorporates a hatchback design while maintaining the cabin size requirements detailed above. These vehicles include a trunk design that requires the entire rear roof area of the vehicle to lift upward in order to access the cargo/trunk area. The 4-door 2008 Volkswagen GTI is an example of a hatchback sedan.
  • Fastback Sedans: Sedans that include a continuous slope from the roof to the base of the decklid (trunk lid) are called fastback sedans. However, these vehicles differ from hatchback sedans in that they incorporate a traditional trunk. The Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class meets the requirements to be called a fastback sedan.
  • Notchback Sedans: A traditional "3-box" sedan is called a notchback. Vehicles in this category include a steep drop-off from the rear roof to the trunk. From the side, this visually splits the vehicle into three sections - the engine, passenger area and trunk (thus the 3-box terminology). The Lexus LS is an example of a notchback sedan.
  • Hardtop Sedans: Sometimes called sports sedans, these vehicles incorporate frameless door glass that typically requires the elimination of the B-pillar.

International Sedan Equivalents

The term of sedan is used North American English and American Spanish. Australia and New Zealand also refer to this type of vehicle as a sedan. In other regions of the world this type of body style takes on several different titles, including: Saloon (Great Britain) Berline (French) Berlina (Spain, Portugal, Romania and Italy) Limousine (Germany)