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A saloon car (British English, Irish English, New Zealand English) or sedan (American English; pronounced /sɨˈdæn/), 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. 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.
Types of sedans
Several versions of the body style exist, including four-door, two-door, and fastback variants of both.
A sedan seats four or more people and has a fixed roof that is full-height up to the rear window. The roof structure will typically have a fixed B-pillar on sedan models. Most commonly it is a four-door; two-door models are rare, but they do occur (more so historically). In the U.S., the term sedan has been used to denote a car with fixed window frames, as opposed to the hardtop style without a "B" pillar and where the sash, if any, winds down with the glass. However, true hardtops have become increasingly rare.
Four-door sedans can have either two or three side windows: One in each door (vent windows not counted), and the possible third integrated in the "C"-pillar.
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.
A fastback sedan is a two-box sedan, with continuous slope from the roof to the base of the decklid, but excludes the hatchback feature. Marketing terminology is often misleading in this area - for example, Daimler AG calls the Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class sedan a four-door coupé because its semi-fastback design tries to give the impression of a coupé. Certain sedans are edging close 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. 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.
- See also: Coupé
The Society of Automotive Engineers defines such a vehicle as any two-door model with rear accommodation greater than or equal to 33 cubic feet (930 L) in volume (a calculation made by adding the legroom, shoulder room, and headroom). By this standard, the Chevrolet Monte Carlo, Ferrari 612 Scaglietti, and Mercedes-Benz CL-Class coupés are all two-door sedans. Only a few sources, however (including the magazine Car and Driver), use the two-door sedan label in this manner.
In the popular vernacular, a two-door sedan is defined by appearance and not by volume; vehicles with a B-pillar between the front and rear windows are generally called two-door sedans, while hardtops (without the pillar, and often incorporating a sloping backlight) are called coupés.
The Mazda RX-8 meets the volume requirement to be called a sedan, but it has vestigial rear-hinged rear doors, so some call it 2+2-door sedan. Another term for a coupé endowed with rear-hinged doors is a "quad coupé." However, this may simply be vernacular, based on a possible copyright by General Motors, for its Saturn Ion Quad-Coupe.
- Main article: Hardtop
In historic terminology a sedan will have a frame around the door windows, while the hardtop has frameless door glass. A true hardtop sedan design also has no "B" pillar (the roof support behind the front doors). This body style has an open feel, but 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 American manufacturers and 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, and among Japanese manufacturers worldwide, the hardtop design was popular among luxury sedans throughout the 1990s.
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, 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 Volkswagen Golf, and Chevrolet Chevette.
- Main article: Limousine
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, or Rolls-Royce or Maybach for the more wealthy. 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. Chauffeured sedans, such as the Lincoln Town Car, may also be stretched into limousines that are capable of seating up to twenty people.
- Main article: Litter (vehicle)
The word sedan is possibly derived from a southern Italian dialect derivative of Italian sedia "chair" (the first sedan was said to have been introduced from Naples). However, Portuguese and Spanish navigators and colonists encountered litters of various sorts in India, Japan, Mexico, and Peru. They were imported into Spain in the late sixteenth century. Soon the fashion spread into France and then England. All the names for these derived from the root "sed-" from the Latin "sella" - the traditional name for a carried chair.
The first automobile to use the configuration was the 1899 Renault Voiturette Type B. The first closed car, for at least 4 persons, which used the word sedan was the 1911 Speedwell sedan, which was manufactured by the Speedwell Motor Co in Dayton, Ohio. But even before that time completely closed cars were called saloons or limousines, like the 1905 Rational 4-door limousine or the 1907 Renault 4-door limousine or the 1910 Stella 2-door saloon. The words saloon or limousine do not exclusively mean a fully closed car. Cars which are called sedans are always fully closed.
The derivation from the town of Sedan, Ardennes in France, where it was said to have been made or first used, lacks historical evidence, according to Oxford English Dictionary.
In American English and American Spanish, the term sedan is used (accented as "sedán" is in Spanish). The engine compartment, at the front, is covered by the hood; the cargo compartment at the rear is called the trunk.
In British English, a car of this configuration is called a saloon. The engine compartment cover is the bonnet, the cargo-compartment boot is at the rear. Hatchback sedans are known simply as hatchbacks (not hatchback saloons); long-wheelbase luxury sedans may be referred to as limousines.
The British English 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, while the smaller Silver Seraph was called a sedan.
In Australia the American term sedan is used, albeit with the British terms boot and bonnet being retained. In New Zealand the British terms are used, but the American terms are understood by most of the population. 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, as well as for limousines.
- "Car Design Glossary - Part 2: One-Box (Monospace or Monovolume)". Car Design News. “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.”
- T. Atkinson Jenkins. "Origin of the Word Sedan", Hispanic Review, Vol. 1, No. 3 (Jul., 1933), pp. 240-242.
- Georgano, G.N. (1985). Cars: Early and Vintage, 1886-1930. London: Grange-Universal. page 87
- Georgano, G. N.: The Complete Encyclopedia of Motorcars: 1885 to the Present, 2. Ausgabe, E. P. Dutton, New York (1973), page 573, ISBN 0-525-08351-0
- Georgano, G. N.: The Complete Encyclopedia of Motorcars: 1885 to the Present, 2. Ausgabe, E. P. Dutton, New York (1973), page 578, ISBN 0-525-08351-0
- Georgano, G. N.: The Complete Encyclopedia of Motorcars: 1885 to the Present, 2. Ausgabe, E. P. Dutton, New York (1973), page 649, ISBN 0-525-08351-0
- There are many photos of half open limousines and saloons in the book "The Complete Encyclopedia of Motorcars: 1885 to the Present" by Georgano.
- European Commission classification
- NCAP Comparable cars
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