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What Is a Sedan?

Posted by Auto.com | Jan 3, 2019

When most people think of a sedan, they picture a large four-door passenger car with a sizable trunk. And while the hard definition of Sedan can get a little tricky to nail down, that image is fairly accurate. There are times when automakers will use the labels of sedan or coupe as more of a vehicle marketing tool than an actual rule. But for the most part, you can think of it this way: a sedan can have four or two doors. These vehicles typically have a sizable passenger compartment, with enough to fit three people across the rear seat, and those seats are always covered by a hard roof.

The word sedan comes to us from the Latin sedere, meaning to sit. So it is appropriate that sedans are most often associated with comfort: a smooth ride, well-padded seating and enough power to move the car without too much effort. Whereas manufacturers will use the word coupe to denote performance, sedans are the focus of creature-comfort. These are cars that optimize the functional aspects of getting from point A to point B. While not unheard of, it is increasingly uncommon to find a sedan with anything other than an auto transmission. A manual transmission would be more common in a coupe or a hatchback.

Even smaller compact sedans, such as the Mazda 3 or the Hyundai Elantra, put the attention of creature comforts over high-speed performance. Designed to maximize utility, these compact sedans hold up to five people, with decent room in the trunk. Unlike a smaller hatchback, their designs are focused on ensuring a smooth ride and passenger comfort. And, where SUVs tend to focus largely on utility, a sedan still allows for precision maneuvering on the roads.

In the world of cars, bigger denotes luxury. So it is fitting that automakers such as Audi or Cadillac will make their most luxurious sedans the biggest models. The all-wheel drive 2018 Audi A8, for example, is a stately beast at just over seventeen feet long – over two feet longer than the Mazda 3. With the latest technology, premium interior materials and attention to the most minute of details, these luxury sedans are not for driving aggressively. Rather, they are designed for arriving comfortably, with the rear passenger area featuring more legroom than you would find in the rear of a coupe or a hatchback.

Sedans at all levels are the perfect option for someone who desires function and comfort over a coupe's raw engine power or an SUVs lumbering ride-height. The sedan is a car that combines practical comfort with room for a family, the sedan is a traditional, fuel-efficient design that still holds its own in an increasingly competitive vehicle market.