The Four Most Popular Car Shapes People Buy

Underground parking with various cars

Which cars are people buying the most?

When is it an SUV and when a crossover? What’s the difference between a convertible and a cabriolet? Is a two-door sedan a coupé? It all can be rather confusing. There are a number of main car shapes, and those shapes became popular because they fulfilled a specific driving need. So, you ask, why would someone need a tank-sized 4×4 SUV when they only use it to drop the kids at school and go to the mall? There is actually a logical answer to that, but we will get to that.

When you go looking for a car, there are four main shapes to thinks of, with variants in each shape.


The most popular shape is the SUV or Sports Utility Vehicle.

The basic SUV is a taller car with bigger inside space, normally four doors and a hatch for the boot. The rear seats can fold flat to carry more cargo. It has a higher ride height and a more rugged build that gives it some off-road ability. This ability varies a lot across all the offerings. Most SUVs – or crossovers – are chosen for their urban driving qualities. Unless you are a true rugged outdoors type, this will be your motivation as well.

The technical difference between an SUV and a crossover is that the former is built on a separate chassis, like a bakkie, while the latter is a car chassis with the SUV-type body on it. The Nissan X-Trail or Toyota RAV4 are crossovers, great to drive in the city, handy on rougher gravel roads, but you don’t want to take them off-road. So why the large 4×4 SUV to go to the mall? Because that is a specific image and when we shop for a car, we will buy as much of our ideal image as we can afford.


A sedan is your basic four-door, separate boot, hard roof car, also known as the three-box design. Sedans are supposed to be boring and many are, but then you drive past the Merc or Beemer and suddenly they are not so boring. A sedan is great in the city or the open road, can normally seat five comfortably and has a huge boot. In most cases, the sedan is the practical choice, which is why so many sales reps drive them. If your image is sensible and practical, you cannot go wrong with a good pre-owned Corolla, Elantra or Jetta.


A hatchback is a four or two-door car with the boot part of the passenger space. The boot can be reached via the hatch and ends against the back of the foldable rear seats. It was born in the mid-‘70s when the world suddenly needed smaller, more fuel-efficient cars. The Golf I, Renault 5, Mazda 323 and many others were hatched in that time. They were cute and remarkably practical. Then VW chucked in a more powerful engine and called it the GTI and suddenly the hatch was hot! Since then the hatch has ruled the roads, until the last fifteen years or so when SUVs and crossovers became a thing. Come to think of it, a crossover is just a taller hatchback.

The Bakkie

A bakkie is not a bakkie is not a bakkie.

The bakkie started life as a light truck, a load bed with a cab for the driver and an engine. They rattled when driven because they had chains to hold the boot flap, the suspension was almost non-existent, they normally had random stuff bounding around the back and their odometer reading could take them around the world several times. This is not the bakkie you are looking for. Unless you are a farmer or a painter or such.

Most bakkies bought as cars come in single, double and crew or club cab. The latter has four seats, but only two doors. The rule of thumb is the more seats you have, the shorter your load bed will be. The difference between a bakkie and a bakkie is often the number of bull bars, nudge bars, roll bars, spotlights, side steps, winches, snorkels and stickers on them. While most bakkies are built on a ladder chassis with the cab and load bed separate, some are built on top of a car chassis, like a crossover. Bakkies are often bought as a lifestyle choice. We like bakkies, and you can bring the bull bars.

To answer the questions at the top of this story, a coupé has two doors and a hard roof, with a sporty overall design. The difference between a convertible and a cabriolet is in the spelling. You can take the roof off to feel the wind in your hair and the bugs in your teeth.

Hopefully, this article will give you a better idea of what’s what with cars and help you narrow your search for your next drive.

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