The easiest way to define a vehicle is by how it looks. What is the first thing you notice when a vehicle approaches you on the road? Its shape. This is called the “body style”. Is it big and boxy? Low and Smooth? How many doors does it have? The body style is the easiest way to categorize a vehicle.
There are over 25 types of cars, depending on how you count them. Car types can be categorized in many different ways like body style (Sedan), size (Compact), car segment (Muscle Cars), purpose (Family Cars), and fuel type (Electric vehicle). There are also over 400 car models on the market. ⬇️
The Short Characteristics of Car Types ⬇️
- Microcar and their Japanese equivalent— kei cars— are the smallest category of automobile, with three or four wheels and often an engine smaller than 700 cc (43 cu in). Specific types of microcars include bubble cars, cycle cars, invacar, quadricycles and voiturettes.
- A sedan is defined as a 4-door passenger car with a trunk that is separate from the passengers with a three-box body: the engine, the area for passengers, and the trunk. Throughout the generations, the definition of a sedan has been the same.
- The definition of a hatchback was traditionally a two or four-door vehicle with a tailgate that would flip upwards called a hatch. While the present-day description of a hatchback would be a vehicle with four doors and a hatch at the rear-end that flips up, based on a two-box body for the engine and passengers or cargo.
- Liftback / Sportback – 5 door vehicle with a similar look to the Sedan but with the glass integrated into the boot.
- A coupe is defined as a closed roof, 2-door passenger car with a three-box body for the engine and the passenger compartment. Most importantly, a coupe is a vehicle with interior space that is under 33 cubic feet.
- Cabriolet / Roadster / Convertible (2 door). Vehicles with opening roof, convertible.
- A targa top on a car or SUV is a removable roof panel over the front seats that opens the vehicle to the outside air and surroundings. However, behind the seats, the vehicle’s roof structure—and often its rear window glass—remains in place. Think of the result as a half coupe, half convertible, and you’ll get the idea.
- Muscle car is an American term for high-performance cars, usually rear-wheel drive and fitted with a large and powerful V8 engine, wide tires, flared fenders, and large hood scoops. The term originated for the 1960s and early 1970s special editions of mass-production cars which were designed for drag racing. Examples of muscle cars: Ford Torino, Plymouth Road Runner, Pontiac GTO.
- SPORT Car Similar vehicle to the 3 door hatchback but with a sportier style, without being a coupé.
- A supercar – also called exotic car – is a loosely defined description of street-legal, high-performance sports cars. Since the 2000s or 2010s, the term hypercar has come into use for the highest performing supercars.
- SUV (5 door) A Sport Utility Vehicle is defined by its off-road capabilities and roominess with 4×2 or 4×4 versions. Some available in 7 seats. Examples of SUVs: Chevrolet Tahoe, Mercedes-Benz M-Class, Mitsubishi Pajero.
- A crossover— or CUV— is a type of sports utility vehicle (SUV) that uses a unibody construction. Crossovers are often based on a platform shared with a passenger car, as a result, they typically have better comfort and fuel economy, but less off-road capability (many crossovers are sold without all-wheel drive) than truck-based SUVs, though more so than passenger cars.
- A pickup is simply a truck with a separate frame/cab and an open box. According to Car Throttle, pickups are based on trucks, made of two pieces, and generally have more interior space. They are considered a smaller version of a truck, designed for families or small businesses.
- A van is a type of road vehicle used for transporting goods or people. Depending on the type of van, it can be bigger or smaller than a pickup truck and SUV, and bigger than a common car. There is some varying in the scope of the word across the different English-speaking countries. The smallest vans, microvans, are used for transporting either goods or people in tiny quantities. Mini MPVs, compact MPVs, and MPVs are all small vans usually used for transporting people in small quantities. Larger vans with passenger seats are used for institutional purposes, such as transporting students. Larger vans with only front seats are often used for business purposes, to carry goods and equipment. Specially-equipped vans are used by television stations as mobile studios. Postal services and courier companies use large step vans to deliver packages.
- A bus is a public transport road vehicle designed to carry significantly more passengersthan the average cars or vans. Buses can have a capacity as high as 300 passengers, although the average bus usually carries between 30 and 100.
- A tow truck (also called a wrecker, a breakdown truck, recovery vehicle or a breakdown lorry) is a truck used to move disabled, improperly parked, impounded, or otherwise indisposed motor vehicles.
- A dump truck, known also as a dumping truck, dump trailer, dumper trailer, dump lorry or dumper lorry or a dumper for short, is used for transporting materials (such as dirt, gravel, or demolition waste) for construction as well as coal. A typical dump truck is equipped with an open-box bed, which is hinged at the rear and equipped with hydraulic rams to lift the front, allowing the material in the bed to be deposited (“dumped”) on the ground behind the truck at the site of delivery.
Also a good article about the categorisation of cars according to vehicle regulations or market segments you can find on wikipedia.