Performance


Coupé vs sedan: what’s the difference?

26 April 2021

Automotive design has blurred the lines between these traditional body types. Here’s how to tell them apart.

Performance


Coupé vs sedan: what’s the difference?

26 April 2021

Automotive design has blurred the lines between these traditional body types. Here’s how to tell them apart.

Sedans and coupes might be two of the oldest body styles in the automotive world, but you could be forgiven for finding it difficult to tell them apart.

It wasn’t all that long ago that the different body types of passenger vehicles existed in their own lanes. But today’s manufacturers are blurring the lines between traditional designations like sedan, coupe, hatchback and SUV, creating a mash-up of hybrid body types that offers drivers more choice than ever before.

So, what is a coupe?

The traditional definition of a coupe is a two-door car with a sloping rear roofline to give the vehicle a sleeker, sportier look.

If you’re thinking “coupe” also sounds a little Gallic, you’d be on the money: it’s French for “cut”, and the term was originally applied to truncated, two-door horse-drawn carriages that had no rear-facing seats.

Mercedes-Benz C 300 Coupé of the 205 model series.

The traditional definition of a coupe is a two-door car with a sloping rear roofline, like the C 300 Coupé. Image: Daimler.

Another hallmark of a traditional coupe is that they are typically shorter and more compact, with longer front doors and windows to give a sportier appearance.

As car design evolves, however, the definition of the coupe has begun to shift and there are now a few different types of coupes on the market.

The first is the traditional two-door coupe, best exemplified by the Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupé, E-Class Coupé and motorsport-inspired Mercedes-AMG GT.

Mercedes-AMG CLA 45

Just to confuse matters, the coupe style has evolved to include four-door options such as the CLA Coupé. Image: Daimler.

The second type is a four-door coupe – a bit confusing, but that’s design evolution for you. Check out the CLA Coupé, CLS Coupé and Mercedes-AMG GT 4-Door Coupé.

What is a sedan?

Like a coupe, a sedan is a three-box passenger car with separate compartments for engine, passenger, and cargo.

Sedans differ, however, as they have always been four-door vehicles, designed with a less steeply sloping roofline than a coupe. This results in increased headroom for rear passengers.

Mercedes-Benz C 300 Sedan

A typical sedan does away with the steeply sloping roofline of a coupe, which results in increased headroom for rear passengers as exemplified in the C-Class sedan. Image: Daimler.

Believed to come from the Latin word sedere, meaning “to sit”, the “sedan” chair was a one-person box with windows and horizontal poles that was carried around by porters in the early-1600s.

These days, sedans are significantly more practical, powerful and attractive, like the Mercedes-Benz A-Class Sedan, C-Class Sedan and E-Class Sedan, all vehicles that put the emphasis on luxury design and practicality.

Why buy a coupe?

If you’re after sportier, performance-focused handling and are less concerned with passenger and cargo space, the alluring sleekness of a coupe’s design might be the right fit for you.

Smaller size means less weight, and therefore better handling. This often makes the coupe slightly more agile than the sedan.

Why buy a sedan?

Have a family or regularly carry more than one passenger? The extra rear space and cargo capacity of a sedan might be more your ticket, as they typically have plenty of head and leg room in the back.

The advantage of a sedan over the now far more common SUV shape is that it has a lower centre of gravity, meaning increased driving fun and enjoyment, when compared to a high-riding vehicle.

With so many different body styles on the market, read our definitive guide to the different vehicle body types to decide which one is right for you.

By Stephen Corby