SUVs and trucks are getting all the attention when it comes to sales numbers, but most automakers are not giving up on small passenger cars just yet (and for good reason). Sedans and hatchbacks generally offer better driving dynamics than large vehicles thanks to their lower center of gravity. They also get better gas mileage and can be just as versatile as a compact crossover. If you've decided to buck the trend and buy a passenger car, your next decision will be which body style to go with.
Some of the distinctions between sedans and hatchbacks are obvious like cargo space and styling, while others may come as a surprise. For instance, road noise tends to be reduced in sedans compared to hatchbacks. Many car models come in both body styles, so to help you decide we'll outline the benefits of each and compare the specs of a sedan and hatchback from 3 popular car models. Because the decision ultimately comes down to personal preference, you should test drive both vehicle types to see which body style works best for you.
Why Get a Sedan?
A sedan is categorized as a 4-door passenger car with a separate trunk. Sedans are the more popular and readily available body style in the U.S., so you'll have ample options to choose from. Although sedans typically fall short compared to hatchbacks when it comes to cargo space, there is an upside to the trunk. Anything valuable you keep in your car will be stored out of sight to potential thieves.
According to Motortrend, sedans offer the advantage of carrying less weight than their hatchback counterparts because of the lack of extra body components, liftgate, and extra glass. These can add as much as 100 pounds to the weight of a hatchback. The lack of a liftgate also reduces the road noise of a sedan, leading to a quieter ride.
A sedan may also be a better economic choice than a hatchback due to a lower average base price. Some automakers only offer the hatchback body style on higher vehicle trims which will bump up your purchase price. In all three of our examples below (Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, and Mazda3), the sedan was more affordable than the hatchback.
When it comes to vehicle styling, sedans tend to look more mature and sophisticated than hatchbacks which are often perceived as more youthful and sporty. Ultimately, styling is purely subjective and will come down to your personal preference.
Why Get a Hatchback?
Hatchbacks offer the driving dynamics of a sedan with the storage and seating flexibility of an SUV. Instead of being confined to the sedan's trunk space, the hatchback has a wide-open cargo area for all your gear. The liftgate allows for easy loading while removing all the obstructions of a trunk. Many hatchbacks have split-folding seats that can both fold flat for maximum cargo space or seat passengers on one side with the other side folded.
Visibility is another benefit that hatchbacks can claim over sedans. The hatchback is more upright and has more glass area to make seeing the road and other vehicles easier, especially from the rear window. Additionally, hatchbacks tend to have a higher roofline which offers more headroom for passengers and/or bulky cargo.
Hatchbacks typically offer edgier styling than traditional sedans with sportier exteriors. Although hatchback styling can be seen as more youthful, in recent years, automakers have started to build hatchbacks with sleek rooflines and hidden liftgates that could easily pass for sedans at first glance.
To demonstrate the difference between hatchbacks and sedans in the categories of cargo space, passenger volume, fuel economy, and base price, we'll compare 3 popular cars that come in both sedan and hatchback body styles: the Mazda3, Toyota Corolla, and Honda Civic. Notice that hatchbacks offer the most cargo space across the board, but also come at a premium for starting price.
|Cargo volume (cubic ft.)||13.2||20.1|
|Passenger volume (cubic ft.)||92.8||92.7|
|Sedan (L Trim)||Hatchback (SE Trim)|
|Cargo volume (cubic ft.)||13.1||17.8|
|Passenger volume (cubic ft.)||88.6||84|
|Sedan (LX)||Hatchback (LX)|
|Cargo volume (cubic ft.)||15.1||25.7 (seats up) 46.2 (seats down)|
|Passenger volume (cubic ft.)||97.8||97.2|
|MPG (city/highway/combined)||30/38/33||31/40 /34|