Sedan's first recorded use as a name for a car body was in 1912. The name comes from a 17th-century development of a litter, the sedan chair, a one-person enclosed box with windows and carried by porters.
Variations of the sedan style of the body include: close-coupled sedan, club sedan, convertible sedan, fastback sedan, hardtop sedan, notchback sedan, and sedanet/sedanette.
A sedan (//) is a car with a closed body (i.e. a fixed metal roof) with the engine, passengers, and cargo in separate compartments. This broad definition does not differentiate sedans from various other car body styles, but in practice, the typical characteristics of sedans are:
- a B-pillar (between the front and rear windows) that supports the roof
- two rows of seats: 134
- a three-box design with the engine at the front and the cargo area at the rear
- a less steeply sloping roofline than a coupé, which results in increased headroom for rear passengers and a less sporting appearance.
- a rear interior volume of at least 33 cu ft (0.93 m3)
It is sometimes suggested that sedans must have four doors (to provide a simple distinction between sedans and two-door coupés). However, several sources state that a sedan can have two or four doors.: 134  In addition, terms such as sedan and coupé have been more loosely interpreted by car manufacturers since 2010.
When a manufacturer produces two-door sedan and four-door sedan versions of the same model, the shape and position of the greenhouse on both versions may be identical, with only the B-pillar positioned further back to accommodate the longer doors on the two-door versions.
A sedan chair, a sophisticated litter, was an enclosed box with windows used to transport one seated person. Porters at the front and rear carried the chair with horizontal poles. Litters date back to long before ancient Egypt, India and China. Sedan chairs were developed in the 1630s. Etymologists suggest the name of the chair very probably came through varieties of Italian from the Latin sedere, meaning "to sit".
There were fully enclosed automobile bodies before 1912. Long before that time the same fully enclosed but horse-drawn carriages were known as a "brougham" in the United Kingdom, "berline" in France, and "berlina" Italy (the latter two have become the terms for sedans in these countries).
It is sometimes stated that the 1899 Renault Voiturette Type B (a 2-seat car with an extra external seat for a footman/mechanic) was the first sedan, since it is the first known car to be produced with a roof.
However, a sedan is typically considered to be a fixed roof car with at least 4 seats. Based on this definition, the earliest sedan was the 1911 Speedwell, which was manufactured in the United States.: 87
In British English, a car of this configuration is called a saloon (//). Hatchback sedans are known simply as hatchbacks (not hatchback saloons); long-wheelbase luxury saloons with a division between the driver and passengers are limousines. An equivalent term for Sports sedan in the United Kingdom is "super saloon".
In Australia and New Zealand sedan is now predominantly used, they were previously simply cars. In the 21st century, saloon is still found in the long-established names of particular motor races.
In other languages, sedans are known as berline (French), berlina (European Spanish, European Portuguese, Romanian, and Italian) though they may include hatchbacks. These names, like the sedan, all come from forms of passenger transport used before the advent of automobiles. In German, a sedan is called Limousine and a limousine is a Stretch-Limousine.
In the United States two-door sedan models were punningly called "Tudor"; by extension, Ford used "Fordor" for four-door sedans.
In the United States, notchback sedan distinguishes models with a horizontal trunk lid. The term is generally only referred to in marketing when it is necessary to distinguish between two sedan body styles (e.g. notchback and fastback) of the same model range.
Several sedans have a fastback profile, but instead of a trunk lid, the entire back of the vehicle lifts up (using a liftgate or hatch). Examples include the Chevrolet Malibu Maxx, BMW 4 Series Grand Coupe,Audi A5 Sportback, and Tesla Model S.
The names "hatchback" and "sedan" are often used to differentiate between body styles of the same model. Therefore the term "hatchback sedan" is not often used, to avoid confusion.
There have been many sedans with a fastback style.
Hardtop sedans were a popular body style in the United States from the 1950s to the 1970s. Hardtops are manufactured without a B-pillar leaving uninterrupted open space or, when closed, glass along the side of the car. The top was intended to look like a convertible's top but it was fixed and made of hard material that did not fold.
All manufacturers in the United States from the early 1950s into the 1970s provided at least a 2-door hardtop model in their range and, if their engineers could manage it, a 4-door hardtop as well. The lack of side-bracing demanded a particularly strong and heavy chassis frame to combat unavoidable flexing. The pillarless design was also available in four-door models using unibody construction. For example, Chrysler moved to unibody designs for most of its models in 1960 and American Motors offered four-door sedans, as well a four-door station wagon from 1958 to 1960 Ambassador.
In 1973 the US government passed Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 216 creating a standard roof strength test to measure the integrity of roof structure in motor vehicles to come into effect some years later. Production of hardtop sedan body style ended with the 1978 Chrysler Newport. For a time roofs were covered with vinyl and B-pillars were minimized by using styling methods like matt black finishes. Stylists and engineers soon developed more subtle solutions.
Mid-20th century variations
A close-coupled sedan is a body style produced in the United States during the 1920s and 1930s. Their two-box boxy styling made these sedans more like crossover vehicles than traditional three-box sedans. Like other close-coupled body styles, the rear seats are located further forward than a regular sedan.: 43  This reduced the length of the body, so close-coupled sedans (also known as town sedans) were the smallest of the sedan models offered.
A two-door sedan for four or five passengers but with less room for passengers than a standard sedan. A Coach body has no external trunk for luggage. Haajanen notes it can be difficult to tell the difference between a Club and a Brougham and a Coach body as if manufacturers were more concerned with marketing their product than adhering to strict body style definitions.
Close-coupled saloons originated as four-door thoroughbred sporting horse-drawn carriages with little room for the feet of rear passengers.
In automotive use, manufacturers in the United Kingdom used the term for development of the chummy body where passengers were forced to be friendly because they were tightly packed. They provided weather protection for extra passengers in what would otherwise be a two-seater car. Two-door versions would be described in the US and France as coach bodies. A postwar example is the Rover 3 Litre Coupé.
Produced in the United States from the mid-1920s to the mid-1950s, the name club sedan was used for highly appointed models using the sedan chassis.: 44 Some people describe a club sedan as a two-door vehicle with a body style otherwise identical to the sedan models in the range. Others describe a club sedan as having either two or four doors and a shorter roof (and therefore less interior space) than the other sedan models in the range.: 44
The term "club sedan" originates from the club carriage (e.g. the lounge or parlour carriage) in a railroad train.: 44
From the 1910s to the 1950s, several United States manufacturers have named models either Sedanet or Sedanette. The term originated as a smaller version of the sedan, however it has also been used for convertibles and fastback coupes.
Models which have been called Sedanet or Sedanette include: 1917 Dort Sedanet, King, 1919 Lexington, 1930s Cadillac Fleetwood Sedanette, 1949 Cadillac Series 62 Sedanette, 1942-1951 Buick Super Sedanet and 1956 Studebaker.
- "saloon (noun)". Oxford Learner's Dictionaries. Retrieved 24 April 2021.
- "saloon". Cambridge Dictionary. Retrieved 24 April 2021.
- "Car Design Glossary - Part 2: One-Box (Monospace or Monovolume)". Car Design News. Archived from the original on 3 December 2013. Retrieved 9 September 2015.
The principal volumes of the traditional sedan can be split into separate compartments or boxes: the hood/bonnet is the first box; the passenger compartment the second, and the trunk/boot the third - i.e. it's a 'three-box' car.
- "Where Does the Word "Sedan" Come From?". thenewswheel.com. 10 January 2017. Retrieved 25 November 2018.
- "Definition of sedan in English by Oxford Dictionaries". oxforddictionaries.com. Retrieved 25 November 2018.
- Duffy, James (2008). Auto Body Repair Technology (Fifth ed.). Cengage Learning. pp. 27–28. ISBN 9781418073541. Retrieved 9 September 2015.
- Haajanen, Lennart W. (2007). Illustrated Dictionary of Automobile Body Styles. McFarland. ISBN 9780786437375. Retrieved 9 September 2015.
- Morello, Lorenzo (2011). The automotive body - Volume I, Components design. Springer. p. 184. ISBN 9789400705128. Retrieved 9 September 2015.
- "Starting Out: Car Design Glossary - Part 2". cardesignnews.com. Archived from the original on 3 December 2013.
- "What is the difference between coupe and sedan?". chicagotribune.com. Retrieved 25 November 2018.
- "Club Coupes". hemmings.com. Retrieved 7 December 2018.
- "Coupe vs. Sedan: What's the Difference and Definitions of the Body Styles?". automoblog.net. 12 February 2009. Retrieved 7 December 2018.
- "A Sedan or a Coupe? What's the difference?". middletownhonda.com. 31 July 2013. Retrieved 25 November 2018.
- Morello, L.; Rossini, Lorenzo Rosti; Pia, Giuseppe; Tonoli, Andrea (2011). The Automotive Body: Volume I: Components Design. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 184. ISBN 9789400705135.
- "Coupe vs. Sedan: What's the Difference and Definitions of the Body Styles?". automoblog.net. Retrieved 25 November 2018.
- "Range Rover's $295K Coupe SUV Proves No Niche Is Too Small". wired.com. Retrieved 25 November 2018.
- "1962 Rambler Brochure". oldcarbrochures.com. pp. 6–7. Retrieved 9 September 2015.
- "Definition of sedan". oxforddictionaries.com.
- Stevenson, Lindberg, ed. New Oxford American Dictionary, Oxford University Press, 2011 ISBN 9780199891535
- The Motor World, November 14, 1912, p. 18. Motor World Publishing Company, New York
- "Renault Voiturette Type B (1899)". speeddoctor.net. Retrieved 18 November 2018.
- "Renault's first ever car attends Paris Motor Show". autoclassics.com. Archived from the original on 24 April 2019.
- Georgano, G.N (1985). Cars: Early and Vintage, 1886-1930. London: Grange-Universal.
- ASALE, RAE-; RAE. "sedán | Diccionario de la lengua española". «Diccionario de la lengua española» - Edición del Tricentenario (in Spanish). Retrieved 24 April 2021.
- Haajanen, Lennart W. (2007). Illustrated Dictionary of Automobile Body Styles. McFarland. ISBN 9780786437375.
- "Hardtop meaning". Engineering Dictionary. Retrieved 6 March 2018.
- Thomas, Alfred; Jund, Michael (2009). Collision repair and refinishing: a foundation course for technicians. Cengage Learning. p. 164. ISBN 978-1-4018-8994-4. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
- "Rambler has everything new - even a hardtop wagon". Popular Mechanics. 105 (1): 116–117. January 1956. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
- "Chrysler moves to Unibody (unit-body construction): 1960". allpar.com. Retrieved 13 June 2019.
- Donnelly, Jim (June 2013). "1958 Rambler Ambassador". hemmings.com. Retrieved 13 June 2019.
- Severson, Aaron (15 August 2009). "From Pillar to Post: More Automotive Definitions". ateupwithmotor.com. Retrieved 11 December 2018.
- Cummings, Christopher (2014). Cadillac V-16s Lost and Found: Tracing the Histories of the 1930s Classics. McFarland. p. 50. ISBN 9781476612393.
- "1931 Chrysler Imperial Close Coupled Sedan". imperialclub.org. Retrieved 24 November 2018.
- "1931 Chrysler Imperial Close-Coupled Sedan". rmsothebys.com. 22 July 2017. Retrieved 24 November 2018.
- "1925 Duesenberg Model A Close Coupled Sedan - Amazing Original Car!". car-from-uk.com. Retrieved 24 November 2018.
- "1930 Packard". sealcoveautomuseum.org. Retrieved 24 November 2018.
- Haajanen, Lennart W. (2007). Illustrated Dictionary of Automobile Body Styles. McFarland. ISBN 9780786437375. Retrieved 24 December 2018.
- "Club Coupes". hemmings.com. Retrieved 18 November 2018.
- Haajanen, Lennart W. (2017). Illustrated Dictionary of Automobile Body Styles, 2d ed. McFarland. p. 136. ISBN 9780786499182. Retrieved 25 November 2018.
- Dort Motor Car Co, Wisconsin Motorist November 1916, H A Apple, publisher, Milwaukee
- GM Heritage Centre
- Willson, Quentin (1997). Classic American Cars. DK Publishing. ISBN 9780789420831. Retrieved 25 November 2018.
- "1948 Buick Series 40 Special Sedanet – Just A Few Inches Short Of A GM's Greatest Hit". curbsideclassic.com. Retrieved 25 November 2018.
- "Fastback Fascination – 1949 Buick Model 56-S Super Sedanet". hemmings.com. Retrieved 25 November 2018.