One of the questions people ask all the time is ‘how are coupes and sedans different?’. I can see why these names can be confusing for beginners. After all, not everyone can see the subtle differences between certain car body designs. Usually, you can tell which car is a convertible and which one is a limousine, but other options can be confusing.
With that in mind, let’s talk about coupes and sedans. I’ll guide you through what makes each of these types unique and what their benefits are, as well as some of their setbacks.
But before we delve into the sedan vs. coupe debate, we should cover the amazing world of different car designs.
How Do We Classify Cars?
There are many different ways of telling cars apart. For example, based on the car’s size, you have:
- A-segment cars (minicompacts or mini cars)
- B-segment cars (subcompacts or superminis)
- C-segment cars (small family cars or compacts)
- D-segment cars (large family cars/mid-size cars)
- E-segment cars (full-size cars/executive cars)
- F-segment cars (full-size luxury cars/luxury saloon cars)
In addition, you can sort your cars based on what their general purpose is. For example, an SUV or an off-road vehicle will be more sturdy and durable than others because of the terrain they move on. On the other hand, sports cars prioritize speed and aerodynamics over practicality and (arguably) comfort. Minivans will usually focus on how many passengers they can transport.
But in terms of the shape and the ‘look’ of the car, there are a few distinct categories:
- Station wagons
- Vans (minivan, microvan, panel van)
- Pickup trucks
- Funeral coaches
- Targa tops
Now that we know a little bit about classifying cars by their design, let’s see what it takes to be a sedan or coupe.
Misconceptions About Coupes and Sedans
Before I move on, I have to address the elephant in the room when it comes to sedans and coupes. If you were to ask people with passing knowledge about cars, they would usually say that a coupe has two doors and a sedan has four. In fact, lots of car manufacturers also stick to that categorization. But the answer is just not that easy.
Let’s make something clear — there are two-door sedans and four-door coupes. So, if you want to define them by the door count, the operating phrase is ‘most often.’ In other words, a sedan is most often a four-door car. By comparison, a coupe is most often a two-door car.
The reason I bring this up is that the door count does play some part in the difference between these two car designs. But as is the case with any product out there, you need to take a closer look.
What Is a Sedan?
Sedans are cars with closed bodies, i.e. fixed metal roofs. A sedan’s configuration is something we call the three-box design. In other words, each section (the engine, the passenger cabin, and the cargo) is its own separate compartment. Moreover, the roof of the cabin is supported by a B-pillar between the two rows of windows.
Based on the slope of their roof and the position of their rear door, there are three types of sedans still in production:
- Notchback sedans (such as the Lexus LS series)
- Hatchbacks (Tesla Model S)
- Fastbacks (Mercedes Benz CLS from 2013)
What Is a Coupe?
A coupe is generally more sporty than a sedan. Not only do they tend to have two doors, but more often than not they also have only two seats. Four-seat coupes do exist, but they are a bit on the snug side, so if you’re a bulky person, you might want to pick a different car. A perfect example of a four-seat coupe is the 2017’s Ford Mustang.
People tend to confuse coupes and sedans because both car styles have fixed roofs, though it’s not impossible to find a convertible coupe. In addition, both have a three-box design. So how in the world can you tell them apart?
Typical coupes have less than 33 cubic feet of rear interior volume. This size is the key difference between sedans and coupes, since an average sedan has to have interior space that’s at least 33 cubic feet in volume.
Coupes vs. Sedans: The Differences
Broadly speaking, sedans are larger and longer than coupes. One advantage of this size is that a sedan has an amazing passenger capacity. I can easily fit five people in a Mercedes Benz C and still have lots of breathing room.
Of course, being small comes with its own benefits. Parking and maneuvering with coupes are normally easier than doing it with a large sedan car. Though I should point out that there are lots of coupe options on the market that are a bit bulky, like Audi A5. Unlike sedans, coupes provide somewhat more variety when it comes to overall car sizes.
Doors and Door Sizes
As stated, the number of doors is the first thing people pay attention to. However, there are also some notable differences in the size and shape of the doors.
For example, an average sedan has longer, wider doors than a coupe. As a large car, a sedan has to accommodate the entry of up to five people. More importantly, they also provide a lot more storage space, which is why the rear door is generally wide.
Coupes, on the other hand, tend to be shorter, but that’s not the only thing that separates them from sedans. Quite a few coupe models don’t have any separating pillars between the doors. So, if you were to open all of the doors on one side or roll the windows down completely, you get one big opening instead of two.
Because of their sporty style and appearance, lots of coupes have doors of different sizes. For example, the rear doors might be shorter than those in the front. However, some sedans can also have this feature. Short doors can actually benefit a sedan since you’ll get out of it more easily if you’re in a crowded parking lot.
In terms of storage, a sedan wins almost across the board. Since sedans are usually longer than coupes, they tend to have more cargo space in the back. In addition, the positioning of their doors can allow for better item placement once you’re packing up for that long trip.
Coupes, on the other hand, are not cars you might want to buy if you need lots of storage space. Their trunk has a low capacity, which is more or less standard with sports cars. However, more than a few models compensate for this lack of volume by allowing you to fold the back seats. Of course, plenty of sedans also have this option, so if you’re hunting for greater trunk volume, your choice between the two is clear.
Seats and Legroom
When it comes to the front seat legroom, both sedans and coupes do fairly well. Modern cars offer plenty of room to stretch those calves and enjoy a pleasant, uninterrupted ride. More importantly, both types of cars also provide lots of overhead space; tall and short drivers alike will enjoy driving these cars without bumping their heads against the roof.
However, the back seat legroom is where the similarities between sedans and coupes end. Because they tend to be larger and longer, sedans offer exquisite legroom in the back. Coupes, on the other hand, can get a bit cramped. But there are coupe models out there that provide the same level (and volume) of comfort as an average modern sedan.
High-quality cars with strong performances aren’t cheap. So, when it comes to price comparisons, there are many factors that come into play. But broadly speaking, coupes tend to be more expensive than sedans. And yes, that rule of thumb goes for both used and new cars.
More often than not, a coupe will be a sports car with splendid interiors and a powerful performance. In addition, they often come with state-of-the-art entertainment systems and a sleek paint job. Any car aficionado would love to get their hands on a fast, compact, sleek beauty (me very much included).
On the other hand, a sedan tends to be a family car whose overall performance is modest compared to a coupe. That’s why they can cost between $1,000 and $5,000 less than an average coupe model.
Sedans are amazing options for family outings and long drives that last for hours. Their fuel consumption also tends to be spectacular. However, in terms of overall performance (speed, torque, acceleration, braking, wind resistance, etc.), they fall short when compared to sports cars.
An average coupe is quite literally made for fast, exhilarating drives. Most models come with high-powered engines and improved brake systems. In addition, they are lighter and smaller than an average sedan, which reduces wind resistance. Interestingly, sometimes a sedan model and a coupe model would feature the same engine, but the difference in weight and size would still make the coupe perform better.
Coupe or Sedan: Which One Should You Choose?
Now you know a bit more about coupes and sedans. And if you’re still unsure which type you want to buy, allow me to offer my humble opinion.
Since they are large, durable, cost-effective, and offer more space, sedans are perfect for your Average Joe (or Jane). You can take long trips in a sedan, and it will provide you with enough trunk space to cram even the bulkiest of suitcases. Moreover, this type of car is perfect for both couples AND families due to its spacious passenger cabin and amazing legroom.
Of course, if you enjoy putting the pedal to the metal, a coupe is by far the best option. It’s elegant enough to attract crowds of people, fast enough to provide you with that adrenaline rush, and small enough to park anywhere you please. And even if you need that extra cargo space, just drop those back seats and you’re good to go.
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