Sedan (Saloon)

Sedan is the designation of a passenger car body type with a stepped rear and a three-door, usually four-door body.

The saloon body was one of the most popular shapes in the socialist bloc after the Second World War. Just think of the range of Skodas starting with the post-war Skoda 1201, through the Startak and Octavia, followed by the Skoda 1000 MB and the immortal Skoda 120. The Skoda sedan line-up is rounded off by the somewhat controversial Fabia Sedan and the elegant first-generation Superb.

The history of saloon-bodied cars, of course, goes back much further. Neither scholars nor historians agree on the first ever sedan-bodied vehicle. Is it even possible to find such a vehicle?

The word sedan is probably derived from the Latin “sedeo” or to sit. The first documented use of the word sedan in a period brochure occurred in 1912 with the Stubaker Six, which was offered as a “sedan”. Other scholars consider the 1899 Renault Voiturette Type B to be the first ever sedan, as it was the first known car produced with a roof. In any case, neither of these models corresponds to today’s definition of a saloon body.


Sedan-bodied vehicles are characterized by a three-box body design, i.e., fixed compartments for the engine, passengers and cargo. A saloon usually has a four-door, five-seater body with a fixed roof and a stepped rear.

Examples of vehicles with sedan bodywork include the: Skoda Fabia Sedan (1st generation), Skoda Superb (1st generation), Volkswagen Passat, AUDI A4, AUDI A6, BMW 3, BMW 5, …

In today’s terms, and with today’s overabundance of luxury, we might as well consider sedan-bodied vehicles as limousines. Unlike limousines, however, sedans do not meet the requirement of a tightly separated driver and passenger compartment in the rear of the car. Sedans cannot therefore be considered limousines in the true sense of the word. In German-speaking countries, on the other hand, the word sedan is replaced by Limuosine.

Typical features of sedans:

  • three-box body with fixed roof
  • stepped rear
  • the body has all three pillars (front, middle and rear)
  • two rows of seats, usually 5 seats
  • the luggage compartment is separated from the passengers by a partition, but may have an opening for carrying longer items

Advantages of the saloon body type:

  • higher body rigidity due to the shape of the body and the partition behind the rear row of seats
  • lower rear axle and ‘rumble’ boot
  • saloons usually have a sufficiently large luggage compartment
  • opening the boot does not affect thermal comfort in the cabin

Disadvantages of the sedan body type:

  • access to the luggage compartment is more difficult compared to a liftback body. Škoda wanted to solve this problem with the Twindoor system

Read more about the different car body types:

Other basic body types can be found here.