With the change in market demands, the terminology describing the shape of new car models is increasing. Naturally, this abundance leads to confusion, especially when various names describe the same car models across the world. If you keep seeing the terms ‘sedan’ and ‘saloon ‘ used interchangeably but can’t grasp the difference, keep reading to learn the truth about the saloon vs sedan battle.
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Saloon Vs Sedan: Is There Any Difference?
There is no difference between sedans and saloons (saloon cars) other than the range of the terms’ usage.
The term saloon originated from the French ‘salon’, meaning ‘a large room’. It was initially used to describe luxury train compartments. However, British car makers began using the term to refer to cars with enclosed passenger compartments.
The Americans use the term ‘sedan’ to describe the same type of vehicle. Here we look for the origin of the name in the 17th-century form of transportation, a portable sedan chair (derived from Latin sedes – seat, chair), an enclosed box with two windows used for carrying the passengers.
But what is a saloon car? A passenger four-door, closed-body vehicle composed of three boxes: a bonnet for the engine, a passenger compartment, and boot space, with a boot lid that opens upwards, attached to the bottom of the rear window. The interior space usually consists of up to 33 cubic feet and comprises two separate compartments, divided by rear seats and a bulkhead. Saloons also have a fixed roof and two rows of seats in their enclosed passenger compartment.
How Do They Call A Sedan Around The World?
Let’s take a look at what words are used around the world to refer to the same car body styles, in this case – a saloon car.
- Australian and New Zealand English – Sedan, the same term used in American English;
- Latin American Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese – Sedán, with a slight alteration in accent;
- French – Berline, derived from a four-wheeled carriage designed in the 17th century in Berlin;
- Italian, Romanian, European Spanish and Portuguese – Berlina; Romance languages derive the name on similar principles as the Americans but based on different backgrounds;
- German – Limousine, the limousine being called a stretch-limousine.
Russians use the word sedan as well, the Chinese – a word with a pronunciation similar to ‘sedan’ for the same automobile body type, but a different word for a sedan chair, which was also popular here. Evidently, the American term has had the largest influence worldwide.
The Popularity Of A Saloon Car In The UK & Worldwide
The decrease in saloons’ popularity in the UK has been ongoing since the beginning of the 2000s. In the US, for example, the Toyota Camry was the best-selling car for nearly 20 years, only to end up in 8th place in 2019 (remaining above all other sedans on the list). For comparison, this model went out of sale in the UK in 2004, after being a best-seller for 12 years.
Thus, one of the best saloons was beaten by more practical automobiles, mainly SUV cars – a more spacious and better off-road choice. Drivers who care little about practicality and opt for more luxurious models but demand excellent performance will rather choose a coupe, even though it usually comes with two doors, over saloons (there are a few models of four-door coupes), while those who prioritise cargo space are more likely to purchase or hire an estate. See here what other differences between saloons and estates are.
Nevertheless, anyone who values luxurious design and comfort and requires a car for basic transportation needs, such as everyday errands or business trips, should hire or purchase a saloon.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, saloons and sedans are the same. The term ‘saloon’ is used in British English, whereas the term ‘sedan’ can more often be encountered in American English. They both mean the same car body shape, composed of three boxes: a bonnet for the engine, a passenger and a trunk compartment.
The car’s three-box body style is what makes it a saloon, particularly the closed-body, passenger-focused interior, with four doors. As far as the word itself is concerned, what inspired the British car manufacturers to derive the term from the French ‘salon’, meaning a large room, was the comfort of the car’s interior space.
Americans call a saloon car a sedan because of the first sedan, a sedan chair, a 17th-century means of transportation – a portable enclosed box with windows – carried by the porters. It was used across the world at the time, and became widely popular in Colonial America, especially in New York and Philadelphia.
One thing is certain: there is no difference between sedans and saloons, making the saloon vs sedan comparison valid purely etymologically. As for their popularity – though it has decreased over the past decade, saloons are still sold and well-known across the world and are a great choice for many, depending on the driver’s needs.