Is It The End Of The Road For Sedans?

  • Aug 08, 2017


In the simplest language possible, a sedan is a three box passenger car. So, any car that has a front compartment under the bonnet where an engine is usually mounted, a cabin for passengers, and a boot for luggage is a sedan. The sedan body style has been around since the very beginning of the modern cars, and it rose to popularity because of multiple factors. The most practical aspect why sedans could have become popular is the closed storage space at the back, which is also separate from the main cabin. For quite some time, sedans were also considered to be the more premium cars over hatchbacks and SUVs, and many carmakers still have a three-box car as their flagship vehicle. The profile of a sedan is also more streamlined, so you would mostly find the sedan body style being the more aerodynamic one compared to others. It is also this reason why you would still find the road-going performance cars in the three-box format.

However, it’s widely accepted that sedans are losing the sheen to SUVs and hatchbacks. The dropping sales back the claim. So, does it mean that we are nearing the end of this most elegant body style?


Body styles

There are three conventional body styles when it comes to passenger cars – sedans, hatchbacks and SUVs – and all others are either derivatives or a combination of two of these body styles. Hatchbacks can be loosely considered to be sedans without the third box, which is the boot. SUV body style is also a two-box design, but in this case, the cabin is extended towards the rear to either make space for storage or have a third row of seats. SUVs are also characterised by their ability to go off-road, primarily because these type of vehicles ride high over the ground in comparison to sedans and hatchbacks, and also have larger wheels.

sub-4m sedan

The combination of the three body styles mentioned above makes way for unconventional body styles like estate and coupe. However, carmakers these days take the liberty to go further and have certain aspects of one of these body styles fused into the other. So, while an estate is simply a sedan with an SUV like rear, there are cars like the Volvo S60 Cross Country which are a three-box car but rides high over the ground like an SUV. And then you also have hatchbacks that are really tall. Most such body styles are referred to as crossovers, meaning a cross between two or more body styles.

big hatchback

Popularity of sedans

As we mentioned above, the sedan body style has been in production since the beginning of modern cars, and it is an attractive body style because sedans were always considered to be premium. Till date, influential people like heads of state are ferried in sedans. Among the many reasons cited above, a separate storage space is a key reason why sedans rose to popularity. Luxury carmakers like Rolls-Royce continue to make cars on sedan body style only. However, to keep up with the changing times, they are also working on their first-ever SUV. High-end carmakers like Mercedes-Benz and Audi still have a sedan as their flagship car. In the premium and mass market space, automakers like Honda and Hyundai also have a sedan as their flagship vehicle (Accord and Sonata).

sedan boot

Why are sedans losing popularity?

Sales of vehicles donning the sedan body style have reduced in the past, not just in India but also globally. There was a time back in the late ‘90s, and early 00’s, when owning a sedan was considered to be a sign of a successful man. It was this time when mid-size sedans like the Hyundai Accent, Honda City and Ford Ikon rose to fame. It was this very time when premium cars like the Honda Accord and Hyundai Sonata were preferred over SUVs. And it was in the first decade of the 21st century only when SUVs like the Hyundai Tucson and Terracan, Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara, and the likes could never stamp their authority in the market against sedans.


However, the Indian market has progressed, and the change in buyer profile has bent the automotive market in favour of vehicles that complement active lifestyle and practicality. Sedans may have risen to popularity for the practicality that their third box offers but the fact that the SUVs offer more storage and even an option to seat more people just adds more value to the package. SUVs also stand tall over the ground, so you get more headroom inside the cabin. Talk of ingress and egress and SUVs again turn out to be the better vehicle of the two. High ground clearance, larger wheels and a more comfortable ride (generally) also give SUVs an edge over sedans.

Even hatchbacks have seen considerable growth in the past. At the same time when the conventional sedans were at their peak in India, premium and big hatchbacks like the Chevrolet SRV and Honda Jazz could never hit the sweet spot on the sales charts, despite being very practical. However, times have changed, and bigger hatchbacks like the Maruti Suzuki Baleno and Hyundai Elite i20 sell as much every month as entry-level cars like the Maruti Suzuki Alto twins and the Kwid. These big hatchbacks not only offer good levels of cabin space, but are also more convenient to drive and park in our congested cities, and are almost on par with performance with the sedans. With the boot being integrated into the cabin, these hatchbacks turn out to be more practical too.


Is it the end of the road for sedans?

Talk about the Indian market in particular, and you’ll see that a newer breed of sedans called sub-4m sedans have risen to popularity. This body style was conceived to evade the additional taxes that are levied on cars that are over 4m in length. And the sub-4m sedans are simply three box cars, but they are shorter than 4m in length. The fact that these cars are popular makes us believe that sedans are here to stay in India. Price-wise, the sub-4m sedans like the Maruti Suzuki Dzire and Hyundai Xcent fall in the same range as the bigger hatchbacks like the Baleno and Jazz. Still, buyers opt for these cars as they attach value to the third box that can be used to carry luggage when required.

It’s true that sedans are losing popularity to SUVs and crossovers, and that shows in the drop in sales. However, calling it the end of the road for sedans will be concluding a little too early. Yes, sedans are losing the limelight, but they’re still one of the more aerodynamic body styles around, which makes them more fuel efficient and stable at higher speeds with lesser effort compared to other body styles. The world is moving towards renewable sources of energy to power the cars, and sedans turn out to be the preferred body style as they have the space to accommodate alternate sources of energy or their storage and also prove to be more fuel efficient. Hence, writing off sedans from the automotive space is not right, and they’ll probably remain there until the time all the cars start to fly.


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