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  • Hatchbacks have been traditionally defined as two- or four-door vehicles with an upwards-flipping tailgate. Sedans are four-door passenger cars that have their passenger area, engine, and trunk in separate sections.
  • Hatchbacks have more cargo space, and modern ones can often be mistaken for sedans given the new silhouette pushed by many manufacturers.
  • Sedans handle road noise and cargo visibility better thanks to their separate and fully covered trunk section.
  • Ultimately, if you’re picking between a sedan or a hatchback, which is better depends on what you need.

Hatchbacks and sedans are staples of the automobile world, but what makes one better than the other for your personal needs? Let’s look at how these two differ and what you need to know if you’re looking to buy one.

Basic Definitions

Before we compare the two, let’s look at the basic definition of a sedan vs. a hatchback.


Hatchbacks have been traditionally defined as two- or four-door vehicles with an upwards-flipping tailgate. This is what makes up the titular “hatch” in its name. The modern hatchback can be defined as any vehicle with four doors and a hatch that flips up at its rear. These hatchbacks have a two-box base, with one housing the engine and the other holding the passengers and cargo.


A sedan is one of the most common cars you’ll see on the road. Sedans are four-door passenger cars that have their passenger area, engine, and trunk in separate sections. This type of separation creates a three-box body. The definition of a sedan has been the same throughout automotive history.

Cargo Space

The most obvious difference between hatchback vs. sedan cars is how they separate their cargo. Hatchbacks don’t separate the cargo space from the cabin and they don’t have a decklid. Raising the liftgate allows you to access both the cargo and passenger areas. Hatchbacks typically offer more cargo space thanks to this system. Many hatchbacks come with removable or retractable covers to keep your cargo hidden from anyone peering into the back windshield.

Meanwhile, sedans have trunks. The separate compartments for the engine, passengers, and cargo are all sealed off from each other. Some sedans have foldable back seats that can allow for bigger cargo, but upon returning the seats, the trunk is once more sealed off.


The “three-box” body of a sedan has a distinctive shape. One box for the engine in front, a larger middle box for the passengers and driver, and a third box in the rear for the trunk. Its classic proportions have stayed the same for more than 70 years.

Meanwhile, hatchbacks, especially older ones, have a more boxy appearance. These older “two-box” cars have the engine in front as the first box connected to a larger box for both the passengers and cargo. The flip-up tailgate found on the back of these classic hatchbacks typically end as squared-off tails to the hatchback body. Classic hatchbacks include early VW Golfs, Ford Escorts, and the Dodge Omnis.

More modern hatchbacks like the Honda Civic Sport, Mazda 3, and Hyundai Elantra GT are starting to change the typical hatchback silhouette though. Some of these vehicles can even be mistaken for sedans. In modern hatchbacks, a low, sleek roofline with an integrated hatch at the end replaces the older squared-off design. Some manufacturers muddy the water further by calling these hatchbacks four-door coupes, thanks to their silhouette appearing more like two-door sporty vehicles.

Road Noise

Road noise is an issue for hatchbacks. The lack of separation from the passenger area means that more road noise can enter the cabin as you drive. This noise is reduced in sedans because the trunk is separated from the main cabin.

Cargo Visibility

If you’re picking between a hatchback or a sedan, you might want to also consider cargo visibility. Without a cargo cover in a hatchback, whatever you’re carrying in the back will be visible to passersby. While many hatchbacks come with a cargo cover, it’s still an extra step you need to take if you don’t want your cargo out in the open for anyone to see. Sedans don’t have this problem because their trunk is covered by the trunk hatch.

Deciding which is better between a hatchback or sedan is a lot simpler if you know what you’re after. If you want more cargo space and don’t mind a little more road noise, a hatchback is a good choice. On the other hand, if you find the classic sedan’s trunk more than suits your usual cargo haul, then you might want to get one and avoid the extra noise.

About The Author
Written By Automotive and Tech Writers

The Research Team is composed of experienced automotive and tech writers working with (ASE)-certified automobile technicians and automotive journalists to bring up-to-date, helpful information to car owners in the US. Guided by's thorough editorial process, our team strives to produce guides and resources DIYers and casual car owners can trust.

Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic. The accuracy and timeliness of the information may change from the time of publication.

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Garage Essentials
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