Hatchback vs sedan: what to consider before buying

5 February 2016
Should you buy a hatchback or a sedan? Which type of car is right for you? Here’s what you need to think about before driving away.

The key difference between hatchbacks and sedans is that hatchbacks offer boot space that is encompassed within an extended passenger cabin, sort of like a cargo area, compared to sedans that have separation between the cabin and boot.

Australians have been buying and selling over 1.15 million motor vehicles per year throughout the 2010s, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (2016) and the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) (2014). The hatchback has become the king of the road when it comes to popularity in the past decade.

Australia may be a big country but we still love our small cars. According to industry experts Drive and the FCAI, the Mazda3 was the top seller for two years in a row, and the Holden, Ford, Toyota, and Hyundai all report their hatchback models (Cruze, Focus, Corolla, i30) out-selling the sedans that were our national cars in the 1990s and early 2000s (Commodore, Falcon, Camry, i40).

What is a hatchback?

A hatchback is a small passenger car with a large boot. A hatchback’s roof doesn’t drop to meet the boot; instead, it has a rear door that opens upwards so you can reach the entire cargo area at once. Most hatchbacks let you fold down the rear seats when not in use, for even more storage space.

What is a sedan?

A sedan is a traditional model of passenger car where the roof slopes down to a boot that is separate from the passenger cabin. Sedans are named after the sedan chair, a throne that had a roof and four carrying poles attached, so that royalty could be carried about by their servants.

Pros & cons of hatchbacks


  • The boot is bigger, so you can fit more booty in it! Families love hatchbacks because they fit a pram and the shopping in one space, unlike many sedans. You can even fold the rear seats down in a hatch when you want to get your new bedframe home from IKEA.
  • Hatchbacks apparently hold their resale value better than larger cars. Industry expert CarsGuide reports hatchbacks such as the Mazda3, Volkswagen Golf and Mini Cooper will sell for at least 56% of their original value after 3 years, compared to a 40% average for larger cars.
  • Hatches are usually shorter, with a shorter bonnet so it’s easier for learner drivers to see where the car “ends” are and avoid carpark run-ins.
  • Hatches usually have a windscreen wiper for the rear window, since it is not on an angle like the sedan’s window is. This can make it easier to see through the rain to the traffic behind you when driving a hatch.
  • Better fuel economy than a sedan, so you can drive for longer on one tank and save some extra cash!


  • Most hatchbacks and sedans are fairly equivalent in terms of grunt power, but the strongest hatchbacks don’t have as much engine power as the strongest sedans.

Pros & cons of sedans


  • Strong driving power can mean a smoother drive for both driver and passengers.
  • The sedan is usually longer than a hatch, which means more leg room for those in the back. This is great once your kids become long-limbed teenagers.
  • The sedan can be quieter in terms of road noise, because they have more layers of isolation between the rear wheels and the cabin.
  • Some sedans look more aesthetically pleasing than their hatchback counterparts.


  • Generally more expensive than hatchbacks.
  • Less fuel economy than hatchbacks (on average).
  • Harder to park in tight spaces.

What about station wagons?

A station wagon looks like a big hatchback, with a much longer boot that usually has side windows for increased visibility. They often have more grunt power than the little hatch – usually equivalent to your average SUV or all-wheel-drive.

Many small wagons and big hatches fall into a hazy grey category called the crossover. Crossovers may be classed as either a hatch or a wagon by their manufacturer, but essentially they look and function the same.

The final step in your decision-making process

So there you have it. When you need a small car, a hatchback or a sedan both have pros and cons. The choice is up to you.

Just one more thing before you visit your local dealer – make sure that if you need finance, you get a car loan that will get you up and running instead of slowing your budget down.

Canstar takes the hard work out of looking for a good value car loan for you by researching and rating all the products on the market in Australia. Just compare your options on our website and away you go.

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