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Car Classes in Different Countries

Have you ever wonder…

By Fathur , in Uncategorized , at 2022-09-09



Have you ever wondered what the class of a car means? In fact, there is no unique and standard classification, but there are several systems that are the most common in the world. Along with that, their differences are quite significant.


A little more than 100 years ago, when cars themselves were still an innovation, no one tried to classify them. The division was very conditional: by carrying capacity—a passenger car and a truck; as well as by the type of engine—first steam, then gasoline or diesel internal combustion motors.

With the development of the automotive industry, transport has acquired such a different look, parameters, and technical characteristics. At one point, everyone realized that the time had come to separate and classify them.


Why Is There No Unified Classification System?

Since in each of the countries, the automotive industry went through its own individual history and was repelled, first, by the demands of the domestic market, the classification of cars received its own special criteria.

As a result, there is no widely recognized and unified system for dividing cars into groups in the world today. That’s why vehicles are usually classified differently in Europe, the USA, and Asia. Somewhere, the main characteristic of a car category is the price of the vehicle. In other countries, it’s the size of the wheelbase, and somewhere the vehicle classification is based on the engine or passenger compartment volume. When choosing a car with an online car auction, there is also a broad classification.


In other words, if you need to understand what the category of a car means, you will come across different measurement systems depending on the country of manufacture. That’s why we will describe the most common car class systems here.

European Car Classification System

The European system for dividing cars into groups is the most popular. The basis of this methodology is the division of vehicles by their size. At the same time, its principles are recognized as very conditional, and sometimes European automakers assign a class to their product, starting from its price, purpose, or other factors.

What car categories are common in Europe:

  • A – minicar. Very compact three-door (rarely five-door) hatchback;
  • B – small car. Most models are front-wheel-drive hatchbacks (rarely sedans) with 3 or 5 doors;
  • C – medium car. The most popular class in Europe. Body types are different;
  • D – family car. It’s quite a popular vehicle group in Europe too. Such automobiles aren’t very expensive, but spacious and comfortable with any type of body;
  • E – business class car with a spacious interior, good level of basic equipment, comfort, large wheelbase;
  • F – executive or luxury car that has a comfortable interior, the highest level of equipment, excellent technical characteristics, and expensive materials in interior trim;
  • G – the first sports category;
  • H – the second sports class;
  • S – a group of the sports coupes, convertibles, and roadsters, designed for 2-4 passengers;
  • L – minivans with up to 8 passenger seats;
  • M – pickups built on the basis of auto classes B and C;
  • J – SUVs or crossovers.

Along with that, there are additions of “+” and “-” symbols to the letter designations of the category. They talk about incomplete or excessive parameter conformity to a category.

American Car Classification System

Previously, vehicles in America were classified according to the length of the wheelbase, but since 1985, the group of a car in the United States depends on the usable volume of the car’s interior. By the way, automobiles in Canada are categorized according to the same principle.

What car classes are common in America:

  • minicar – interior volume up to 85 ft³. Approximately corresponds to the European category A;
  • subcompact – interior volume 85-99.9 ft³. It’s an analogue of the European class B;
  • compact – interior volume 100-109.9 ft³, approximately corresponds to European C;
  • mid-sized cars – interior has 110-119.9 ft³ of volume, approximately European D;
  • full-size car – has interior volume over 120 ft³, approximately European E-F;
  • estate car – divided into small station wagon (up to 130 ft³), medium station wagon (130-160 ft³), large station wagon (over 160 ft³);
  • the SUV group is subdivided into compact SUVs, medium SUVs and full-size SUVs.

Asian Car Class System

Since the main Asian automakers are Japan and China, they have different classification systems. They are simple enough for easy understanding. 

In Japan, the category of a car depends on its dimensions and engine size. In this country, only three categories of passenger cars are accepted: the “light” group, small vehicles, and the category of normal-sized automobiles.

If we speak about China, the classification of cars is something between Japanese and European. When dividing a vehicle into groups, several parameters are taken into account, particularly its dimensions, interior and engine volumes. There are five automobile groups in China: small cars, category A, category B, multi-purpose vehicles, and sports cars.

The Bottom Line

There is no unified international car classification system. Nowadays, the category of a vehicle is determined by the manufacturer. It depends not only on the country of the automaker’s registration but sometimes on its commercial benefits, the advertising company’s strategy, the desire to get into the popular segment, and many other factors.

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