Vehicle size class

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Vehicle size classes are a way of classifying cars. The common North American parlance is word-based, while English-speaking European writers also use words to describe car sizes. In parts of Asia, segment letters are sometimes used.

North America[edit]

United States[edit]

The United States government defined size classes in Federal Regulation, Title 40—Protection of Environment, Section 600.315-08 Classes of comparable automobiles. Passenger car classes are defined based on interior volume index, passenger and cargo volume. A two seater is classified as a car with no more than two designated seating positions. Others as follows:[1]

Vehicle size classes by U.S. Fuel Economy Guide for sedans
Class Interior combined passenger and cargo volume index in cubic feet (liters)
Minicompact < 85 (2407)
Subcompact 85–99.9 (2407–2831)
Compact 100–109.9 (2832–3114)
Mid-Size 110–119.9 (3115–3397)
Large ≥ 120 (3398)
Vehicle size classes by U.S. Fuel Economy Guide for station wagons
Class Interior volume index in cubic feet (liters)
Small < 130 (3681)
Midsize 130–159 (3681–4530)
Large ≥ 160 (4531)

The Administrator will classify light trucks (nonpassenger automobiles) into the following classes: Small pickup trucks, standard pickup trucks, vans, minivans, and SUVs. Starting in the 2013 model year, SUVs will be divided between small sport utility vehicles and standard sport utility vehicles. Pickup trucks and SUVs are separated by car line on the basis of gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR). For a product line with more than one GVWR, establish the characteristic GVWR value for the product line by calculating the arithmetic average of all distinct GVWR values less than or equal to 8,500 pounds available for that product line.

Small pickup trucks. Pickup trucks with a GVWR below 6,000 pounds.
Standard pickup trucks. Pickup trucks with a GVWR at or above 6,000 pounds and at or below 8,500 pounds.
Small sport utility vehicles. Sport utility vehicles with a GVWR below 6,000 pounds.
Standard sport utility vehicles. Sport utility vehicles with a GVWR at or above 6,000 pounds and at or below 10,000 pounds.

[2] Special purpose vehicles. All automobiles with GVWR less than or equal to 8,500 pounds and all medium-duty passenger vehicles which possess special features and which the Administrator determines are more appropriately classified separately from typical automobiles or which do not meet the requirements of paragraphs (a)(1) and (2) of this section will be classified as special purpose vehicles.

Interior volume index is calculated differently for different vehicle classes:

  • For passenger automobiles, it is calculated for each car line which is not a two seater. For car lines with more than one body style, the interior volume index for the car line is the arithmetic average of the interior volume indexes of each body style in the car line.
  • For all body styles except station wagons and hatchbacks with more than one seat (e.g., with a second or third seat) equipped with seatbelts as required by DOT safety regulations, interior volume index is the sum, rounded to the nearest 0.1 cubic feet (2.8 L), of the front seat volume, the rear seat volume, if applicable, and the luggage capacity.
  • For all station wagons and hatchbacks with more than one seat (e.g. with a second or third seat) equipped with seat belts as required by DOT safety regulations, interior volume index is the sum, rounded to the nearest 0.1 cubic feet (2.8 L), of the front seat volume, the rear seat volume, and the cargo volume index.

All dimensions and volumes shall be determined from the base vehicles of each body style in each car line, and do not include optional equipment.

Front seat volume is calculated as product of:

  • Effective head room-front
  • Average of shoulder and hip room-front, if hip room is more than 5 inches (130 mm) less than shoulder room; Shoulder room-front, if hip room is not more than 5 inches (130 mm) less than shoulder room
  • Maximum effective leg room-accelerator

Rear seat volume is calculated for vehicles within a rear seat equipped with rear seat belts (as required by DOT), as product of:

  • Effective head room-second
  • Average of shoulder and hip room-second, if hip room is more than 5 inches (130 mm) less than shoulder room; Shoulder room-second, if hip room is not more than 5 inches (130 mm) less than shoulder room
  • Minimum effective leg room-second

For passenger automobiles with no rear seat or with a rear seat but no rear seat belts, the area to the rear of the front seat shall be included in the determination of usable luggage capacity.

Cargo volume index is calculated as follows:

  • For station wagon, it is the product of Shoulder room-second, Cargo height, Cargo length at belt-second.
  • For hatchback, it is the product of:
    • Average cargo length, the arithmetic average of the cargo compartment length at the second setback height and the cargo compartment length at the floor
    • Shoulder room-second (essentially, rear seat width at the shoulder level)
    • Second seatback to load floor height.


Cars are divided into six classes based on interior volume. An interior volume index is calculated from the combined passenger and trunk or cargo space. Pickup trucks, special purpose vehicles and vans are segmented in their own respective classes.

Class Interior size in litres (cubic feet)
Two-seater (Undefined)
Subcompact car Under 2830 (99.9)
Compact car 2830–3115 (99.9–110)
Mid-size car 3115–3400 (110–120)
Full-size car Over 3400 (120)

The above definitions of vehicle classes are not defined in Canadian regulations, but by Fuel Consumption Guide published by Natural Resources Canada.

Other vehicle classes are listed in On-Road Vehicle and Engine Emission Regulations (SOR/2003-2), officially published in Canada Gazette Part 2, Vol. 137 No. 1:

Class GVWR in kg (pounds) Curb weight in kg (pounds) Frontal area in m² (square feet)
Light light-duty truck 2722 (6000) or under 2722 (6000) or under Max 4.2 (45.2)
Light-duty truck 3856 (8500) or under 2722 (6000) or under Max 4.2 (45.2)
Heavy light-duty truck Over 2722–3856 (6000–8500) 2722 (6000) or under Max 4.2 (45.2)
Heavy-duty vehicle Over 3856 (8500) Over 2722 (6000) Over 4.2 (45.2)
Medium-duty passenger vehicle Same as heavy-duty vehicle Under 4536 (10000) Same as heavy-duty vehicle

In case of light-duty trucks, all three conditions must be met, otherwise it is classified as heavy-duty vehicle. In addition, light duty must also be:

  • Designed primarily for the transportation of property or that is a derivative of a vehicle that is designed for that purpose;
  • Designed primarily for the transportation of persons and has a designated seating capacity of more than 12 persons; or
  • Available with special features that enable it to be operated and used off-road, the special features being four-wheel drive and at least four of the following characteristics, that are calculated when the vehicle is at curb weight and on a level surface with the front wheels parallel to the vehicle's longitudinal centreline and the tires are inflated to the manufacturer's recommended pressure:
    • An approach angle of not less than 28 degrees
    • Break-over angle of not less than 14 degrees
    • A departure angle of not less than 20 degrees
    • Ground clearances of not less than 17.8 cm under the front and rear axles
    • A ground clearance of not less than 20.3 cm under any point other than the front or rear axle

Medium-duty passenger vehicle is classified as a heavy-duty vehicle that is designed primarily for the transportation of persons but does not include any vehicle that:

  • Is a truck that is incomplete because it does not have a primary load carrying device or container attached
  • Has a seating capacity of more than 12 persons
  • Is designed to seat more than nine persons behind the driver
  • Is equipped with an open cargo area (for example, a pick-up truck box or bed) of 183 cm in interior length or more or with a covered box not readily accessible from the passenger compartment

Motorcycle is classified as an on-road vehicle with a headlight, taillight and stoplight that has two or three wheels and a curb weight of 793 kg or less, but does not include a vehicle that has an engine displacement of less than 50 cc, or that, with an 80 kg (176 pound) driver:

  • Cannot start from a dead stop using only the engine
  • Cannot exceed a speed of 40 km/h on a level paved surface


Vehicle segments in Europe do not have formal characterization or regulations. Models segments tend to be based on comparison to well-known brand models. For example, a car such as the Volkswagen Golf might be described as being in the Ford Focus size class, or vice versa. The VW Polo is smaller, so it belongs one segment below the Golf, while the bigger Passat is one segment above.

This is a table listing several different methods of car classification.

Not well-defined / vernacular Defined by law or regulation Examples
Market segment (American English) Market segment (British English) Market segment (Australian English)[3] US EPA Size Class[4] Euro NCAP Structural Category[5] Euro NCAP Class (1997–2009) Euro Market Segment[6]
Microcar Microcar, Bubble car N/A N/A Quadricycle A-segment mini cars Bond Bug, Isetta, Mega City, Renault Twizy
Subcompact car
Economy car
City car Microcar Minicompact Passenger car Supermini Citroën C1, Fiat 500, Hyundai Eon, Peugeot 108, Renault Twingo
Supermini Light car Subcompact B-segment small cars Ford Fiesta, Kia Rio, Opel Corsa, Peugeot 208, Volkswagen Polo
Compact car Small family car Small car Compact Small family car C-segment medium cars Honda Civic, Mazda3, Ford Focus, Renault Mégane, Toyota Auris
Mid-size car Large family car Medium car Mid-size Large family car D-segment large cars Ford Mondeo, Opel Insignia, Peugeot 508, Mazda6, Volkswagen Passat
Entry-level luxury car Compact executive car Medium car above $60,000 N/A Alfa Romeo Giulia, Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, Lexus ES, Mercedes-Benz C-Class
Full-size car Executive car Large car Large Executive E-segment executive cars Chevrolet Impala, Chrysler 300, Ford Taurus, Renault Samsung SM7, Toyota Avalon
Mid-size luxury car Large car above $70,000 N/A Audi A6, BMW 5 Series, Cadillac CTS, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Tesla Model S
Full-size luxury car Luxury car Upper large car above $100,000 N/A F-segment luxury cars BMW 7 Series, Jaguar XJ, Mercedes-Benz S-Class, Porsche Panamera, Maserati Quattroporte
Grand tourer Grand tourer Sports car N/A S-segment sports coupés Aston Martin DB9, Bentley Continental GT, Ferrari GTC4Lusso, Jaguar XK, Maserati GranTurismo
Supercar Supercar N/A Bugatti Veyron, LaFerrari, Lamborghini Aventador, Pagani Zonda, Porsche 918 Spyder
Convertible Convertible N/A BMW 6 Series, Chevrolet Camaro, Mercedes CLK, Volvo C70, Volkswagen Eos
Roadster Roadster Two-seater Roadster sports BMW Z4, Lotus Elise, Mazda MX-5, Porsche Boxster, Mercedes-Benz SLK
Mini MPV N/A Minivan MPV Small MPV M-segment multi purpose cars Citroen C3 Picasso, Ford B-Max, Opel Meriva, Fiat 500L
MPV Compact MPV People mover Chevrolet Orlando, Ford C-Max, Opel Zafira, Renault Scenic, Volkswagen Touran
Minivan Large MPV Large MPV Chrysler Pacifica (RU), Kia Carnival, Citroën C4 Grand Picasso, Renault Espace, Toyota Sienna
Cargo van Van Van Cargo van Chevrolet Express 1500 Cargo, Fiat Ducato/Ram ProMaster, Ford Transit, Renault Master, Volkswagen Transporter
Passenger van Minibus People mover Passenger van Chevrolet Express 1500 Passenger, Ford E350 Wagon, Mercedes-Benz Viano
Mini SUV Mini 4x4 Small SUV Small sport utility vehicle Off-roader Small off-road 4x4 J-segment sport utility cars (including off-road vehicles) Daihatsu Terios, Ford Ecosport, Jeep Renegade, Peugeot 2008, Suzuki Jimny
Compact SUV Compact SUV Medium SUV Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Jeep Cherokee, Kia Sportage
Mid-size SUV Large 4x4 Large SUV Standard sport utility vehicle Large off-road 4x4 Ford Edge, Hyundai Santa Fe, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Volkswagen Touareg, Volvo XC90
Full-size SUV Upper large SUV Range Rover, Cadillac Escalade, Toyota Land Cruiser
Mini pickup truck Pick-up Ute Small Pickup truck Pickup Pick-up Chevrolet Montana, Fiat Strada, Renault Duster Oroch
Mid-size pickup truck Ford Ranger, Chevrolet Colorado, Mitsubishi Triton/L200, Nissan Navara, Toyota Hilux
Full-size pickup truck Pickup Standard pickup truck Dodge Ram, Ford F-150, GMC Sierra, Nissan Titan, Toyota Tundra
Heavy duty pickup truck Chevrolet Silverado HD, Ram Heavy Duty, Ford Super Duty, Nissan Titan XD
Special purpose vehicle Limousine Special purpose vehicle Lincoln MKT Livery

EuroNCAP applies a standard safety test to all new cars, the results are listed in separate categories to allow prospective vehicle purchasers to compare models of a similar size and shape:



Vehicle size categories for passenger vehicles for the China NCAP program as defined by the China Automotive Technology and Research Center (CATARC) may appear similar to the European system, but are closer to the Japanese in application.

  • Category A (A-segment) vehicles are 2-box vehicles of between 4 and 4.5 meters in length, or three-box vehicles (i.e., sedans with a trunk) with engines of less than 1600 cc.
  • Category B (B-segment) vehicles are longer than 4.5 m in length with engines of over 1600 cc.
  • Multi-Purpose Vehicles, or MPVs: those with more than two rows of seats such as BYD Song Max.
  • Sport Utility vehicles or SUVs such as BYD Song.


The Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) divides Indian passenger vehicles into the segments A1, A2, A3, A4, A5, A6, B1, B2 and SUV. The classification is done solely based on the length of the vehicle. The details of the segments are below:

Car Segment Length of the car Classification Car model belonging to the segment
A1 Up to 3400mm Ultracompact cars (A) Suzuki Alto, Tata Nano, Mahindra e2o
A2 3401 to 4000mm Sub-four metre (B) Hyundai Xcent, Honda Amaze, Maruti Suzuki Dzire
A3 4001 to 4500mm Entry-level mid-size sedans (C) Hyundai Verna, Honda City, Suzuki Ciaz
A4 4501 to 4700mm Small family cars (C) Toyota Corolla, Škoda Octavia, Chevrolet Cruze
A5 4701 to 5000mm Mid-size (D)
Executive cars (E)
D-segment: Toyota Camry, Škoda Superb
E-segment: Mercedes-Benz E-Class, BMW 5 series
A6 More than 5000 mm Grand saloons (F) Mercedes-Benz S-Class, Audi A8, BMW 7 series, Jaguar XJ
B1 <4000 mm Small vans Maruti Omni, Tata Venture
B2 >4000 mm Mid-size MPVs/minivans Toyota Innova, Honda Odyssey (not sold in India)
SUV Any SUVs Honda CR-V, Hyundai Santa Fe


Sections of this article are translated from Japanese Wikipedia.

Vehicle size classes in Japan are rather simple compared to other regions. The classifications were established under the Japanese Government's Road Vehicle Act of 1951.[7][8] There are just three different classes defined by regulations. The dimension regulations are enforced to exact measurements. These standards of classification are enforced on all vehicles within the jurisdiction of Japan, and no special consideration is made for the vehicles' origination of manufacture. The Japanese law regulates all vehicles that do not travel on railroads, or are not powered by physically contacting overhead power lines. The law regulates vehicles that are powered by an autonomous power source. Smaller cars are more popular in Japan due to the confined driving conditions and speed limits.

  • Keijidosha (light cars): Buyers of Kei cars enjoy a number of tax, registration and other benefits to encourage the purchase of these tiny vehicles (among road vehicles requiring a license only). Regulations have been updated a number of times over the years to allow larger, more powerful cars to be developed and maintain demand as buyers become more affluent, and to improve collision protection performance. The current regulations state that a kei car is a vehicle less than 3.4 m (11.2 ft) long, 1.48 m (4.9 ft) wide, 2 m (6.6 ft) high, with a maximum engine displacement of 660 cc (40 cu in) and maximum power of 64 PS (47 kW; 63 hp). Extra small microcars are available with an engine size no larger than 49 cc (3.0 cu in), identified with a light blue license plate and blue text.
  • Small size Passenger vehicles, commonly called "5 number" vehicles in reference to their license-plate prefix. This class is defined as limited to vehicles less than 4.7 m (15.4 ft) long, 1.7 m (5.6 ft) wide, 2 m (6.6 ft) high and with engine displacement at or under 2,000 cc (120 cu in). Vans, trucks and station wagons (considered commercial vehicles in Japan) in the compact size class receive a "4 number" license prefix. Before 1989, the annual tax rate of normal-size class was more than doubled of this class so that most Japanese cars were built within small-size class requirement. Now the annual tax rate only varies with engine displacement however useful small-size class cars are still popular in Japanese market, and Japanese manufacturers make regular improvements to compact sized products to maximize interior accommodation while remaining within the exterior boundaries.
  • Normal size Passenger vehicles, commonly called "3 number" in reference to their license-plate prefix (trucks and buses over 2000 cc have license plates numbers beginning with 1 and 2 respectively), are those more than 4.7 m (15.4 ft) long, 1.7 m (5.6 ft) wide, 2 m (6.6 ft) high or with engine displacement larger than 2,000 cc (120 cu in). This regulation also mandates that all passenger vehicles can not exceed 6 m (19.7 ft) length or 2 m (6.6 ft) width. Based on market conditions, vehicles such as the first generation Honda Legend, and the Mitsubishi Starion were produced in both "compact size" (just under 4.7 m long and 1.7 m wide) for the Japanese market, and longer or wider "passenger size" versions, primarily for export.

Motorcycles also have classification definitions based on engine size:

Class I Moped 
Engine size must be at or less than 50 cc, identified by blue text and white extra small license plate.
Class II Moped (B) 
Engine size is between 50–90 cc, identified by blue text and yellow extra small license plate.
Class II Moped (MIG) 
Engine size is between 90–125 cc, identified by blue text and pink extra small license plate (color of plate can vary according to regional requirements)
Motorcycle Light 
Engine size is between 125–250 cc, identified by green text and white small license plate.
Motorcycle Medium 
Engine size is between 250–400 cc, identified by green outline and green text with white small license plate.
Motorcycle Large 
Engine size is over 400 cc, identified by green outline and green text with white small license plate.

All vehicles with an engine displacement over 250 cc are required to undergo an inspection (called "Shaken" in Japan). Vehicle weight tax and mandatory vehicle insurance are usually paid at this time. This is separate from the road tax paid yearly. The road tax varies from ¥3,000 for kei cars up to ¥22,000 for normal size cars with 4.6L engines.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions". (U.S. Department of Energy). Retrieved 7 June 2016. Click "How are vehicle size classes defined?"
  2. ^ Title 40 CFR § 600.315-08 - Classes of comparable automobiles. U.S. Government Publishing Office. 1 July 2015. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  3. ^ Alborz, Fallah. "New Car Sales Figures June 2015". Car Advice. Car Advice. Retrieved 1 August 2015.
  4. ^ 40 C.F.R. 600 Subpart D §315-08
  5. ^ NCAP Comparable cars
  6. ^ Case No COMP/M.1406 - Hyundai / Kia: Regulation (EEC) No 4064/89 Merger Procedure: Article 6(1)(b) Non-opposition Date: 17/03/1999
  7. ^ Road Vehicle Act of 1951 (Japanese)
  8. ^ Japanese Postwar Reconstruction

External links[edit]