Thinking Cap: Is the sedan really dead?

The humble three-box shape might not be the cutting edge of fashion now, but it’s far from an evolutionary dead end


If sedans could talk, they would quote a certain Mr Clemens : “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”

Why the idea that four-doors are a dying breed? 

As we’ve often noted in CarBuyer, the past decade has seen the impetus toward sport utility vehicles (SUVs) gather like a snowball down a very Instagrammable mountain. A new model sprouts up every month it seems, and there’s now an SUV to fit any taste, from affordable compacts to super luxury.

But the rise of the SUV doesn’t mean that sedans are tanking, and the figures prove it. 

As reported in our 2019 sales analysis, we crunched the numbers from the top five best-selling brands in Singapore. We saw that sales of sedans went down slightly from 2018 to 2019 – from 41 percent to 36 percent, and SUV sales did rise from 21 percent to 23 percent. 

CarBuyer’s very own nifty chart shows no, sedans don’t eat humble pie yet

However, sedans remain far and away the most popular type of car here in Singapore – 36 percent. Compare that to 20 percent for multi-purpose vehicles (MPVs) and 17 percent for hatchbacks. In other words, more than one in three new cars here are sedans, and that doesn’t sound at all like death to us.

Why? One basic reason is that the sedan style – a three-box shape, to use a car design term – simply makes sense. Having a boot on the rear means more cargo space, but also less intrusion into the passenger space, spelling for more space and better refinement. And it’s not like a sedan looks terrible if you design it right, like the Volkswagen Passat shown above. 

To try on a possibly ill-judged fashion metaphor: If cars were pants, then sport utility vehicles (SUVs) would be form fitting jeans – the in-thing with a dash of usefulness and implied ruggedness. Sports cars would be yoga pants – flattering for most but terrible at anything other than running around being sporty. 

Sedans are not, as the popularity of SUVs might have you think, clown pants or lederhosen, although it really depends because let’s face it, some sedans do look really boring enough to be ill-fitting business slacks. 

A well-proportioned sedan – take the Volkswagen Passat as an example again – has a grace and simple fluidity of form an SUV can never hope to achieve. Appropriately a Passat would be a pair of smart chinos: Sharp, perennial, and never a slave to fashion.

Thinking Cap is a featured column written by CarBuyer and presented by Porsche Holding Salzburg, and it’s aimed at helping you fire up more neurons and see the other side of current automotive issues or events.

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CarBuyer Team
CarBuyer Singapore / brings the most relevant, accurate and useful car news to Singaporeans in both print and online formats.