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]


USA government defined size of Federal Regulations, Title 40—Protection of Environment, Section 600.315-82 Classes of comparable automobiles. Passenger car classes are defined based on interior volume index or seating capacity, except the ones classified as special vehicle. A two seater is classified as a car with no more than two designated seating positions. Others as follows:

ClassInterior combined passenger and cargo volume index in cubic feet (liters)
Minicompact car< 85 (2407)
Subcompact car85–99.9 (2407–2831)
Compact car100–109.9 (2832–3114)
Midsize car110–119.9 (3115–3397)
Large car≥ 120 (3398)
Station wagons
ClassInterior volume index in cubic feet (liters)
Small< 130 (3681)
Midsize130–160 (3681–4531)
Large≥ 160 (4531)

Nonpassenger automobiles are defined as small pickup trucks, standard pickup trucks, vans, and special purpose vehicles. Pickup trucks is separated from car line based on gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR). For pickup truck car lines with more than one GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating), the GVWR of the pickup truck car line is the arithmetic average of all distinct GVWR's less than or equal to 8,500 pounds available for that car line.

ClassGVWR in pounds (kg)
Small< 4500 (2041)
Standard4500–8500 (2041–3856)

Special purpose vehicle is defined as automobile with GVWR less than or equal to 8,500 pounds which possess special features that are more appropriately classified separately from typical automobiles or which do not meet the definitions of above mentioned classes.

Interior volume index is calculated differently for different vehicle classes:

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:

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

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:


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.

ClassInterior size in litres (cubic feet)
Subcompact carUnder 2830 (99.9)
Compact car2830–3115 (99.9–110)
Mid-size car3115–3400 (110–120)
Full-size carOver 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:

ClassGVWR in kg (pounds)Curb weight in kg (pounds)Frontal area in m² (square feet)
Light light-duty truck2722 (6000) or under2722 (6000) or underMax 4.2 (45.2)
Light-duty truck3856 (8500) or under2722 (6000) or underMax 4.2 (45.2)
Heavy light-duty truckOver 2722–3856 (6000–8500)2722 (6000) or underMax 4.2 (45.2)
Heavy-duty vehicleOver 3856 (8500)Over 2722 (6000)Over 4.2 (45.2)
Medium-duty passenger vehicleSame as heavy-duty vehicleUnder 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:

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:

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:


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 / VernacularDefined by Law or RegulationExamples
Market Segment (American English)Market Segment (British English)US EPA Type[1]US EPA Size Class[2]Euro NCAP Structural Category[3]Euro NCAP Class (1997 - 2009)Euro Market Segment[4]
MicrocarMicrocar, Bubble carCarN/AQuadricycleA-segment mini carsBond Bug, Isetta, Mega City, REVAi/G-Wiz
Subcompact carCity carMinicompactPassenger carSuperminiFord Ka, Mitsubishi i-MiEV, Smart Fortwo, Toyota Aygo, Fiat 500
SuperminiSubcompactB-segment small carsFord Fiesta, Kia Rio, Opel Corsa, Peugeot 208, Volkswagen Polo
Compact carSmall family carCompactSmall family carC-segment medium carsChevrolet Cruze, Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Mazda3, Toyota Corolla
Mid-size carLarge family carMid-sizeLarge family carD-segment large carsChevrolet Malibu, Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata, Subaru Legacy
Entry-level luxury carCompact executive carN/AAcura TSX, Alfa Romeo 159, Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class
Full-size carExecutive carLargeExecutiveE-segment executive carsChevrolet Impala, Chrysler 300, Ford Taurus, Hyundai Grandeur, Holden Commodore, Toyota Avalon
Mid-size luxury carN/ACadillac CTS, Lexus GS, Lincoln MKZ, Volvo S80
Full-size luxury carLuxury carN/AF-segment luxury carsAudi A8, BMW 7 Series, Lexus LS, Mercedes-Benz S-Class, Porsche Panamera, Tesla Model S
Grand tourerGrand tourerN/AS-segment sports coupésJensen Interceptor, Ferrari FF, Jaguar XK, Maserati GranTurismo
SupercarSupercarN/ABugatti Veyron, LaFerrari, Lamborghini Aventador, Pagani Zonda
ConvertibleConvertibleN/ABMW 6 Series, Chevrolet Camaro, Mercedes CLK, Volvo C70, Volkswagen Eos
RoadsterRoadsterTwo-seaterRoadster sportsAudi TT, BMW Z4, Lotus Elise, Mazda MX-5, Porsche Boxster
Mini MPVTruckMinivanMPVSmall MPVM-segment multi purpose carsCitroen C3 Picasso, Ford B-Max, Opel Meriva, Renault Modus, Renault Kangoo
MPVCompact MPVVW Touran, Ford C-Max, Renault Scenic, Opel Zafira, Chevrolet Orlando
MinivanLarge MPVLarge MPVChrysler Town and Country, Ford Galaxy, Peugeot 807, Renault Espace, SEAT Alhambra
Cargo vanVanCargo vanFord Transit Connect, Chevrolet Express 1500 Cargo, Ford E350 Van
Passenger vanMinibusPassenger vanChevrolet Express 1500 Passenger, Ford E350 Wagon
Mini SUVMini 4x4Small Sport Utility VehicleOff-roaderSmall Off-Road 4x4J-segment sport utility cars (including off-road vehicles)Daihatsu Terios, Ford Ecosport, Jeep Wrangler, Peugeot 2008, Suzuki Jimny
Compact SUVCompact SUVChevrolet Equinox, Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Jeep Compass, Kia Sportage
Mid-size SUVLarge 4x4Standard Sport Utility VehicleLarge Off-Road 4x4Ford Edge, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Volkswagen Touareg, Volvo XC90
Full-size SUVCadillac Escalade ESV, Chevrolet Suburban, Ford Explorer, Range Rover, Toyota Land Cruiser
Mini pickup truckPick-upSmall Pickup TruckPickupPick-upChevrolet Montana, Fiat Strada, Volkswagen Saveiro
Mid-size pickup truckFord Ranger, Chevrolet Colorado, Mitsubishi Triton/L200, Nissan Navara
Full-size pickup truckStandard Pickup TruckDodge Ram, Ford F-150, GMC Sierra, Nissan Titan, Toyota Tundra
Heavy Duty pickup truckChevrolet Silverado, Ram Heavy Duty, Ford Super Duty
Special purpose vehicleSpecial purpose vehicleLincoln 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.


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 SegmentLength of the car/Model typeCar model belonging to the segment
A1Up to 3400mmTata Nano
A23401 to 4000mmSuzuki Alto, Hyundai i10, Dzire, Zen
A34001 to 4500mmTata Manza, Logan, City
A44501 to 4700mmCorolla, Octavia, Optra
A54701 to 5000mmAccord, Camry, Sonata
A6More than 5000 mmMercedes S class
B1VansVersa, Omni
B2MUV/MPVSumo, Innova


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.[5][6] There are just three different classes defined by regulations. The law doesn't have revised classifications for roadsters, minivans, station wagons, SUVs, MPVs, or Crossovers. 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.

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.

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