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Small cars, estates or SUVs: What type of car suits your needs?

If you don’t consider yourself to be really into cars, the sheer amount of metal on offer and the different shapes and sizes that vehicles come in, can be quite confusing. Here is the low down on the main car types and what they mean, so you can identify the type of car you’re searching for and hopefully get you one step closer to your perfect car!

Small cars

Often called ‘hatchbacks’ because the entire rear of the car folds up to provide a ‘hatch’ entry for loading, small cars are the most common type of car on our roads. Most people have owned a small car at some point in their lives, and they are great starter cars for learner drivers.

City cars are the smallest of the small cars—one of the newer categories of cars, having been borne from the need to reduce urban pollution. These vehicles are designed to fit into narrow gaps, such as parking spaces in busy cities. They’re typically easy to park, straightforward to drive, and have small, economical engines. However, because of their size, they have very little load space and, typically only room for two passengers in the rear seats.

Customer by her small car

Smaller cars are typically easy to park and have small, economical engines

Despite that, these cars are among the most popular to drive as they offer a fine blend of value for money, efficiency and economy. Slightly larger small cars are called ‘Supermini’s’. The Ford Fiesta, Vauxhall Corsa and Mini Cooper are all Superminis, and while they are great for people who don’t need a huge amount of storage space, they are not particularly appropriate for those with equipment, such as buggies or mobility scooters.

Medium cars

This category of car is as small as you’ll want to go if you have children, or if you often carry passengers or load a boot up. Popular cars, such as the Volkswagen Golf, Honda Civic and Ford Focus, are all classed as medium cars. Whilst still compact, they offer more space and practicality than City cars and Superminis and are often a bit more powerful too.

A Motability Scheme customer and his friends by a medium car

Medium cars often offer a bit more space for passengers and practicality

Large cars

Over time, cars such as the Skoda Octavia have become plusher, while some cars in this area have always classed themselves as ‘compact executive cars’, even though they’re a similar size and shape to a large family car. These vehicles provide more space and are great for families and people who need to carry larger loads, such as mobility scooters and wheelchairs. They’re a bit harder to park in smaller spaces though, due to their size.

The BMW 5 Series, Audi A6 and Skoda Superb are good examples of large cars. These models are loaded with gadgets and are often more comfortable to drive than their smaller siblings in the large family/compact executive class. These cars are great for comfort, load space and technology.

Estate cars

Estate cars are longer versions of medium and large cars that can carry and store more. Quite a few medium and large cars are available with estate bodies, so you might recognise some familiar names in this segment.

MPVs ‘Multi-purpose vehicles’

These cars come in small, medium and large sizes but are really all classified as one segment. They are designed primarily for families needing to move people and luggage around, and are therefore extremely competent at carrying loads. On the downside, they can be less sleek to look at than other cars and sometimes less exciting to drive. Good examples of MPVs include the Citroen Picasso, Ford C-Max and Vauxhall Zafira.

4×4 and SUVs (Sports Utility Vehicles)

Lady looking into boot of SUV

SUVs are becoming more and more popular

SUVs are the biggest growing vehicle segment in the world. They’ve ballooned in popularity and have re-arranged the motoring market in the last ten years or so. They’ve been so popular that some manufacturers have stopped building saloon cars to produce SUVs instead. 

Many people assume that SUVs are all 4×4—meaning four-wheel drive—and are difficult to drive, but that’s simply not the case. They are generally large vehicles. Manufacturers have developed ways to make them simple to drive by adding light steering and good visibility. Some are 4×4, offering that extra grip on tricky terrain or in bad weather, but many SUVs are now front-wheel driven. This is the most common layout in cars—and, as such, front-wheel-drive SUVs behave a bit like a chunky hatchback.

They are just as easy to drive and they’re even relatively economical too. SUVs are well worth considering if you’re looking at a large family car that remains stylish. The only down-side is that some people might find them harder to park as they can be slightly wider than others cars. Good examples of SUVs include the Audi ‘Q’ range, Vauxhall Mokka, Renault Kadjar and Ford Kuga.

Coupes, Roadsters and Convertibles

Dream car brands such as Ferrari, Porsche and Aston Martin produce cars that are coupes and convertibles, but it isn’t always that pricey to have an enjoyable driving experience. Small coupes, roadsters and convertibles are a lot of fun to drive and can still give that special feeling to the driver and passenger. The Mazda MX-5 is a great example of an affordable, fun, convertible roadster. Don’t expect to be able to carry much with you, though; these cars are the smallest in terms of load capacities, so they are primarily used for enjoyment only.

You can see the full list of cars available on the Motability Scheme on our car search tool.

WAVs (Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles)

Powered wheelchair user driving into WAV

WAVs could be a good option if you find transferring from a wheelchair into a car difficult

If you find transferring from a wheelchair into a car difficult, a WAV is a vehicle that has been converted so that you can stay in your wheelchair for the journey, either as a passenger or a driver. WAVs come in all shapes and sizes, and there are lots of different seating layouts available.

Standard features of a WAV normally include:

  • A built-in ramp, or lifts on larger vehicles
  • Access from the side or the back of the vehicle
  • A lowered floor or raised roof to allow enough headroom
  • Wheelchair tie-downs to keep the wheelchair in position inside the vehicle

For more details take a look at our WAV area.


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With the Motability Scheme you can exchange all or part of your mobility allowance to lease a car of your choice. We offer a selection of over 2,000 cars from the most popular manufacturers. Here are a few things to consider when choosing a car to suit your budget.

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