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Car classification

European car classification

Car classification in Europe is not officially regulated, instead, it is defined in relative size with other cars. Since 1990s, the cars in Europe are growing in length with about 10-20 cm per model change. Seems that all European companies wants to make a car bigger than competitor’s cars of same class, increasing car class standards with about 2 cm per year, which is exaggerate, based on technology evolution, 5 mm per year is enough. Read more: Car Evolution.

My own classification
(translated german)
United Kingdom
United States
Typical size
as 2010s
A Micro car Kleinstwagen Micro car Micro-citadine <3500 mm
Mini car Kleinstwagen City car Subcompact car Citadine 3600 mm
B Small car Kleinwagen Supermini Subcompact car Polyvalente 4000 mm
C Compact car Kompaktklasse Small family car Compact car Compacte 4400 mm
D Medium car Mittelklasse Large family car Compact car Familiale 4700 mm
E Large car Obere Mittelklasse Executive car Mid-size car Routière 4900 mm
F Luxury car Oberklasse /
Luxury car Full-size car Limousine 5100 mm
Superluxury car Oberklasse Luxury car Full-size car Ultra-luxueuse >5400 mm
M Small MPV Minivan Mini MPV Minispace 4100 mm
Compact MPV Kompaktvan Compact MPV Monospace
4400 mm
Medium MPV Van MPV Minivan Monospace 4700 mm
Large MPV Van MPV Minivan Monospace 5000 mm
Minibus Kleinbus Minibus Full-size van Minibus >5000 mm
Leisure activity
Hochdachkombi Leisure activity
Ludospace any
S Roadster /
Sport compact
Sportcoupé /
Roadster Roadster Petite sportive 100-300 PS
Sport car Sportwagen Sport car Sport car Sportive 200-500 PS
Grand tourer Gran turismo Grand tourer Grand tourer Grand tourisme 500+ PS
Supercar Supersportwagen Supercar Supercar Supercar 500+ PS
J Off-road vehicle Geländewagen Off-road vehicle ? ? any
Small SUV Geländewagen Mini SUV Subcompact SUV SUV 4100 mm
Compact SUV Geländewagen Compact SUV Compact SUV SUV 4400 mm
Medium SUV Geländewagen Medium SUV Compact SUV SUV 4600 mm
Large SUV Geländewagen Large SUV Mid-size SUV SUV 4900 mm
Luxury SUV Geländewagen Luxury SUV Full-size SUV SUV 5100 mm

American car classification

American cars in 1940s and 1950s were one-size, about 5 meters long.

The 1950 Nash Rambler being 4500 mm long started the new “compact” segment while normal cars were named full-size. Since early 1960s, most manufacturers launched compact cars, and during mid-1960s the mid-size cars were added between compact and full-size.

The 1970s american car models were the biggest, compact 4800 mm long, mid-size 5200 mm long, full-size 5700 mm long. 1970 AMC Gremlin was the first subcompact car, 4100 mm long. All american car models had successive downsizes from 1970s to 1990s, reaching today sizes of compact 4300-4600 mm long, mid-size 4700-5000 mm long, full-size 5000-5300 mm long.

The longest car produced in significant numbers was 1971 Cadillac Series 75 – 6.4 meters long.

American cars are limited to 2032 mm width (80 in) and most full-size 1960s and 1970s cars had this width. Nowadays cars are 1800-1900 mm wide.

I have included car classes in my databases, but beware, they are official only for cars produced in US, imported cars often fall between car classes so each person may categorize them differently (example: Mazda CX-7 – quote from Wikipedia: “Sales of the CX-7 were mediocre, as it slotted between the sizes of compact and midsize crossovers, so it was not competitive in either category“.

Many imported cars, growing over years, migrated between classes (example: Nissan Maxima, a “large car” by European classification, fitted in american “compact” during 1980s but meantime it grew, the 2004 Nissan Maxima falls between mid-size and full-size). During 1970s, some European medium cars were considered subcompact by american standards, but during 2000s decade the European “medium car” became similar in size with American “mid-size car”, same for compact.

Note about height: Europe classify as MPV the cars over 1600 mm height while United States classify as Minivan the cars over 1700 mm height, so the Small / Compact MPVs from Europe that are around 1600-1700 mm tall, when imported to USA they are classified as hatchbacks.

Japanese car classification

Japan is the ONLY country in the world where car tax system is based on vehicle dimensions, thus encouraging manufacturers to stick under some limits…

Kei cars” are currently limited at 3400 mm length and 1480 mm width, and 64 horsepower.
Most popular are “compact cars”, up to 4700 mm length and 1700 mm width.
Any car model above this limit is heavily taxed.

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