Why are some cars just 'four-door' and others 'five-door'?

By DPA | 30 May 2020

BERLIN: You may come across the rather strange distinction between four-door and five-door cars and wondered: Do some car companies not count the boot? Or is there some hidden fifth door for passengers that you'd never noticed?

It might just seem like a bit of car trivia, but understanding the difference will actually help you pick a model suited to your needs the next time you're out car shopping.

"Four-door cars are primarily found in classic notchback saloons," says Achmed Leser from inspection agency Tuv, explaining that the subtle difference is essentially about whether or not you could get into the car through the boot.

"Here, the passenger compartment is completely separated from the boot by the rear seat," which explains why the boot on four-door cars isn't counted as a proper "door," since you can't technically get into the car that way.

In the European car market, for example, four-door notchback cars with a separate boot area are typically found on cars in the mid-range and upwards, but you'll also find this design in the compact class.

"In the 1980s, they were also found sporadically in the small car segment," says Leser.

On the other hand, five-door cars offer five different ways to enter a car - including climbing in through the boot. This variety has become increasingly popular thanks to the unstoppable SUV trend, as well as a growing number of hatchbacks.

The five-door design is primarily found in hatchback models with a sloping boot, but the term is also used for classic estates and SUVs with a boot that is practically vertical.

However, things can get a little more confusing with some other special designs. Some manufacturers, for example, offer saloons with a coupe-like roof line in upper-mid-range and luxury-class models. Here the rear window is integrated into a large boot. "You can also count these vehicles among the five-door models," says Achmed Leser.

So does it matter if you buy a four-door or five-door car in terms of usability? Yes, and many drivers would agree that five-door cars have a clear advantage as they generally mean a bigger maximum volume for carrying cargo.

In contrast to the smaller fixed size of the boot in a four-door car, the five-door counterpart allows you to open a large part of the car's rear and typically expand the volume by folding down seats.

"This makes it easier to stow bulky luggage in particular, even if there's not much volume in the boot to begin with," says the car expert.