A sedan is a passenger car in a three-box configuration with separate compartments for engine, passenger and cargo.
Sedan's first recorded use as a name for an automobile body was in 1912. The name comes from a 17th century development of a litter, the sedan chair, a one-person enclosed box with windows carried by porters.
Variations of the sedan style of body include: close-coupled sedan, club sedan, convertible sedan, fastback sedan, hardtop sedan, notchback sedan and sedanet/sedanette.
A sedan chair, a sophisticated litter, was an enclosed box with windows used to transport one seated person. Porters at the front and rear carried the chair with horizontal poles. Litters date back to long before ancient Egypt, India and China. Sedan chairs were developed in the 1630s. Reputable etymologists suggest the name of the chair very probably came through Italian dialects from the Latin sedere meaning to sit.
In British English, a car of this configuration is called a car or a saloon. Hatchback sedans are known simply as hatchbacks (not hatchback saloons); long-wheelbase luxury saloons with a division between the driver and passengers are limousines. Super saloon is often used to describe a high performance saloon car where sports saloon would have been used in the past. Saloon has been used by British car manufacturers in the United States, for example, the Rolls-Royce Park Ward.
In the United States notchback sedan distinguishes models with a horizontal trunklid. The term is generally only referred to in the marketing when it is necessary to distinguish between two sedan body styles (e.g. notchback and fastback) of the same model range.
All manufacturers in the United States from the early 1950s into the 1970s provided at least a 2-door hardtop model in their range and, if their engineers could manage it, a 4-door hardtop as well. The lack of side-bracing demanded a particularly strong and heavy chassis frame to combat unavoidable flexing. The fashion may have delayed the introduction of unibody construction.
A close-coupled sedan is a body style produced in the United States during the 1920s and 1930s. Like other close-coupled body styles, the rear seats are located further forward than a regular sedan. This reduced the length of the body, so close-coupled sedans (also known as town sedans) were the smallest of the sedan models offered.