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Choosing Your Car: Jargon Buster

Choosing a car can be a minefield of confusing car terms and abbreviations. It can be difficult to keep up with the sheer amount of acronyms, better yet, the car industry jargon.

Is 50mpg a good thing? What happens when a car depreciates? And what on earth is torque?

Don’t worry, help is at hand! This car jargon buster will give you the lowdown on some of the most commonly used terms you’ll face when choosing a new car.

Jargon Terms



ABS is a safety mechanism that prevents your wheels from locking when you brake heavily. The system is designed to help drivers avoid skidding, allowing them to retain control.

All new cars have ABS as standard, but it’s something to bear in mind if you’re buying an older used car.


Brake Horsepower (BHP) in simple terms is the power output of your engine. Generally, the higher a car’s BHP, the higher its max speed will be and the quicker it will accelerate.



Cars come in all shapes and sizes. It’s useful to know the key body styles to ensure you choose a car to suit your needs.

Hatchback: The thing that differentiates a hatchback is that the boot is part of the car’s interior and shape. The body style incorporates the rear window and lifts up to provide access to the boot and seating area.

Saloon: A three-box body style, with a boot section which is separate from the passenger area. Some great examples can be found on our best saloon cars blog.

Estate: Longer versions of many hatchback and saloon models with larger boot space.

Coupé: A smaller, often sportier, version of a saloon with two-doors, a hard roof and less interior space.

SUV: Generally these cars are much larger and taller, with a high driving position. These cars are often referred to as 4x4s which are known for their off-road capabilities

Convertible/Cabriolet: Some manufactures call them cabriolets and some call them convertibles, but essentially they’re coupés with their hard fixed roofs replaced with a detachable or retractable roof.

MPV: Multi-Purpose Vehicles, or People Carriers, are another large and practical body style that can typically carry seven people and can create van-like storage space when the rear seats are folded down.



There are many CCs in car terms: catalytic converter, cruise control, climate control. But the most commonly used one refers to a car’s engine capacity, which is measured in cubic centimetres (cc). So you could see a car with a 1200cc engine, for example, which is the same as having a 1.2-litre engine.

This is an important figure to look at when buying a car. Generally, a higher capacity engine will have a higher power output. The size of your engine can influence costs such as car insurance and road tax.


DAB Radio, aka Digital Radio, is the modern form of radio transmission where you can access a plethora of digital radio stations in addition to the traditional AM and FM channels.



You might hear this term used a lot – particularly if you’re looking to buy a new car.

Depreciation is the rate in which a car loses its value. It determines how much you’ll get for your car when you sell it on, in comparison to how much you initially paid for it. It’s worth asking the car dealer about the rate of depreciation when choosing your next car.


These terms refer to location of the wheels that the engine is designed to send power to. So a front-wheel-drive (FWD) car means that the engine drives the front wheels only. These cars are typically more economical and have enhanced traction.

Conversely, a rear-wheel-drive (RWD) car is where the engine drives the rear wheel only, which can result in improved speed and acceleration.

Four-wheel-drive (4WD) is more complex, where the engine drives all four wheels. This system is used a lot in SUVs and 4x4s because of its off-road advantages.



ISOFIX is a safety system for installing a child’s car seat. – giving parents peace of mind.

Specific fittings are built into the car so that an ISOFIX car seat can be securely fixed in place, removing the need to use the car’s seatbelts.

Not all cars have ISOFIX, so if you’re looking for a family car it’s worth asking if its ISOFIX compatible.


This is the measurement of fuel consumption. A car’s mpg figure represents how many miles the car will travel for every gallon of fuel.

The higher the mpg figure, the more economical your new car will be, which will save you money in the long-run.

You can also check out our tips on how to get most mpg out of your car.



This is the total cost you can expect to pay when purchasing a car and includes not only the RRP but also extras such as delivery, road tax and registration.


Also known as Vehicle Excise Duty (VED), road tax is a yearly fee that entitles drivers to use their car on public roads in the UK.

Currently, the amount of road tax you pay depends on the engine size and how much carbon dioxide (CO2) it emits.

From April the 1st this year, the government are changing how road tax is calculated.



You’ll hear a lot of car dealers talk about torque. Torque is the measurement of the turning force sent to a car’s wheels from the motor.

The more torque a car has, the faster it can accelerate.


This term relates to the gearbox of your car and whether it is an automatic or has a manual gearbox.

Manual transmission, is the typical clutch and gear stick method of driving, whereas an automatic transmission changes the gears for you – so you only have to accelerate and brake while driving.

You may also come across a car with Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). CVT is a type of automatic transmission which allows for smooth continuous acceleration, as opposed to the gear shifts that you feel while accelerating in a conventional automatic car.

Not all brands make cars with CVT, but it might be worth considering if you choose to buy an automatic.


Trim levels, sometimes referred to as grades, are simply different versions of the same model with different features and equipment.

It’s always worth checking out the trim levels in detail to ensure the car includes the spec you want.