What are Car Trim Levels?

14th May 2024

By Kenny Longdon

What is a Trim Level?

Trim levels are used by car manufacturers to identify a specific car's sum of features for a singular model.

Like many products in the modern world, you can buy an 'entry-level' product, or spend a little more to get a more enhanced specification, or in this case with cars, an upgraded car trim.

In terms of cars, you can find the 'entry-level' trim, which will be the most affordable, or you can pay more and enhance the trim level, which will get you a more comprehensive package of a certain car model.

Examples of Trims

Example of Ford Puma Trims

To make it clear, below are various manufacturer trim levels.

From left to right, each manufacturer has a base trim (Titanium for example) which rises up to the range-topping trim (ST for example). On manufacturer websites, these are named models, and then you chose your preferred trim of that model.

  • Ford Puma - Titanium / ST Line/ ST Line X / ST
  • MG4 - SE / Trophy

In Ford's case, ST is the range-topping trim and is very sports focused, whilst SE in BMW acts as the base, whilst the M Sport trim may not be the range topping, but it's seen as a popular trim before you get to the more sports focused 128ti and M135i which tend to come with engines/features exclusive to that model.

What's an entry-Level trim?

BMW 1 Series Variants

Looking back at the trim levels given as examples above, there's always an entry-level trim.

An entry-level trim is the most affordable on a specific model. It will act as the foundation of the model, whilst trims above it, build upon what it offers.

For example, in terms of the BMW 1 Series, the base SE trim offers features like 16-inch alloy wheels, and LED headlights, whilst if you opted for the Sport trim, you'd get larger 17-inch alloy wheels and high-gloss shadow exterior trim - giving the car a sleeker and more impactful appearance.

As mentioned previously, if you were to go for the M135i, you get an engine not available in the rest of the range, as it's exclusive to that particular trim/model.

Are trim, specification and model the same thing?

Hyundai IONIQ 5 Pair

For ease of understanding, some examples are shown below, separating the differences.

  • Manufacturer - The car brand in question.
  • Model - The specific model in the brand's range.
  • Trim - The collection of features to signify a certain point in the model's range.
  • Specification - The specific differences that make up the car's uniqueness - colour, package options.
Manufacturer Model Trim Specification
BMW 1 Series M Sport 118i, Misano Blue, Dakota Leather with blue highlgiht
Ford Focus ST-Line Solar silver, ST-Line cloth interior with black and red stiching, Panorama roof
Hyundai IONIQ 5 Ultimate Ecotronic grey, heatpump
Vauxhall Corsa GS Diamond black, 17-inch 5-dbl spoke alloy wheels

Sometimes, the terminology may overlap slightly. Trim and spec are often referred to in the same context, but ultimately, a trim will have a standard spec, but this spec can be tailored to suit a customer's preference, by being able to select specific colours, choices etc. of that particular trim.

For example, a certain shade of blue may only be available on a certain trim level.

What about engines and powertrains?

BMW M135i Static

Engines and powertrains can fall under the same trim. For example, a BMW 1 Series M Sport could feature a petrol engine or a diesel engine, whilst certain trims in the model range will have exclusive features, such as an engine only available in that specific trim.

Sticking with BMW as an example, the M135i is the range-topping BMW 1 Series model. It features a 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder engine, which produces 302bhp, not available in any other version of the BMW 1 Series.

Powertrains such as an automatic or manual gearbox, or front, rear or all-wheel drive, will only be available on certain trim levels, which make the specific trim more sought-after. You see this with range-topping models having things like a more powerful, exclusive engine, or instead of two-wheel drive, the car may have all-wheel drive.

Does a higher trim level guarantee a better car?

Ford Puma Pair

Essentially, a higher trim level means the car is more desirable, due to having more standard features and enhanced performance etc. But, there may be slight exceptions in relating if it would actually suit your lifestyle better.

For example, using the Ford Puma as a reference, the ST sits as the range topping model, but if you plan on using your Ford Puma for commuting, an ST-Line may be a better bet as it will offer a more comfortable ride, as the ST will be more sporty and firmer. The ST-Line will also offer better economy.

Of course, if you want a more sporty, performance package, then the range-topping ST will be more your thing. The reason Ford offer an ST-Line is for those wanting a more sporty appearance, without having to go for the range-topping ST model. A lot of manufacturers do this, like BMW mentioned with the M Sport trim - which takes inspiration from the hardcore M models, like the M2, M3 etc. without the enhanced running costs and performance.

Find your perfect trim level with Evans Halshaw

Whether you are looking for a new car, or a used car, our website makes it easy to find your perfect model, trim and spec, no matter which car you are looking for.

You can search your favourite brands, and then search specific models and specs, or find your ideal car among our used inventory.

Alternatively, if you enjoyed this article, why not check out more like it in our dedicated blog section.