Big and small boots

By Sally Dominguez, 15 May 2015 Car Advice

Big and small boots

If it can’t take an IKEA bookcase, don’t call it a boot. We check out the cars that have booty, and the ones that don’t.

Big cars have big boots and small cars have less space. In theory, this would make our life as motor journalists a hell of a lot easier, but the truth is this statement is wrong. So wrong. Ironically, the smallest cargo areas are often not in the smallest cars.

When we consider what most city cars are used for – groceries, weekend sport run, school bags etc – it’s no surprise that manufacturers optimize the compact back ends with as much stowage as possible.

Officially, car dimensions are measured against US-based Society of Automotive Engineers’ J110 documentation. Blah, blah, blah. More pragmatic measurement is the IKEA Billy bookcase. The flat-pack is a 2m x 29cm x 13cm box and available all over the world, so it makes sense that it’s used as a practice measure of available space in small and medium cars.

As the old adage goes, you really can’t judge a book, or car, by its cover. They might just surprise you. Take the Audi TT as an example – with a bit of squishing and folding, it can fit a Billy flat-pack and a backseat passenger and the diminutive Hyundai i20 has almost 300 litres of boot space before you fold down the rear seats.

Sometimes, cars are compromised by genre, such as convertibles which use the boot space to stash the soft-tops, little space is left once the roof is down. The Jaguar F-type convertible barely fits a bag of oranges, and then there’s the new Alfa Competizione which has, as Derek Zoolander would say, a “trunk for ants”.

Compact SUVs are another type of car that surprises buyers when it comes to the booty awards, often compromising space for five seats and a sleek, tapered external body shape. In contrast, big sedans, particularly those made in Australia, have boot spaces so large, they easily swallow bicycles, strollers, the old Billy bookcase and a Costco shopping trip.

So, without further ado, here is our list of big and teeny booties.

BIG BOOTS

  • Compact SUV: The Honda CRV is best in class with 556 litres behind the seats.
  • Big Sedan: Hard to beat the Tesla Model S with 744 litres plus a “frunk” to add to the storage.
  • Convertible: The fabulous Mercedes E-Class Cabriolet fits golf clubs in the boot with its top down and has a ski port for skis (249 litres).
  • City Car: The Fiat500 pulls a ‘TARDIS’ (Doctor Who anyone?) with a boot way bigger than the sum of its parts (269 litres).

TEENY BOOTS

  • Compact SUV: The Skoda Yeti has fully removable seats but if you leave them all in, it’s got a wee 321 litres.
  • Big Sedan: Actually they are all pretty good but check that at least one rear seat folds: sometimes they are fixed for added stiffness and have a non-Billy-compatible ski port instead.
  • Sports: Alfa 4C. The handbag-sized stash where the boot should be on the Alfa 4C takes the cake for tiny boot space at 110 litres.
  • City Car: The Mini Cooper has next to nothing for a car that’s not the smallest in category (211 litres).

Ever wondered why boot spaces are measured in litres? Originally cargo volume was measured using official foam blocks, stipulated by the J1100 standard, to simulate luggage and fill out the space. But, this then depends on who was packing the blocks. Things got more complicated when irregular shaped hatchbacks entered the market and measurements became more open to interpretation. These days, things are a bit less consistent as manufacturers choose whether they use the official packing blocks or a more complicated mathematical method, i.e., average out two length, two height and two width measurements into a cubic metre volume which is then converted to litres. Phew!