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Space wars: Which cars are making the best use of boot space?

By Tom Fraser and Sally Dominguez, 30 Apr 2019 Car Advice

Space wars: Which cars are making the best use of boot space?

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

Logic dictates that big cars have big boots and small cars have less space. In theory, this would make our life as motoring journalists and consumers a hell of a lot easier, but the truth is this statement is 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.

Read next: Boot sizes of Australia’s best-selling SUVs

Car dimensions are recorded using the US-based Society of Automotive Engineers’ J110 documentation (yawn) but we tend to think that a more pragmatic approach involves the universally-available IKEA Billy bookcase. The flat-pack is a 2m x 29cm x 13cm box and available all over the world, and most people are able to imagine the awkwardness of shoving in some furniture rather than using numbers and maths to measure boot space. 

audi tt coupe

As the old adage goes, you really can’t judge a book, or car, by its cover. Take the Audi TT as an example – with a bit of squishing and a lot of effort, it can swallow a Billy flat-pack without too many expletives. So too, the diminutive Kia Picanto has a solid 200 litres of boot space before you fold down the rear seats.

Some cars' boot space are doomed from the get-go however, with classes like convertibles which use the space in the boot to stash a soft-top rather than grocery bags. Sports cars too, for that matter, tend to favour tightly-packaged bodies and light weight over cargo volume. The Jaguar F-type convertible barely fits a bag of oranges and Alfa Romeo's 4C has a paltry 110 litres worth of space. 

alfa romeo 4c boot

Read: Boot sizes of Australia’s best-selling hatchbacks

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.


  • Compact SUV: The Honda CR-V is best in class with 437 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 roof up and has a ski port for skis (385 litres).
  • City Car: The Kia Picanto pulls a ‘TARDIS’ with a boot way bigger than the sum of its parts (255 litres).

kia picanto boot
Kia Picanto boot


  • Compact SUV: The Mazda CX-3 has a wee 264 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).

mazda cx-3 boot
Mazda CX-3 boot

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!