They might be big-selling, city-friendly hatchbacks and light segment leaders packaged up in a little box, but don’t discount the load-carrying ability of these flat-bottomed runabouts.
In some cases, (particularly with rear seats folded flat) they can expand to mini-van proportions, with a much wider boot opening and taller storage capacity than sedans, all without the overhang of a boot, making squeezing into parking spaces all the easier.
We’ve opened the hatch on 2016’s five biggest sellers in the small and light car segments to find out which can carry the biggest load…
Boot space is not measured in dimensions but in litres or the cubic-foot measurement equivalent of a litre. This doesn’t help if you need to fit a furniture flatpack or a couple of chairs in the boot, and also doesn’t take into account a narrower space, wheel arches eating in to the cargo area, or how high one can stack one’s stuff. So when car hunting, be aware of what you might be carrying, and have a tape measure handy to ensure you’ll have the space you need.
SMALL CAR SEGMENT - TOP 5 (alphabetical order)
1316 litres (rear seats folded)
The Hyundai i30 is currently leading sales in the small car class, and fittingly boasts near class-leading cargo space to boot. It would likely come out on top, were it not to feature a full-sized spare underfloor – kudos to Hyundai for equipping even their small cars with this safety feature. The second row has cantilevered bases to allow a flat fold, which is also rare in this segment, pushing space to a voluminous 1316 litres. If you need a hatch that can carry the bulk, it’s hard to look past this Hyundai.
1213 litres (rear seats folded)
The Cerato features a boot size at the upper end of the hatch segment scale, but all isn’t as it seems. The Cerato has a hidden compartment in the floor that counts towards its 385 litres volume – a great addition alongside the full-sized spare, and it doesn’t detract from the relatively spacious cargo hold, but it does make the boot a little shallower. With the second row folding to almost flat and its unobtrusive wheel arches, the Cerato’s 1213-litre boot will take some decent-sized flatpacks.
N/A rear seats folded
While Mazda excels in so many areas, its boot sizes across the majority of its range are on the smaller end of the scale. The Mazda3, which is fittingly the third-highest seller so far this year, will still take some bulky luggage and a decent-sized pram for young families, but its actual boot size in litres is on the average end of the small hatch segment, and is also smaller than the model that preceded it.
1,120 litres (rear seats folded)
When the new Corolla came out a few years back, Toyota expanded its boot size in more ways than one, widening the opening by 7.5cm and squaring off corners to make room for larger and bulkier items.
Even so, a boot size of 280 litres is at the smaller end of the scale, and actually dwarfed by some light hatchbacks in size, including its smaller sibling, the Yaris.
1270 litres (rear seats folded)
The Volkswagen Golf has always been about practicality, and its derriere is no exception with 380 accessible litres, 30L more than the previous generation (Gen6). The GTI has the same space, and a ski chute along with the 60:40 split-fold. And if you need even more space, the Golf Wagon expands to 605L/1620L.
LIGHT HATCH SEGMENT - TOP 5 SELLERS (alphabetical order)
600 litres (rear seats folded, measured to sills)
Larger than some hatchback boots in the next size up, the Accent boasts a wide floor and even manages to fit a full-sized spare underneath it. While the seats do split-fold 60:40, their bolstering prevents the seatbacks from folding anywhere near flat, reducing the full cargo volume and practicality somewhat. If you need to move a bulky item, bribe a friend with a ute.
1332mm (litres N/A)
Again, Mazda has gone minimal in the back end of the 2, offering up only 250 litres. Access is made easier with a one-touch button right on the tailgate handle, making opening the boot a single movement, which is a relief to burdened arms. The second row, while splitting 60:40 for practicality, collapses via hinges sitting above the boot floor and creates a step when folded, making sliding bulky items into the boot problematic. If you need boot space and love the Mazda2, check out the sedan which has 440 litres of space.
900 litres (rear seats folded)
On paper, the Swift barely registers in the rear with just 210 litres; a result of its short wheelbase. While the area is shallow, it is tall, so the Swift can still fit the shopping in with relative ease – provided nothing else needs to fit along with it.
While keeping the Yaris tiny with tight dimensions, Toyota managed to stretch the wheelbase in its last update, adding almost 15cm into the boot area and increasing litres to 286 litres. This is slightly larger than its Corolla sibling, if a little less easy to access.
952 litres (rear seats folded)
The Polo has a reasonable boot for this category, made slightly more accommodating by some cubby space under the lifting false floor for bits and pieces, and all but the top-shelf sporty models with their larger alloys get a full-sized spares underfloor as well. But be warned: unlike the Golf GTI, the Polo GTI offers less boot space due to the relocation of the battery to the boot, slashing the volume to just 204 litres.
Now check our article on boot sizes of Australia's best-selling SUVs.