The longer you live, the more baggage you seem to collect – and we aren’t just talking in metaphors. A tiny city car that could have carried four teenage friends and all your holiday gear wouldn’t fit the food for your dog or kids nowadays.
Enter the SUV as the all-rounder that can; more practical in many ways than hatchbacks, without the oversized dimensions or often unwanted off-road skills of 4WDs. SUVs strike this balance well with Aussie car buyers, and the SUV market is only a few thousand sales a month below the entire passenger car market these days.
Buyers will often upgrade to soft-roaders to fit more people and stuff into their vehicles, but some SUVs have smaller boots than hatchbacks, and a third row can eliminate the boot altogether. It all depends on what you need the SUV for; and if it’s boot space, we can help you narrow it down. We’ve taken the five best sellers in the small, mid and large segments and compared their backsides to see which has the biggest booty.
Boot space unfortunately is not measured in dimensions; it’s either litres, or the cubic-foot measurement equivalent of a litre (VDA). This does not help if you need to fit an Ikea flatpack or a couple of chairs in the boot, and also does not 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 will be carrying, and have a tape measure handy to ensure you will have the space you need.
THE COMPACT SUV
Seats up – 437L
Seats down – 1032L
The Honda HR-V was one of the original SUVs, and its old boxy shape had a big square boot for stacking your stuff. The new, slicker and much curvier HR-V manages to keep that practical back end without the boxiness, boasting 437L; one of the largest in this class.
Seats up – 430L
Seats down – 1585L
The Qashqai (formerly Dualis) shares the larger Nissan X-Trail’s practical rear end, complete with a storage compartment under the floor for bits and bobs to bring storage to near class-leading size. The exterior design is deceptive for the boot is quite cavernous, and the tailgate opens higher than the old model too, making it even easier to use.
Seats up – 393L
Seats down – 1193L man/1143L auto
The new ASX has a sleeker look, but hides a big, boxy boot with a large opening for access. The boot does have some awkward bulges near the wheel arches that eats into the physical boot space ever so slightly; if you need a certain width in the cargo area, take a tape measure with you to the showroom.
Seats up – 310L
Seats down –1200L (estimate)
The XV has a surprisingly small boot on paper; though the floor hides a full-size spare instead of a can of goo, and its low floor makes it easy to load and unload. Perhaps the short step up to a Forester was reason enough to keep the XV as compact as possible, and those wanting more space can make the upgrade. But to put things in perspective, there is an extra 30L in the Impreza hatchback’s boot. If you are buying or upgrading to a SUV to have more carrying space, this may not suit your needs.
Seats up – 264L
Seats down - 1174L
The biggest seller by some margin in the current compact SUV market does not lead the charge in storage space. An excellent car with a dynamic drivetrain and easy affordability and servicing, its boot space has come off second-best to the second row of seats. It may be roomy for the human occupants, but its cargo volume is comparable to a lite hatch at 264 litres. The seats do split-fold to open the area up to almost 1200L, but if you need to carry two kids or a dog with a weekend’s luggage, you may be investing in roof racks.
THE MEDIUM SUV
Seats up – 577L (506L - with full-size spare)
Seats down – 1666L
Toyota has always been big on the storage solutions, and the RAV4 is no exception. Despite the newer generation moving from a swing-out tailgate with spare wheel on the back to the more conventional swing-up tailgate hiding the (optional cost) full spare in the boot floor, the cargo area is still near class-leading at 577L, or 506L with the spare tyre. It also gets a cargo net and blind as standard.
Seats up – 550L (135L - three rows)
Seats down – 1982L
The X-Trail has been popular for its pure practicality, and the back end does not disappoint. While it has a narrow 135L of storage behind the third row of seats – to be expected in the medium class – there is capacious and stackable storage at 550L with just the five seats. Fold all flat, and the space is close to 2000L. Storage drawers under the floor are particularly handy for messy or fiddly gear, and a sweet ‘Divide ’n’ Hide’ stackable storage system for the five-seaters lets you partition the boot for multiple items.
Seats up – 488L
Seats down – 1478L
The new ix35 replacement has expanded Hyundai’s mid-sized entry in many ways, and is a far cry from the old mid-2000s, barely mid-sized SUV that used to wear the badge. While cargo storage is 89L less than the RAV4, it is 87L more than the ix35, and also manages to fit a full spare under the floor.
Seats up – 422L
Seats down – 1481L
The Forester has oft been credited with starting the whole SUV craze, and its all-round capabilities extend to its rear with a boxy 422L of space. Ironically, the Impreza sedan has almost the same capacity, so Forester buyers need to be sure of their carrying dimensions before buying.
Seats up – 403L
Seats down – 1560L
Another segment that Mazda leads is the Medium SUV market with the CX-5, but again, it does not lead in cargo space. Passengers have taken priority to luggage, and while the full cargo volume rivals the leaders in this class, in five-seater mode the boot is narrow, and barely bigger than a VW Golf. It does have a tri-fold second row, though, so families with two car seats can still stow all the skis.
THE LARGE SUV
Toyota LandCruiser Prado
Seats up – 480L (120L - three rows)
Seats down – 1833L
The best seller with the biggest boot to boot. The Prado has all the hallmark advantages of a Toyota 4x4 – ability, reliability, affordable runningcosts, storage absolutely everywhere – without the enormous exterior dimensions (or price tag) of the full-blown LandCruiser Series.
Seats up – 529L (195L - three rows)
Seats down – 1872L
The latest Kluger has even more room than before thanks to a more compact rear suspension, boasting 529L even with a third row of seats and a full-sized spare under the floor. With the third row in place, the boot still packs a respectable 195L, so the school bags can be stacked and stowed.
Hyundai Santa Fe
Seats up – 516L
Seats down – 1615L
The Korean carmaker’s large SUV entry doesn’t have much of a boot with all three rows upright – perhaps the proverbial set of golf clubs would squeeze in – but as a five-seat SUV its cargo area is roomy and easy to access. Watch the sloping hatch glass on bulkier items, though.
Seats up – 512L
Seats down – 1801L
More a crossover than an SUV, the Outback offers the best of both worlds with a wagon boot and the high ride height and approach/departure angles of SUVs. The latest update saw it increase in length and width to offer even more second-row and boot space – though you would need to check the interior height of the boot if bulky items are to be carried.
Holden Captiva 7
Seats up – 465L (85L - three rows)
Seats down – 1565L
Super-affordable for the larger family and for those not quite ready for a van, the Captiva 7 offers flexible seating and a decent boot – when in five-seat mode. The boot is half the size of a super-mini with all seven seats in play, so unless the third row is for occasional use, you will practically need a trailer on the back to transport the kids and all of their paraphernalia.