Despite their diminutive size, hatchbacks can (and often do) punch well above their weight class when it comes to storage capacity. Advancements in car design and smart packaging can have huge impact on just how practical small hatches are - so who's doing it best?
How is boot size measured?
Boot space is unfortunately not measured in dimensions; it’s either litres, or the cubic-foot equivalent of a litre. This does not help if you need to fit a 2.0-metre-long Ikea flatpack or a couple of chairs, 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.
This is why the Verband der Automobilindustrie (VDA) measurement is widely used, which is a measure based on the amount of standardised blocks that can fit into a car's boot. This measures the practical space rather than getting a measurement from every nook and cranny, as done in the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) scheme.
While you imagine both methods involve an epic game of block tetris, in reality car manufacturers report on this data using complex simulations.
When car-hunting, be aware of what you will be carrying, and have a tape measure handy to ensure the boot accommodates your needs.
So, sorted by class and in order of capacity, who's got the biggest booty of all?
Kia Picanto – 255 litres
The Picanto’s boot is a great size for such a small car - and even better - has a wide opening. Only down side is the loading lip being well above average knee height meaning you’ll need to lift cargo high to clear it. The 60:40-split rear seatbacks fold down to increase cargo capacity, but don’t fold flush with the boot floor.
Mitsubishi Mirage – 235 litres
The newly-updated Mirage’s boot holds 235 litres. The rear seat folds 60:40 to afford a 599 litre space, but even so, the stubby tail of the hatch doesn’t allow for big loads.
Fiat 500 – 135 litres
The Fiat 500’s rear seat folds 50:50, but even with both of them down you won’t be carrying a lot of suitcases. Storage space is what you’d expect from its minimal dimensions, and even large grocery shops will be a challenge. Best pack everything you need inside a Gucci handbag or similar.
Suzuki Baleno - 355 litres
The unassuming Suzuki hatch hides a sizable 355-litre boot, with cargo capacity stretching to 756 litres with the rear seats folded down. Pack everything up to the roof line and you'll be able to fit 1985 litres worth of stuff. That's larger than some SUVs!
Volkswagen Polo - 351 litres
Not far behind the Suzuki Baleno is the latest-generation Polo. The increased dimensions of the car also apply to the boot space, which grew to 351 litres. Folding the rear seats down increases capacity up to 1125 litres, and accommodates objects up to 1.38 metres long.
Honda Jazz - 350 litres
The Jazz’s rear cargo area is quite big, at 350 litres, and Honda’s ‘Magic Seats’ mean you can expand the total luggage area to an enormous 1492 litres. Yes, it can swallow a bicycle easily.
In addition to folding away to create a flat cargo floor, the rear seats can be flipped up to liberate tall space for luggage in the area usually occupied by rear passengers. This is genuinely smart packaging for such a small car, if you need a small car that's big on the inside, this is it.
Kia Rio – 325 litres
The Rio’s boot holds a lot of cargo for a car of this size, and more than the previous Rio offered. Fold down the 60:40 split rear seats and cargo volume increases to 980 litres loaded to the roof.
Toyota Yaris – 281 litres
The all-new Yaris’ boot capacity is five-litres less than the outgoing model's but still more than the Toyota Corolla. The rear seats fold in a 60:40 split to carry bigger loads.
Mazda 2 – 250 litres
Mazdas typically aren't the most capacious options out there. The 60:40 rear backrests of the Mazda 2 fold down to carry more, but they don’t fold flat. Additionally, the high boot lip and aperture isn't the most load-friendly. If you like the Mazda 2 but want to carry more, the sedan version holds a decent 440 litres.
Suzuki Swift – 240 litres
The boot on the Swift is bigger than on the car it replaced but is still on the small size for a light hatchback. The rear seats on the Swift fold 60:40, which adds flexibility for carrying long objects, but they do not fold flat with the boot floor.
Kia Cerato – 428 litres
With the 60/40 split-fold rear seats folded down, the Cerato hatchback can hold up to 741 litres, with the space long enough to take a bicycle. Even with the back seats up, 428 litres is remarkably spacious.
Hyundai i30 – 395 litres
The i30's boot is a generous 395 litres. The rear seats can be folded 60:40, and you can adjust the height of the boot floor with a false floor pull-out. At its lower setting, capacity is maximised but there is a large step up to the rear of folded seatbacks. Raising the floor gives you a flatter extended-load space.
VW Golf 7.5 – 380 litres
The Golf’s boot space rises to 1270-litres if you fold down the 60:40 rear split seats. There are hooks in the boot for tying down your load. The boot floor height can be adjusted, with the taller setting eases unloading, while the lower lets you get more stuff in. The Golf is one of the few small cars with a wagon version, which has a 605 litre boot that expands to 1620 litres with the seats down.
Mazda 3 – 295 litres
The boot in the new Mazda 3 hatch is a relatively small 295 litres, which is below average for a hatch and 13 litres smaller than the previous model. It’s helped by 60/40 split-folding seats and a broad tailgate opening.
Toyota Corolla – 217 litres
Opening the Corolla's lightweight plastic hatch reveals a tiny boot measuring just 217 litres in all but the ZR Hybrid top-spec. That’s 69 litres less boot space than the smaller Toyota Yaris! The ZR Hybrid’s boot holds 333 litres because it is equipped with a puncture repair kit that does away with the bulky spare wheel under the floor.
Other popular models
- Ford Focus – 273 litres
- Honda Civic – 414 litres
- Subaru Impreza – 345 litres