By on November 29, 2011

Yesterday's butcher is today's forensic anthropologist..


Can your car move a corpse?

Well, if you lived in my home state of New Jersey in the 1970’s, most any car of that time could accommodate this minor inconvenience. Imapalas, Aspens, Volares, even so-called sporty subcompacts like the Ford Pinto Cruising Wagon could handle that load.

Need to bury a starting basketball team that crossed the wrong bookie? Or a Little League team that needs to be put on Icees? Pull out the family’s Lincoln or Caddy and hack at it.  Even a Chevy would do. You could have even towed about 2000 to 5000 pounds of authentic Teamster’s cement just to smooth it all out.

But nowadays? Trunk space? Fuhgeddaboudit!!!

This is what passes for storage space these days. Enough rear storage for a family weekend vacation. But definitely not enough for a ‘National Lampoon” road trip.  Sure you can fold those seats down. Add a luggage cage. A roof rack. Maybe even a handy dandy shelf adjuster like the prior-gen Chevy Malibu Maxx.

But how about the bodies? How can you transport four live bodies (for now) and their worldly possessions in one of these things?

We are at a day of reckoning when it comes to trunk space. Even for big vehicles, the space is quickly getting smaller. You open up the rear of today’s metrosexual SUV/CUV and you’ll find… seats. Usually two or three ‘mini-minivan’ seats that are less comfortable than the rear facing seats of times past. Well, those were quite terrible as well. But the big point is that the once glorious rears of a generation ago have been given a CAFE treatment.

The need for rear seat room while getting a misleading measurement of MPG’s… has greatly reduced the need for trunk space. The increasing use of hybrid batteries in mainstream models… has reduced it. More importantly, the rise in empty nesters and single parent households have reduced the genuine need for rear end storage.

Is this a good thing? Since folks often use backpacks and garbage bags for their travels these days instead of intensely rigid combo-and-locked Samsonites, will our automotive rears continue to be nipped, tucked, and lipoed?

What says you?



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109 Comments on “Hammer Time: Our Disappearing Rear Ends...”

  • avatar

    When I was car shopping this spring, I looked at the Altima coupe. WTF?!?!? was all I could think when I opened the trunk. The current Accord coupe has a surprisingly large trunk, even for a 2-door, and that was one of the factors that led me to buy it.

    • 0 avatar

      You think the Altima is bad? Check out it’s Infiniti doppelganger, the G37 coupe. Talk about a small trunk.

      • 0 avatar

        You should see the tiny trunk my 09 Altima hybrid has. It’s a couple of feet deep, nax. And the pass thru is blocked off. I can’t imagine the coupe being worse…

    • 0 avatar

      It’s not just you, I loathe trying to ram anything into the trunk of my girlfriend’s 09 Altima coupe. The fact that the opening is about the size of a mail slot is just insulting.

      I long ago reached the conclusion that 2-door cars should be required to be hatchbacks to make them less-than-useless, but nobody listens to me.

      • 0 avatar


        I noticed the same thing about the Altima Coupe and the Infiniti G35/37. Also add the Genesis Coupe to the list of vehicles with this problem. All have small trunks combined with a mail slot like opening, thus the limited space you do get is impossible to access.

        These reasons are why the wife got a Volvo C30 and I got a 350Z: hatchback = decent space that is easy to load.

    • 0 avatar

      The trunks of our ’04 TSX and ’07 Civic are both bigger, more usefully shaped, and have larger openings than the two generations of BMW 3 series they replaced. The old BMWs had rear differentials and full sized spare tires and still had pretty good trunk space though. One of them even had split folding seats. Apparently the guy that knew packaging left before the E90 was defecated out, as it has no spare and no gain in utility. I’m also concerned about Honda, seeing as the new TL SH-AWD has a ridiculously over-contoured and compromised looking trunk for an intermediate sized sedan.

    • 0 avatar

      The Altima coupe’s rear seat is also a cruel joke. If you’re taller than 5’5″ or so, you don’t fit.

  • avatar

    What an incredible irony that in our modern times we treasure our possessions so much we must travel with them, yet not so much that we are above using garbage bags as luggage.

    • 0 avatar
      Chicago Dude

      “yet not so much that we are above using garbage bags as luggage.”

      I saw it once a few years ago while sitting on a plane at CDG. The plane that pulled up to the gate next to us was the national carrier for a large African nation (and that is as specific as I am willing to get). 95% of what came out of the cargo hold was garbage bags duct-taped shut.

      Haven’t seen it since. Is this an actual observed trend?

      • 0 avatar

        Unfortunately, yes. The same customers of Greyhound who can’t afford Amtrak also can’t afford to leave their clothes behind. When I was a student, at least I had a worn old backpack, but as I often tell myself nowadays–“could be worse.”

      • 0 avatar

        the traveling luggage of choice for travelers (often migrant contract workers) from developing countries is the red, white and blue striped fiber (probabaly a synthetic fiber) bag. It’s very cheap to purchase (a few US dollars or equivalent) yet incredibly strong and durable. I call it the “Third World Louis Vuitton”. Only problem is that it exposes the owner to possible harrassment and disdain from customs and immigration officials.

  • avatar
    M.S. Smith

    I have to agree that modern trunks are awful small. My job sometimes requires that I lug around sizable packages, and they won’t fit in modern sedans. Not only because of small size, but also because so many modern sedans have very small trunk openings.

    Currently I stuff these packages in my rear seat. It works because my Ford Focus ST ’06 has gobs of headroom so I can stick packages in vertically and they fit. But that wouldn’t work with most other new sedans. The new sonata, for example, is pretty. But it also has a lot less vertical space in the rear than my car.

    It’d be nice if trunks were more useful, but I guess that’s what a hatchback or wagon is for. Shame that so few are available.

    • 0 avatar

      Tell me about it. We just got a CPO CTS Wagon. Apparently they are few and far between. My preferred dealer said that he couldn’t find one within 500 miles. Pricing is the reason. Looking at Cadillac, a CTS wagon is about $7500 more than a similarly-equipped SRX. Our car is a former GM exec program car.

      Wagons are awesome. The only negative is that the hypothetical bodies would be in plain view.

  • avatar

    I like a car that can swallow a couple 120L storage totes, and some luggage piled on top of that, and the emergency stuff, and a full size spare, and the kitchen sink.

    But I still like to take my vacations by car and put everything out of sight in lockable storage.

    I would never deign to tote things around on the back seat if I didn’t have to.

  • avatar

    I don’t think it helps that many CUVs and hatches have adopted very swoopy styling. No more boxy rear ends for the sake of being “sexy”.

    One sedan with a hug trunk is the Taurus.

  • avatar

    I used to have a ‘spec’ that my car should be able to hold a set of its own wheels/tires in the trunk. My former 90 Legend Coupe and current 01 CL-S can do this. But today, my ‘next car spec’ has changed to the ability for two people (myself + SO) to pick up two other people (parents?) and their luggage from the airport. So no Fiesta, Mazda2, Toyota 86, nor Leaf for us…. But it seems the Prius has plenty of space for normal activities!

    • 0 avatar

      I dunno, the Leaf would probably do it. Unless your parents pack the whole house when they come to visit, anyway. They’re basically a Versa hatchback with a slightly different body for aerodynamics’ sake.

  • avatar

    Transporting bodies doesn’t seem to be a problem in Brazil, where a drug lord was smuggled in Corolla trunk!

    Regardless of CAFE, using a “boat hauler” as a daily driver will really hit the gas budget, and people will shift their purchases toward the 99% usage. Time to invest in berths at the marina or a fleet of Home Depot delivery trucks?

  • avatar

    My shiny new 2011 300C has less trunk space then the smaller 2002 Diamante it replaced.

    Which itself had more trunk space then the ’96 Thunderbird it replaced.

    I exp[ect that by 2042 my Ford ThunderCougarFalconBird will get xtysix miles per gallon, have voice activated urinal support, be powered by a hybrid Thorium drive, and the trunk will be large enough for 2 Whoppers w/ Cheese (until the 2043 redesign, anyway).

  • avatar

    wagon + foldable back seat..

    I fit a dresser in the back of my 05 Matrix even though the store clerk insist there is no way it would fit. Same for a big screen TV the sales guy try to sell me home delivery on. And lugged a futon home, not a futon mattress but a futon.

    I hear the new Matrix rear opening really kills this but hopefully my 05 will last me at least another 5 years to see what they come up with in another generation or 2.

  • avatar

    Strange how despite the huge rear-ends on modern cars that their trunks wouldn’t be very good.

    My old ’84 Mustang wasn’t roomy in the back but it could certainly carry more luggage than the much bigger new Camaro, helps that the Stang had a decent trunk opening.

  • avatar


    My ma’s compact 2011 Hyundai Elantra sedan can hold more in its trunk with both rear seats up than her midsize 2002 Saturn LW300 wagon could ever hold in its hatch when filled floor to ceiling.

    It’s actually quite mind-boggling how much room there is in that Elantra boot.

  • avatar

    “even so-called sporty British vehicles like the Rover P76 could handle that load”

    Steve – there was no Rover P76. I think you are referring to the Rover P6 (although you’d struggle to get a body in there if affected by rigor mortis). The P76 was an Australian (British Leyland) car that was famous for being much unloved (although it now has quite an enthusiast following).

  • avatar

    I came from an ’06 Mazda3 hatch (Sport here in Canada) had an enormous amount of space. I fit an unhealthy amount of ikea furniture in there.

    The 2010 refresh made that space smaller by a significant margin, then swooped the rear door openings as well, causing significantly less usable space than one might expect for large, square boxes and the like.

    My 2011 RX8, on the other hand? surprising vast trunk space for that class of car, but – gods – the trunk opening! It’s minuscule! you’d be hard pressed to get a 2’x2’x1′ box through the opening, despite the fact that you could *store* quite a few of them in the trunk itself.

  • avatar

    My biggest surprise came when I compared the size of interior and luggage compartment of my 05 Outback and of the 05 Grand Cherokee. They were pretty much the same in height and length and the GC was a tad wider. Rear seats were comparable too. Actually Sube’s more comfortable.
    All that coming with half-ton of weight penalty, extra size and inferior economy. OK, the Jeep is capable of not falling apart on rough roads but still its space utilization is way below par.

  • avatar

    For many years (1974-91) I drove a ’66 Pontiac Bonneville convertible. All recent car trunks seem small to me as a result. The Bonnie’s trunk was visibly more capacious than that of the ’68 Grand Prix seen in Goodfellas, which itself was quite adequate for Billy Batts. (Both our current cars are Subarus with proper, non-swoopy tailgates.)

  • avatar

    It all depends on the car. Front drive family sedans have more trunk space than you think. I was stunned at the amount of space in the trunk of my father’s Camry when I borrowed it for a road trip. Tall and deep with a large opening and concealed hinges. Even smaller sedans aren’t bad…I’ve worked miracles with the trunk of my old Civic and it totes golf clubs way better than my Mustang could.

    Modern hatches and CUVs are where you run into trouble. The cargo area relative to a sedan is often smaller with the seats up and cargo cover in place, due to shorter rear overhangs, higher floors and more carpet/plastic/insulation. That’s fine if you have a bulky item to haul around with the seats down and no passengers, but its a different story when a family of four wants to go on vacation for a week.

    Also, I’m not so sure the trunks of yore, constricted by rear drive, live axles, full-size spare tires, poorly-placed gas tanks and low deck lids, were really as big as Steve remembers.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes they were, you could sleep in those trunks front to back,not side to side.

      TONS of space

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, many older cars, especially the full sized ones prior to the downsized models of the late 70’s, trunks in many of these cars, be it sedan, hardtop, coupe were HUGE, long and reasonably wide, yes but not always overly deep and had huge deck lids to aid in loading them.

      My ’68 Chrysler Newport I had in High School was just that and literally, the truck lid when up was almost totally vertical and didn’t have hidden hinges and the spare took up part of the back portion by the rear seat, the jack was in the fender well if I recall.

      There was enough room and it was deep enough that a 6Ft person could fit stretched out from corner to corner easily with some room leftover.

      Still in all, large, bulky boxes like those for larger sized TV’s and the like would not fit in many of these large older sedans/coups without having to tie the trunk lid down so a wagon etc was MUCH preferable even then for hauling bulky items.

  • avatar

    Ah, cargo space; it’s one of the reasons I am looking at a new Escape at this very moment. I travel a fair amount, and am always having to haul something with me. My current cars, a Mercury Mystique and a Buick LeSabre, both 1995 models, have surprisingly large and useful trunks. Problem is they are both getting older and I want to replace at least one of them. Every sedan I have looked at with the exception of the Fusion has the tiniest of openings. This past month I have been traveling with my mom and we have been using her ’05 Mercury Sable. The car has a large trunk, but I can barely get my suitcase into it because of the opening!

    So I can’t wait to get the new car…

    • 0 avatar

      I’m considering an Escape for the same reason: I looked at a new Focus hatch and was amazed at how small the cargo area is. I hope it has some semblance of decent handling!

  • avatar

    My Miata’s trunk space is terrible! The length and width are fine, but it’s really shallow, too shallow for some carry-on luggage!

    But there’s a glow-in-the-dark trunk opener in case you get stuck in there.

  • avatar

    People that would have needed a giant trunk 30 years ago would now buy a minivan.

  • avatar

    Not all recent cars are affected by this malady. My ’07 500 has a huge trunk. I can fit 3 bales of straw with room to spare. Same basic car still available as the Taurus. Ford Fusion also has excellent trunk space, hybrid excepted. The problem with the older RWD cars is that their trunk floors were irregularly shaped and often very shallow. Of course, the rear decks were low enough so that you could see out the rear window.

  • avatar

    I needa my space.

    Space, space, there isn’t enough space.

    That is why my summer time ride is a G8 GT with it’s mafia grade trunk and my weather beater hauling duty vehicle is a GM crap grade U-body van; because used GM U-Body crap grade vans can be bought dirt mutha f”” cheap.

    Both offer plenty of a space.

    Most shocking boot I ever had was in the ’89 Ford Probe. Hatch opening was enormous, although you did have a high lift over lip. What that trunk could swallow if you went to the glass, safety hazards or visibility be damned, was simply amazing.

    • 0 avatar
      Athos Nobile

      If you think the G8 got a mafia grade trunk size, wait until you see the Caprice PPV one.

      • 0 avatar

        This 33 year olds personal preference is the Caprice, it is the only true full size rwd car left, that isn’t a premium class luxury model ie Mercedes-Benz S-class. For 1 reason “overall length” granted I would prefer it was Crown Victoria length these days of government designing cars I’ll take what I can get. I wish the Caprice could be redesigned, built in the north America and returned to its rightful place as the flagship of Chevrolet! Before the 90’s models styling sank the names status to “only a cop car” a reference car mags have labeled it ever since. The 80’s model was a American icon still popular today.
        It’s just my opinion but length makes a full size car and a usable trunk. Bring back 116 cubic feet interior volume. Cars can be made a lot lighter with new materials and manufacturing. Small turbo engines could even move the base models to keep the regulators happy. If you can build a Yukon XL then you can build at least 1 long sedan and maybe a coupe with a back seat I can sit in.

  • avatar

    Ironically, given the “three bodies” line in Analyze That, the trunk of the Audi A8 is surprisingly small – smaller in fact than my ’97 A4’s back box. The battery, sound system, and power rear seats eat it down to a rather small space.

    The A7 – despite the big hatch there’s hardly a trunk at all.. at least you can move a large flat item with the seats down…

    The comment above about minivans is right – people who want space buy minivans or SUVs…

  • avatar

    The reason I love older hatchback coupes.(Ford Sierra FTW) And also part of the reason I bought a 2nd gen Honda CR-V. No extra seats and spare on the rear hatch means a deep square and low loading bay. Although not very long or wide tbh.

  • avatar

    The downsize dilemma. The mid size sedan is to small to have a good sized trunk and to big to really save on gas bills. Most people only need cargo space now and then so a small hatch back would suit most peoples needs, most of the time and give meaningful savings at the gas pump. This is why this type of car is popular in countries with high gas prices.
    Now… If you are going to drive such a small car, at least it should look nice and have some nice features to make up for the loss of space.

  • avatar

    There are actually some nice, light weight trailers on the market that even a Honda Civic can tow. Personally I’m looking at an off-road box trailer for my Jeep for more camping gear space. Even for going to Lowes, etc., a box trailer sounds better all the time. My boss was just telling me that he bought a kids Jeep at Walmart recently and had to take it out of the box in the parking lot to get it into his Accord.

  • avatar

    Why didn’t “liftback sedans” like the 2003-2008 Mazda 6 hatchback catch on? Those seemed to offer good cargo space while still looking like a sedan.

    • 0 avatar

      Or the Saab 9000 – probably THE most space-efficient car ever sold in the US. Astounding amount of people and cargo room in a not very large car. Went all over Southern Finland in a ’96 9000 Aero this past summer with three other guys and a TON of luggage, plus a bunch of parts to be sold at a swap meet!

      You could fit a whole bunch of bodies in the back of my ’93 Volvo 965, but with the huge windows they would be on display. If you used a wood chipper you could probably fit four in the back of my ’11 328i Touring. :-)

      • 0 avatar

        That SAAB was the Swiss Army Knife of cars. Fast and quiet on the highway, capable on maintained forrest roads, and when you got to camp, you could sleep comfortably inside. If mine had shown any kind of reliability, I’d still own it. I always said it was the car you wanted if you needed to steal a refrigerator and run away from the cops…

    • 0 avatar

      Because people don’t think about that at the dealership when they buy cars. Until they need to use it to do something then they think about it.

      • 0 avatar

        That is depressing. When I bought my first new car as a seventeen year old, I considered cargo volume and flexibility. I may have been influenced by witnessing my parents buying and using cars. I know they never bought a car without checking out the trunk either. It would be nice if dolts were the ones who were statistically insignificant and cars were designed to appeal to people who think.

    • 0 avatar

      I had a Malibu Maxx for several years, there was little we couldn’t fit in the car. Additionally, since it was a Epsilon body, we had no problems fitting into parking spaces or our garage.

      Sometimes I wish I hadn’t let that one go. But for big loads, I either get them delivered, or rent a truck.

  • avatar

    Yet another problem that is easily solved by buying a Panther. Just saying.

    • 0 avatar

      It was pretty pathetic that Ford never mastered the mysteries of the spare tire well. If only one real body on frame American car could survive, why did it have to be that one?

      • 0 avatar

        “If only one real body on frame American car could survive, why did it have to be that one?”

        I agree – it shoulda been a Chevy!

      • 0 avatar

        I can’t say if this applies to all later Panthers, but I rented an ’11 Town Car a couple months ago, and it had the spare tire moved from over the rear axle, to upright in the right rear quarter panel. It didn’t cut into cargo space much, and it still left the substantial well that I’m sure was a selling point to livery drivers.

      • 0 avatar

        Zackman: I agree – it shoulda been a Chevy!

        Heh, I’m sympathetic to that view, however as Maymar points out, the Panthers have that deep well trunk that allows for tall loads.

        The GM B-Bodies opted for a larger gas tank, and that old-timey gas filler behind the licence plate (which I’m rather fond of), but which compromises trunk *depth*.

        So, compromises, and all that.

    • 0 avatar

      Ï just have to quote Frank Ocean’s ‘Swim good’, recommended song for any Panther lover :)
      ‘that’s a pretty big trunk
      on my lincoln town car ain’t it
      big enough to take these broken hearts
      and put em in it..’

  • avatar

    When I was shopping for a new car to replace my 01 volvo wagon this summer, I took a 100 QT coleman cooler with me that I use for work to check out truck/ hatch space, you should have seen the looks that I got but I needed the space, ended up with a Jetta sports wagon and the cooler fits no problem, it also fits in the back seat of a Saab 9 3 Vert but that was just to mess with the sales guy head.

  • avatar

    regarding the saab the top needs to be down to get the cooler in and out but It did fit. FWIW

  • avatar

    I have never been a huge sedan/coupe kind of guy as I tend to use my cars for a variety of purposes like IKEA runs, estate sales etc and have, on occasion, hauled furniture and other bulky items when called upon.

    I grew up around sedans and having seen my parents try to occasionally haul stuff in them meant using the back seat, the trunk and tying the deck lid down to both keep the item IN the trunk and to keep the trunk lid from bouncing around. A case in point, when they bought a large TV (27″), in the box and had it perched in the trunk and had to tie it all in to keep it from falling out.

    When they had their 76 Honda Accord hatchback, they bought a 19″ TV new, in the box and had it IN the back, seat down, lid closed and still managed to stuff for kids in around it when they came to pick myself and 3 friends up from a movie to bring home and this WAS in 1977.

    I later saw more evidence of just how useless sedans are when you spontaneously go to a furniture store closing and buy, say a chair and expect to have it fit in your sedan, um, no. I know as I worked one when it was closing as sales help and part of my job duties was taking said purchase out to the customer’s car and packing it in and often had to resort to ingenuity to get it done with most sedans/coupes but a then new Ford Explorer and a love seat? No problem! fold the rear seat down, slide the love seat in, close the hatch, done.

    So that’s why I prefer hatchbacks or small wagons as they hold so much for their size, thanks to their often being FWD.

    But sadly, even in the late 1980’s, some cars rear windows began to get deep, encroaching on the deck lid space as I noted in my 88 Honda Accord and that made trunks even more unusable and it’s only gotten worse since.

    Hence, my next car will be a small hatchback most definitely.

    • 0 avatar

      I like the story about working at the furniture store. A blast from the past, the days of customer service are almost gone. I had a college side job working at Sears on the loading dock. I remember several instances of people arriving in bizarre vehicles to pick something up and trying my best to make it happen. One of my better accomplishments was at Christmas involving a Camaro and a bicycle.

      • 0 avatar

        Indeed and at the time I placed that loveseat in the Explorer, I was impressed enough to think if I were to buy an SUV like it, the Explorer would be it. I was actually impressed with Ford’s design on that vehicle, based on that experience alone.

  • avatar

    My first Car – a late 80’s Jetta had an obscenely large trunk – must have been 20 cubic feet, perfectly square and flat, with a huge opening. I don’t know why a compact car of yesteryear would have a larger trunk than a “full size” car of today.

    • 0 avatar

      I remarked the same about my ’92 2 door. Unbelievable trunk for a car of its size. In the summer I always kept my mountain bike – wheels removed but also in the trunk – a tent, a couple of sleeping bags, emergency roadside kit, and luggage in there with room to spare. The back seat was more than adequate for 2 adults as well, and the trunk pass-through with ski bag was perfect for hauling a couple of pairs of skis.

      They didn’t skimp on the fuel tank size, either – 14.5 gallons got you a long ways with the 1.8L gas engine, to say nothing about the diesel.

      Maybe the torsion beam suspension allowed this kind of room? Just as well; a bit of three-wheeling around tight corners never bothered me any, though it did seem to concern my dad a bit when he saw me do it ;)

    • 0 avatar

      Probably because of how the Jetta was designed – essentially tacking a trunk on a Golf (which had pretty decent cargo space on its own).

  • avatar

    This is yet another reason why I will probably never own anything without a tri-shield or rocket on the grille…

  • avatar

    I know today’s ponycars have small trunks, but what appalled me regarding the new Camaro’s backside was not the trunk itself, but the opening to said trunk. A long lid for a small opening?! Really?! Forget about dropping even one little leaguer in there cleanly and quickly. Pfft!

  • avatar
    Rental Man

    When I was still running a rental branch every day I had to find something to ride home in. Seems great at first, then you hate it. I found out the hard way that the baby carriage does not fold small enough to fit in a 07 Saturn Aura mail slot. Ditto the next COTY 08 Chevy Malibu. I also noticed that moving a full cargo area from a Ford Edge or Nissan Murano into a VW Jetta sedan, Ford Fusion and any Mazda 6 left more room for more stuff.
    Customers who asked for the largest sedan had to decide between rear leg room with smaller trunk = Camry/Accord/Altima to endless cargo space with tiny rear seat = Chevy Impala. People on a long trip preffer their stuff in an enclosed trunk. Not under a cover like in a SUV that was rarely ever in a rental car.

    Like others posting I miss the last gen Mazda 6 with the 5 door hatch. Looked sporty and hugh opening. I envy the European market that still has it and the wagon. I got the new Mazda 6 with good Trunk and back seat space save headroom. I don’t sit there and no one bumps knees in my seat. Win-Win.

    • 0 avatar

      A current large sedan with a relatively small trunk is the Toyota Avalon. Great back seat space, but the trunk isn’t any bigger than a Camry (and may even be a bit smaller). Moreover, the Avalon’s rear seat doesn’t fold down (they have an adjustible recline), unlike the Camry (except the XLE and SE models).

      Not having split folding rear seats is a deal breaker for me.

  • avatar

    Only had 1 car with a real truck Ford contour SE I always thought it had reasonable room myself. Someone mentioned jeep cargo space the worst has to be the Commander I took a business trip a few years ago with a coworker who had a fully loaded to the gills Commander very comfy up front but our two suit cases for a 4 day trip filled the trunk. Packaging has a lot to do with it my wifes Durango only has slightly more room then my Outback. One car that amazes me is the rav4 open the back of a rav and CRV and you wonder how the hell Toyota found all that space in such a small suv.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Best space utilization for the footprint of the cars I’ve owned was a 1997 Ford Escort wagon. 27in CRT RCA TV brought home in the box without laying the back seat down. With the back seat laid down I brought home a small dining room table (still in the box) and a matching baker’s rack with the hatch closed. Great car for how tiny it was.

    Trunks? Well if you really want to be depressed, go to and compare an Impala to a Lucerne to a DTS to a Lacrosse. Cheapest car has biggest trunk. I’ve had the trunk open on a current Malibu and while the cubic feet was decent but the opening was sadly sized.

  • avatar

    The trunk on our HATED 67 Rover P 6 (2000) was minuscule. Like many cars today the spare & jack were buried in the bottom. Once carefully plan-packed with trailer hitch attached, much cursing for a road trip flat. I can recall a later 72 Renault 16 getting round this (though I’m sure there were others,) with the spare tucked in the engine compartment – nice place for fires.. .

    As for Altima coupe & disappearing rear ends Nissan has a recent about face – the new Versa. Though I’ve yet to see one… I guess the 60/40 represents the ingenious answer. Lets face it big backsides never were in fashion…

  • avatar

    It’s amazing what you can fit in a lift/hatchback.

    I got a new 46″ LCD TV in it’s box into a 4th gen Camaro, another time I stuffed queen size bed from IKEA into it (in pieces, boxed).

    Both times the steering wheel was inches from my chest and the front passenger seat was useless but all the doors (and the hatch!) closed.

    Try doing that in a 5th gen.

    I never tried stuffing myself or any dead bodies into the little area where the t-tops got stowed. Clarkson did call it a murderers car though. It would probably fit 6 dead bodies with the seats down if you didn’t care about the smell, maybe more.

  • avatar

    not so M roadster has a bigger trunk than ……..
    and it had a spare!

  • avatar

    Heh. I’ve been rating potential car buys with a “hitman scale” for years. I thought I was the only one.

    For a few years my grandmother had a 64 Electra 225 Coupe. I swear I think you could have fit more people into the trunk of that thing than into the cabin.

  • avatar

    Tall wagons seem to do the job best for their size. Scion xB’s, Kia Souls, and well…they sorta axed the rest of them, I guess the Toyota Matrix? But I stand by the 2nd gen xB for sheer capacity, it isn’t terribly deep, about 2 feet by about 4 feet, but it’s such a flat square loading bay that it works out rather well. Modern sedans are designed to have less room because ideally the car manufacturers would rather sell you the CUV equivalent for another 5-10K on top of the sedan price.

  • avatar

    The last car I bought was a 2000 Mazda Millenia (Millenium Edition!) which not only was a very comfy ride with all the toys but had a massive trunk. I regularly put my racing bike (wheels off) into it, along with a ton of luggage. It was a good-looking car but never got any love from the market. Although my heart pines for a new Mustang, I know the bike will be a bit of a squeeze. I can’t understand the hate for hatchbacks in North America. My 1980 Fox-body Capri (Mustang) was a hatch and it was terrific for hauling stuff, although the slope of the hatch limited it a bit.

  • avatar

    Trunk space is one of the reasons I liked the GM H-body sedans. Big trunks plus 3800 power. Same for Buick Lucerne and Cad DTS. HUGE trunks. Plus, large trunk opening with low liftover height.

  • avatar

    Best car I ever had for trunk space was a Merkur Scorpio five door hatchback with fold down rear seats. Almost as good as an old BOF full size station wagon.

    But you people need to get imaginative. A couple of months ago, I took a new toilet home in a Cayman – frunk for the base and the passenger’s seat for the rest. 14 cu ft total front and back trunks which sadly isn’t that much worse than a lot of real cars. Although I personally don’t know why anyone would bother, you can also fit two golf bags in the rear trunk.

  • avatar

    Some of the small trunk openings these days (especially on coupes and pony cars) are probably due to the need of more “meat” to protect the gas tank in the event of a rear-end collision.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve been wondering about that. The lack of storage SPACE makes a certain amount of sense, but I’m unable to figure out any rational justification for the mail-slot openings, which don’t seem to make much sense. I thought maybe it was some obscure styling trend.

      My 2009 Accord Coupe does (as the first commenter noted) have a good amount of cargo space… but UTILIZING that space can be a major hassle.

      I once bought a printer at Best Buy – not an especially large one or anything, though the box was certainly “generously proportioned.” Not an absurd item to expect to fit in a trunk, though. Couldn’t fit it through the opening, had to (just barely) ram it through the passenger side door with the front seat all the way up.

  • avatar

    I would counter and say that today’s trunks are bigger than ever relative to the overall size of the car. Last month I rented a Chevy Cruze for wifey to attend a distant craft show. The trunk was amazingly large. I was planning to pack the interior and trunk. We only needed to pack the trunk. (I rented this for her while wrenching on the 84 Audi 5000, of course!)

    Unfortunately I believe this design trend to have “x” number of golf bags and a large crumble zone really impacts styling, aerodynamics, and visibility very negatively. I am probably a dinosaur in that I would buy styling over practicality. I had enough of mini-vans when the kids were growing up. I like to admire the lines on a car.

    When I drive my old 73 Pinto and pull along side a modern car like a Challenger or Taurus, my roofline is lower than their trunk.

    It’s a shame that wagons don’t take off. Wagons seems to be the best solution to interior space, overall size, fuel economy, and styling. I think the failure of the wagon segment can be tied to the lack of styling of low end wagons over the past 20 years.

    Here is my wagon. (Avant!)[email protected]/4721650016/in/photostream/

  • avatar

    I basically lived this article. To provide prospective, I basically have to pick up and move every 4 months, so yeah, bed, desk, computers, other sundries all move too.

    I bought a 2005 Mazda 3, and along with generally not liking the way it drove or the reliability, I found that despite it’s hatchbackiness, it was still tiny and not all that usable.

    I’ve since replaced it with an Outback, which I like probably about 10000x more. But besides that, the amount of space in a car that is not that large (smaller than a last gen Accord in footprint) is unbelievable. I could fit dressers and clothes and desks and sidetables and eventually a mattress and boxspring in (separate load). Less cargo space? No, people just aren’t buying the right cars.

  • avatar

    I’m not sure you are right about this. I’m not going to look it up, but the current crop of “compact” and “midsize” sedans (which have come up recently in discussion) seem to me to have larger trunks than their predecessors. I’d say the issue is that people are no longer solely buying long sedans, and that the hatchback is finally catching on.

    The CUV class specifically is to blame I think, these cars seem to trade storage length for height, which lets them advertice cubic footage without providing the floorspace for large objects. On the other hand, if you own a huge dog that rear height is truly useful. Compact hatchbacks have always been setup this way, and they themselves are bigger than ever as well, so they haven’t gotten any smaller.

    Also, todays children are coddled, lucky little buggers. When I was growing up no one cared in the slightest how comfortable the back seat was for children, that was a concern for vehicles sold to tote adults to the golf course. This left a lot more room for packaging a large trunk space.

  • avatar
    Steve B

    I too gasped when I saw the trunk of the Altima… I was extremely unsatisfied with my Fit earlier this year, and wanted a reasonably priced, 4-banger/manual tranny coupe. At the top of my list were the Accord Coupe and Nissan Altima Coupe. I swear, that trunk looked like it was half the size of the one in my ex-wife’s old Echo.

    I ended up with a new tC (The Altima was tiny inside, and the tC offered all the features of the Accord for way less, and without going to a Detroit brand… say what you want, but I’ve bought a new GM vehicle in the past 10 years, and that is a mistake I will not repeat). The trunk area is a bit shallow, but the liftback makes it very easy to load stuff, and the rear seats fold down easily to make more space.

    For comparison:

    ’03 Echo: 14 cu-ft
    ’11 Accord Coupe: 12 cu-ft
    ’11 Altima Coupe: 8 cu-ft
    ’11 Scion tC: 15 cu-ft

    • 0 avatar

      Honda Fit cargo volume (seat up/down) 20.6 cu-ft / 57.3 cu-ft

      • 0 avatar
        Steve B

        Thanks… forgot to include that one.

        The Fit’s cargo capacity is pretty amazing given its modest exterior dimensions. The rest of the car was the problem for me. I don’t think I’ve ever owned a more uncomfortable car. Crummy seats padding/scultping, armrests, pedal alignment, legroom.

        I prefer the utility of a hatchback… aerodynamic concerns push the rear window back, leading to a tiny trunk-lid compromising the already limited space in a notchback design. I don’t like 4 door cars… a 3-door hatchback/liftback is just about perfect to me. The design I always thought should have stuck around was the Accord liftback. In 1989, it had a 19 cu-ft trunk.

  • avatar

    My wife and I just went through this over the past year. Looking for a car to replace an Accord coupe since we’re trying to have kids and I don’t want to try fighting a baby seat in and out of a coupe.

    As has been stated by others, most all of the current CUVs are absolutely useless for cargo space – the Sportage and Tucson would be lucky to get a pair of carry-on bags in, let alone a real suitcase and a stroller or enough luggage for 4 people on a road trip. Add in the fact that you can’t see out any of the rear windows and those got crossed off the list pretty fast.

    The Jetta Sportwagen was really promising for storage room and quite nice to look at, but I decided I didn’t really want to roll my dice on VW’s spotty reliability.

    All the sedans we looked at suffered from the “mail slot hatch” problem or a pass-through that made gun-slits look large (except the Legacy – nice opening and a SERIOUS pass-through with the seats down).

    Ultimately, we went with a current-generation Outback. Way more legroom than the previous version,tons of usable cargo room and “good enough” gas mileage for an AWD vehicle.

  • avatar

    Interesting article. I have noticed that luggage space is becoming constricted, much like window glass! I rarely carry anything in the back of my Golf, except for a beach umbrella in the summer, the bike being carried on en external carrier. The bike will fit in the rear, tho, with a little josteling and removing the front wheel..

    Last week, however, i needed to carry a large stack of folded boxes. I dropped the back seat. about 30 boxes slid in witthout coming close to obstructing the rear view. However, carry four people and all their luggage? Probably not.

    Thats the job of my DTS. The trunk is the old american type, huge, deep and long. Seats four people in great comfort, five in a pinch, eveything they own as well. Buy one soon, they have gone out of production.

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    Uh, that’s why there’s minivans and SUVs. Next question….

    • 0 avatar

      And Porsches are for driving fun, and Jeeps are for off-roading. All questions answered, so we can just shut down this site now– right?

      Some of can’t afford three or four specialized vehicles. We want fun, safety and reasonable ownership costs. If a car like that can also accommodate a road trip or a minor furniture purchase, it goes on our lists…

  • avatar

    Are we talking bodies that are in full rigor mortis, or still have some flexibility left? I could probably fit 2 or 3 average adults in my trunk (~14.7 cubes) and a couple in the backseat. :)

    I guess in the end it doesn’t matter because I don’t haul too much stuff very often, and I have friends who are willing to lend their vehicles for the occassional big item.

  • avatar
    George B

    What I notice is many new cars have lots of trunk volume due to lots of height, but the opening and depth are too small for long objects. The shape of trunks in the long-low-wide era allowed long objects to fit diagonally or hang out the back. Today’s cars can haul enough grocery bags for a large polygamist family, but can’t carry a bicycle or a step ladder.

  • avatar

    @ Cameron,
    I agree. Camaro has a proud tradition of tiny trunk openings. One day 30 years ago I was at a friend’s house trying to grill some steaks when the propane ran out. Buddy tried to fit the 5 gal tank in the trunk of his ’79 Z28 and it wouldn’t pass thru the opening.

    Worst part about that was plan B– me sitting in the back seat of that thing with the tank next to me. I’m 6 feet tall and it was quite a squeeze….

  • avatar

    Two modified soft crates plus two airedales worked in our ’07 Fit, with plenty of room between crates and front seats for the rest of the bags.

    Too many long road trips for the wife judging and driving meant the Fit was wearing her down on long drives back. She wanted something that would eat the road miles with a less frenetic cockpit volume. Jetta wagon TDI works for her to make 350 mile drives after a long day judging, in comfort, without the stress of road and engine noise at the wrong time.

    Don’t understand why someone would settle for just a trunk, but I am going to be 50 next year, so I live in fogey-town already.

    Also, golf clubs, specifically drivers, are a hell of a lot longer than they used to be.

  • avatar

    I’ve owned several hatchback cars over the years, and cannot understand why there are not more sold in the US. From my Fox bodied Mercury Capris, to a Dodge Lancer Turbo and most recently a Chevy Malibu Maxx, those have been the handiest cars I’ve ever owned.

    The replacement for the Maxx, a Pontiac G6, has a HUGE trunk, and both rear seats fold down. But due to the way the trunk lid is styled and the fact that there are no goosenecks on the hinges, the opening is pretty small. My kid’s Saturn Aura is a little better, but not by a whole lot. I’ve seen this with other cars that are twins under the skin, too.

    Sometimes it’s easier to put really long things in from the passenger compartment into the trunk. It might seem counter-intuitive, but it has worked for me.

    If I’m getting something really big, I’ll either have it delivered or rent a truck.

  • avatar

    Trunk is a huge reason keeping me with my Volvo 240. Big stroller and laundry all fit at once. Couple of tool boxes too.

  • avatar

    Several comments here about the awful cargo capacities of Camaros, both old and new, but you could cram a remarkable amount of stuff in the hatchback Camaros of the ’80s. I carried all sorts of crap in my 1986 Camaro at college, and then hauled a four-year accumulation of stuff back home upon LEAVING college, including big boxes of books, some furniture items, etc. I also transported 7 people in it once, though I wouldn’t advise it, nor would I advise the car itself, which was a gawdawful piece of crap on the whole. Come to think of it, cargo space might have been its chief virtue!

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