However much space there is in the boot of a car, your family always want to take 3% more. So why don’t they make boots 3% bigger?
Researcher M. Hruska looked into the things that the average driver was concerned about when assessing luggage compartments. He found that given the importance of the luggage compartment it was necessary to find out just what factors mattered most to the buyer of the car (often the driver). One of the factors impacting most directly on safety was the simple fact that if the driver is somehow disinclined to use the boot they could instead place items in the passenger compartment. In an accident they would be unsecured and become dangerous projectiles. Imagine a meat cleaver left on the rear parcel shelf, for example.
The author, Hruska, found that there were statistically significant relations between the interview subjects and their anthropometrics data (height etc) plus their sociology that affected their preferences regarding luggage compartments. However, the number of relations was small. Gender and the subject’s personal relationship status mattered more than age or height.
So, in other words height and age was found to not matter at all; personal relationship status mattered noticeably. Even then, these kinds of things only came into play when people actively bothered to consider the luggage compartment. So, first, customers had to care about the luggage compartment. Then and only then did other factors come into play.
What did people want? They wanted wider luggage compartments (who doesn’t?) regardless of what class was involved. “It can also be stated that for a statistically significant group of respondents, the luggage compartment and its processing and parameters are an important factor in the decision making process when buying a new passenger car. This criterion is particularly important for women and for respondents who are in a relationship,” wrote the authors.
The study’s key finding is that depth of the boot mattered inasmuch as loading a deep one used an unusual combination of muscles in an unusual way. It was best if the load space was closer, meaning that 350 litres in a vertical oblong was better than 350 litres in a horizontal oblong. That means the letterbox boots of the Citroen CX, GS and XM were further from the ideal.
Driving about with a 526-litre boot as I do means I don’t have to worry too much about how much stuff I can take with me. Spells spent with smaller rental cars have shown how hard it is to get by with, say, 300 litres or less, even with just two people involved. Presumably what happens is that people put down the rear seat back and try to avoid bringing kids and their falderal.
The smaller car is thus, seen through the lens of the man obsessed with volume and width, a rolling zero sum-game: luggage or people. Never both.
A medium-sized saloon is thus the result of the decision to offer a car that carries people and their luggage. Which makes me wonder: what is the four-door saloon with the tiniest, most stupid boot?
I have a suspicion the 1979 Cadillac Seville had a small boot in relation to its width, length and girth. But a more modern example? Google doesn’t offer a ready answer, I notice. Which? looked into poor utilisation of space but that’s not the same. Over to you, dear readers.