I Wasn’t Hiding But Somehow You Found Me

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.

What kinds of things do you leave in the boot permanently?

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.

An old stager with a rear-mounted glove box (c. A. Vicar, 1958, 1957, 1968 etc)

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.

Is there a lamp in this boot?

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.

Would you believe this car has a 600 litre boot?

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.

Someone has to design the parcel shelf for these cars.

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?

Three brands, one 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.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

50 thoughts on “I Wasn’t Hiding But Somehow You Found Me”

  1. From my earliest motoring days, I’ve always put stuff like shopping or my work/gym bag (many years ago, now) in the boot/hatch area. The cabin is for people; sunglasses. The glove box for those small paraphernalia like reading glasses, pen, notepad. And once upon a time, cassettes then cd’s.

    However, the females in my life have been quite happy at bunging anything anywhere, much to my chagrin. Supermarket shopping on any given seat. “It’s only twenty minutes home.” I don’t want a chicken announcing its entrance at the next traffic light, never mind that meat cleaver. A tin of Italian chopped tomatoes under any pedal? No thank you.

    I obviously understand the difficulties of shifting kids, shopping, etc in smaller cars. I know single people whose interiors resemble skips and family hacks which are almost pristine. Is that a lazy or pride syndrome?

    All I do know is no matter the boot space, size or shape, just occasionally we’ll fill it – and work out the cost in lumbar repair later

    1. In actual cubic capacity terms, the X250 Jaguar XF’s compartment wasn’t abnormally small (albeit, it wasn’t vast either), but the shape and size of the bootlid opening made loading it a lot more difficult than it needed to be and in some cases, prevented certain objects (which otherwise would have fitted) being fed through. It made for a rather impractical car.

      In terms of placing groceries on seats, I have for (some considerable years now) adopted the Setrightian approach of employing the seatbelt to keep the groceries bag(s) in place on the relevant seat, preventing spills under braking or enthusiastic cornering. One of the most useful pieces of advice I’ve ever taken home from the eminent scribe’s writings and observations.

      If we’re talking actual usable boot space, the R50 MINI takes some beating.

    2. That´s an interesting point about which I´d be reluctant to make any scientific statements – but at least anecdotally, I noticed my female passengers prefer to keep things in sight inside the cabin (family, friends, colleagues). It´d at least be the basis of an interesting sociological study. It´s a bit of a zero sum game too so I discovered that my friendly insistence that the dratted bags go in the boot resulted in surly passengers. The result is I never had the OCD satisfaction of three passengers willingly putting their junk in the trunk and getting on peacefully and comfortable and stylishly with the journey.

  2. If you put the fuel tank above the bulky space required for your De Dion rear suspension, you might end up with a boot smaller than you’d like, made smaller still by having to fit in a spare wheel. So small that people couldn’t help but notice and comment on.
    Solution: provide a mounting on the boot lid for the spare wheel. A solution devised for the Rover P6 and for no other post war car, (not including 4X4s which often mount the spare to the back of the vehicle).

  3. Good morning Richard. “What is the four-door saloon with the tiniest, most stupid boot?” That is an excellent question for a Sunday morning. Here’s my nomination, the B3-generation Audi 80:

    This generation was heavily criticised at for its inadequate boot space, so much so that, when Audi made it over to produce the B4 successor, the major change was a 71mm stretch in the wheelbase and a 176mm stretch in overall length, largely aft of the rear axle, to improve boot capacity. Here’s the result:

    It was a necessary move but it made the 80 less distinctive and more conventionally proportioned. I rather liked the manx-tailed B3. Perhaps it would have worked better as a hatchback?

    1. I remember reading that Audi issued some dealers with specially made luggage to make the boot of the B3 appear larger than it actually was.

    2. Thw B3’s boot was not so much small as unfavourably proportioned. Extremely tall and very short and no flat/level surface at the bottom made it difficult to fit hard shell luggave into it.
      The price for the saloon with the silliest boot must go to the Audi A3 saloon which has a boot opening barely larger than a letterbox’s that makes you wonder how people manage to get anything into it at all.

    3. The B3 Audi 80 was my first initial thought egen before I read the comments. How a technical prodigy like Piech could allow such an idiotic abomination boggles my mind. To the tune of having to give the car a completely new rear end to rectify the mistake. Literally mindblowing. Though they learned from their mistake, giving the A4 and related Passat foldable rear seats making them in effect hatchbacks without the hatch.

    4. In his auto biography Fugen Ferdl describes very vividly how he had to fight for every penny he wanted to spend on the B3. His toughest fight was for full zinc coating at fifty Deutschmarks per car and after he got this signed off there was no more money from bankrupt VAG so he had to wait for the interim solution B4. This was the time when Piech still had to prove that pushing Audi up the pecking order could work, something anything but certain after the cardboard box Typ 43 and pensioner’s dream Typ 44.

    5. Well that’s a new one on me. The money they must have spent to fix something that must have been obvious from the start. Still, you can’t mount the spare on the bootlid any more, just use runflats or a tyre foam inflator. Like MB did on the first SLK.

  4. With regard to hatchbacks, in my experience, what matters more than absolute boot capacity is the ease with which the rear seats can be dropped to enlarge the space. In our Škoda Fabia, this was something of a palaver and went as follows:

    1. Open both rear passenger doors.
    2. Remove headrests from rear seat backs and place in footwells.
    3. Pull up rear seat bases and fold forward
    4. Fold rear seat backs forward, disentangling them from seat belts while doing so.
    5. Close rear passenger doors.

    Trying to do this in a car park with cars either side of you is a real hassle. If you don’t do all this and just push the backrests forwards, they will be caught by the bases and not go much beyond the vertical.

    In our Mini, although the boot is much smaller, enlarging the space is a simple matter of pulling up the knobs on the seat backs and folding them forward onto the bases. There is still a big step in the floor, but it doesn’t matter for carrying shopping bags etc.

    1. Citroen CX Break: open rear door, pull at sturdy handle at the side of the seat to rotate seat base by 180 degrees(!), flip up steel separation panel to prevent stuff from hitting front seat, fold down seat backrest. Takes ten seconds.

    2. In the middle of moving house and, having repeatedly discovered the limitations of the manner in which my MG ZT’s rear seats fold down, I am now so very jealous of that CX…

    3. I guess that a loadbay of 2,15 metres length and 700 kgs of self levelling payload would be very handy in building a house, too.
      The CX break’s raised roof in combination with the near vertical side and rear windows allows box shaped objects of astonishing size to fit into the boot.
      That’s a sound sense for practical requirements that’s completely lost in car makers not only in France. The boot space of my A4 B9 is a sick joke – a high boot floor, raked rear screen and lots of tumblehome and tapering down of the rear end make for ridiculous load capacity, particularly for boxes. If I want to transport larger objects I need to take our Golf 4 because its boot is much more practical.

  5. I’d guess that something like the 2015 Maruti Suzuki Swift DZire would have one of the smallest saloon boots. Still not bad at 316 litres, though. There are some interesting cars in the Asia-Pacific region (Hondas especially). These regions tend to favour brighter interiors which are nice to see.

  6. Some years ago I borrow a Volvo 740 (a cool 2.0 Turbo 16 Valve) from a friend and while the boot and its opening weren´t small you had to lift things so much to leave them in it that it wasn´t very practical. The floor was very irregular, too.

    The Renault Siete/7, at 400 litres, has a bigger than expected size, although opening is a bit small.

  7. Another question I’ve always wondered, why did so many cars carry a spare wheel or even a space saver wheel? How often do you really need to change the tire? How many billions worth of fuel have been spent hauling those around completely unneccessary? I get it it’s nice to have when you really need it, but how often does that happen so far away from home you couldn’t get home to bring one from the garage? Or call some sort of service in those instances? I understand it was duly needed in those days the roads was worse and tire technology wasn’t that good, but in this day and age? That real estate should serve a better use being part of the luggage compartment in my humble mind.

    1. But in this day and age, tyres are so ‘lowprofile’ that hitting a pothole can crack a rim – and if you want a replacement tyre it will be in stock in Belgium and will be with you in 48 hours perhaps…

    2. Hi Ingvar. I have some reservations about doing without a spare wheel, even a spacesaver. My Boxster has neither, just an electric pump and an aerosol can of sealant, which has to be replaced every two years. I am told that the sealant can be a nightmare to clean out before repairing the tyre properly, to the extent that repairable tyres are sometimes discarded rather than being repaired.

      On our Mini, in order to maintain an acceptable ride quality on the optional larger 17″ wheels we specified, we substituted regular radial tyres for the standard fit runflats and had an optional spacesaver spare fitted. The latter takes up no useable space, since there is an otherwise unused space for it under the boot floor.

    3. I suggest you visit Athens to enjoy driving over pot holed roads. Especially when it has rained, like this week, the holes are covered by water, and the wheels smash into with joy. A good friend of mine had punctured two wheels in a single trip house to work and back. Plus a bent aluminium wheel. The dark humoured joke is that, on top of the road surface quality, there are some poor people who steal the covers from the power cables, to sell the metal to the scrap trade, providing the road with more openings.

    4. Over here it’s only legal to repair tyres of S or T speed classification and only when the defect is not in the sidewall, so repairs on most modern tyres are illegal. I wouldn’t want to drive a ZR or Y spec tyre with a repair at any significant speed.

      Many tyre fitters refuse to clean the rims of the sticky rubber goo from the repair kits and force customers to use new rims.
      I had about a dozen punctures in my mobile life (invariably in the most inconvenient situations) and always specify a spare at extra cost when buying a car.

  8. Interesting take and subject, Richard, thank you. It’s the stuff that sets DTW apart from most.
    As far as weird and impractical boots are concerned, the sportsroof (fastback) 1971-73 Ford Mustang is a good example. A comparatively tiny bootlid, a high loading sill, a small aperture and missing the hatchback practicality that its bodyshape suggested:

    1. In similar vein, one of the stupidest boot (sorry, trunk) openings I ever came across was in a Chevrolet Camaro convertible we were attempting to rent at San Francisco Airport back in 2017:

      We had two identical medium-sized pieces of luggage. The opening was so awkwardly shaped and narrow in both width and depth that, once we put one case in and pushed it to the side, there was no room to get the other through the opening, even though there would have been more than enough space for it. We had to abandon the Camaro in favour of a Mustang convertible, which had no problem taking both cases.

    2. Ah, the Camaro convertible. I asked for a Mustang convertible or similar and they gave me the Camaro. I really enjoyed it. The trunk opening was no issue for me as I travelled alone.

    3. I’m so jealous, Freerk! The Camaro looked stunning in bright red and we had rented a Mustang on our previous visit, so I was really looking forward to making the comparison between the two. (First-World problem, I know!)

  9. With many other American cars however, bootspace was never a problem- as with my 1964 Lincoln Continental: I took a seat to show how large it was on the day I picked it up at the Rotterdam harbor-

    1. Great photo, Bruno! (I do hope the boot floor hadn’t rotted out on the transatlantic crossing!)

  10. I’d like to nominate a couple of exptic hatchbacks.
    First the Maserati Khamsin which had a deeply cool glass rear plinth with “Floating” tail lights. It looks like this was fixed, so you’d need to lift everything high, then make sure it didn’t shunt back under hard acceleration and crack the glass or snag the- presumably- dangling pair of cables for those lamps. Also make sure it didn’t slide forward under heavy breaking and slip between the individual rear seats. Oh yes, LJK thought the glass panel really helped with reversing, so best not block the view between those seats. Almost forgot, don’t leave anything i the boot whilst unattended as there was no parcel shelf to hide your Louis Vuitton luggage set, Valextra attache case full of bearer bonds and wife’s fur coat under.

    Second up, a bit of a cheat. The Lancia Fulvia 1.6 Sport concept by Ghia- so not a production car- this had a strut mounted rear spoiler behind the harchback bit and it may or may not have retracted. Unclear if the lid opened as a “Glassback” or if the rear window was fixed and you just threw your luggage over your shoulder when you climbed in.

    1. Hello Daniel,
      No- the floor was fine, the rusty inside of the bootlid notwithstanding. I discovered that that is a common weakness with these cars. When a specialist sandblasted it, it wasn’t as bad as I feared luckily.

  11. The test is to fit a set of golf clubs – they need to go in the widest part, behind the wheel-arches. I still remember my son trying to put clubs in his first-gen Audi A3 without folding the back seat.

  12. Thank you for the reminder of the lovely Carly Simon song in the title, by the way. From the year of the silver jubilee, funnily enough.

  13. I once rented a Golf sized car at CPH. When you rent a medium sized hatchback at the airport you would expect a car that can carry some luggage in the back.

    They gave me Toyota Auris Hybrid. Due to the battery pack in the back we struggled to hold a medium sized suitcase and a carry on piece in the luggage compartment. On our way back we picked up a friend. His suitcase was next to him on the backseat.

  14. Did I ever mention that at one time I was the ridiculously proud owner of a Visa GTi? Given that the original car was never designed for the 1.6 injected engine with end-on gearbox, the spare wheel had to be banished from the top of the engine to the boot. The wheel and tyre combo was quite large which rendered the actual luggage capacity somewhat pathetic.

    At the time, I loved that car to bits, but as I look back now I realise it gave a lot of trouble, was noisy, rattled badly and the body-kit (it had two rear spoilers!) was more ironic than iconic. The benefit of experience over youth …

    1. That’s so gracious of you to compare the parts-bin Visa GTi with the mighty SM. Can’t think of any other occasion on which such a comparison might be valid. Made me grin!

    2. Citroën were masters of this discipline.
      In the AX 4×4, the spare wheel, usually located below the boot floor, had to make way for the driven rear axle, and was stored at the side of the boot:

  15. You’ve just reminded me of an odd feature of the Volvo 144; it had semi-circular indents in the boot floor to accommodate the spare wheel which was stored vertically. As there was only one spare wheel and there were two indents, one each side, the second one was used to store a specially-shaped fuel can, with a round(ish) bottom.


    1. A spare wheel vertically at the side of the boot also was a characteristic of Benzes of the Sixties. That way you don’t have to unload the boot to get at the spare wheel. Mercedes dropped this with their W116/123 which had the spare under the boot floor where the space had become free when the fuel tank moved to a position above the rear axle.

  16. 20 years ago, a younger me was looking for a car. Cyprus back then was a hot bed for JDM cars, you could find any Japanese market model you wanted or have one imported for you. We still have some around but those were the days before joining the EU and taxation (and false invoices) made the Japanese cars much cheaper.
    Was looking at all the usual suspects like Integra Type-R, Celica GT4, Impreza STi et al when I found an R34 Skyline sedan at a lot. Nothing like it’s macho brother, it was a 2.0 inline six with 150Bhp but still it carried a hallowed name and sort of the GT-R looks.
    In the end I shied away from the JDM scene and that remains an itch I have yet to scratch. What else remains was the sight of that tiny boot in that Skyline. Was about to become a father back then and I doubt if it would even fit the stroller alone.
    Google says 423L but it certainly doesn’t look half that

  17. I suspect that one of the newer B-segment sedans would have the smallest boot (having more stuff taking up space than earlier generations)

    Otherwise a special mention to the current Corolla hatchback, where the local version with a spare tyre has 217L of space (60% of the previous model), or the iQ where 32L showed the compromise necessary to have 4 seats in a car barely longer than a Smart Fortwo.

    1. Here’s a current model A3 saloon. The boot actually is quite large but I’ve yet to figure out how to get things in there.

    2. Dave, I have the same problem with my 3rd-generation Delta. The boot is OK in its capacity – in absolute numbers. But it’s only made for placing standardized luggage. The hatch and the boot simply aren’t wide enough to put long items in there. And by “long”, I mean things like broomsticks, guitar cases, etc. Hell, I could fit my Fender Am. Std. Strat in the 150-lt boot of the diminutive Lancia Y10 with enough room for a travel bag – and the guitar was in its hardshell case. Can I do that in the Delta? No. I can’t do that in any modern hatchback, for that matter. But hey, I have huge wheel arches that can accommodate tires up to 245/35R18.

    3. I once visited my Audi dealer and just for fun had a look at this A3 saloon because I find it much more attractive than the ugly hatchback version. When I opened the boot lid I was astonished by the tiny opening, I’m sure you can’t get a pack of επιτραπέζιο νερό through it – and that’s before you see how much space is wasted by the cheap gooseneck hinges.

    4. It seems all manufacturers have switched back to gooseneck hinges to allow them to be motorised

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