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The Most Utilitarian Hatchbacks

Rachel Smith
February 23, 2012
The Most Utilitarian Hatchbacks
The Most Utilitarian Hatchbacks

Hatchbacks are popular for good reasons. They’re practical, affordable, utility-oriented vehicles that make carrying people and cargo a breeze. Of course, some hatchbacks are better at this than others. Here’s what you need know to find a practical hatchback.

Hatchback Passenger Space and Cargo Space

If you need a lot of space for passengers and cargo, there are some hatchbacks to avoid because their cabins are far too small to be practical. One of these is the four-seat Mini Cooper, which has a miniscule 5.7 cubic feet of cargo space when the back seats are in use. Other tiny hatchbacks include the Fiat 500, Scion iQ and Smart ForTwo.

The more cargo space you have with the rear seats up, the more luggage or groceries you can pack in the cargo area without intruding on rear passenger space. The Honda Fit, for example, is the polar opposite of the Mini Cooper because it has great passenger space and plenty of room for cargo whether the rear seats are up or down. The Fit seats five with 20.6 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats. The Ford Focus hatchback has even more cargo space behind the second row, at 23.8 cubic feet.

The Scion xB and Honda Fit both have more than 55 cubic feet of cargo space with all the seats folded which is more than most hatchbacks. Other hatchbacks with large cargo spaces include the Kia Soul with 53.4 cubic feet and the Toyota Matrix with 49.4. That’s enough overall cargo space to compete with compact SUVs like the Volkswagen Tiguan, Kia Sportage and Mitsubishi Outlander Sport.

Although the Scion xB’s 69.9 cubic feet of overall cargo space far outshine’s most hatchbacks’ cargo space, the xB is a good example of a hatch that doesn’t have much room for groceries or luggage with three passengers in the back seat. With that configuration, the xB maxes out at 11.6 cubic feet, which is significantly less than what small sedans can hold in their trunks. The xB, however, has a lot of passenger space, which translates to a huge cargo space when those rear seats are flipped down. As you shop, make sure the hatchback you want offers a good balance. Twenty cubic feet with the rear seats in use, and 40 to 50 cubic feet of cargo space with them folded is about average for five-seat hatchbacks.

Functional Hatchback Cargo Areas and Helpful Cabin Features

An abundance of cargo space is important, but seats that are easy to fold are equally important. Also check for hidden storage and other compartments and features. With hatchbacks a glove box, cup holders and 12-volt power outlets are generally standard, but other storage compartments, like a center armrest, may not be. The Chevrolet Sonic, for example, has a hidden area underneath the cargo hold. The Kia Soul has an optional, covered storage bin in the middle of the dashboard and a standard dual-level glove box, which aren’t available on all hatches.

The Volkswagen Beetle is one of the smaller hatchbacks, but it has functional storage features that help you hide electronics and valuable items. The Beetle has two glove compartments, as well as a split-fold back seat that helps accommodate larger items.

The Scion xB is another hatchback with helpful cargo features. The xB has a storage tray under the back seat, as well as under-floor storage.

Exterior Hatchback Features

You might think that roof rails, which can be used to transport bikes or cargo on the roof, are limited to SUVs, but hatchbacks can have them too. Roof rails are great for transporting large items and extra cargo, like skis, bikes, cargo boxes and kayaks. Most of the hatchbacks that have roof rails are also classified as small crossovers. The Mini Cooper Countryman and the Suzuki SX4 Crossover have standard roof rails, but even if rails aren’t available with a hatchback you want, there are aftermarket roof rails you can buy.

Other Utilitarian Hatchbacks



Cargo Capacity in cubic feet (rear seats up/down)

Subaru Impreza hatchback



Mazda3 hatchback



Hyundai Accent



Ford Fiesta




Kia Rio hatchback