Skip to main content

There are a lot of small sedans on the market. Best-selling models from the likes of Honda and Toyota dominate the segment. So, which model has the most cargo space? The website Cars brings a unique approach to finding out which small cars truly offer drivers the most space behind the backseat.

How measures cargo space

Cars editors have begun measuring cargo space in their own way. The reviewers are doing this because many cargo specifications are manufacturer-supplied. This means self-reported numbers could be embellished. 

The numbers Cars uses are consistent across different segments. Coupes, sedans, SUVs, and others can be compared easily. There is no maximum cargo volume figure for different models because reviewers have not figured out a way to consistently account for all shapes involved in cargo space.

Compared to manufacturer-supplied numbers, Cars’ figures are higher for trunk volume and lower for cars with a liftgate. Trim levels may also cause differences in cargo space, and some models may stand out in their segment.

So, when it comes to small cars, five models stand out with the most cargo space behind the backseat:

Toyota Corolla sedan

Starting MSRP: $20,425

Toyota’s compact Corolla sedan takes the top spot of the small cars with the most cargo space behind the backseat. The website Cars used the 2020 XSE trim, the most expensive trim in the model’s lineup.

The Corolla’s cargo space measures 19.1 cubic feet behind the backseat. That’s more than multiple small SUVs on Cars’ breakdown – including the Subaru Forester and Mazda CX-50. It is also more than the manufacturer-supplied figure of 13.1 cubic feet with all seats in place.

The 2020 Corolla kicked off the latest generation of the small car. In addition to the ample cargo space, the Corolla has many features. All 2022 Toyota Corolla models come with at least a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and in-car Wi-Fi. There are also driver aids like forward collision mitigation, adaptive cruise control, and lane departure warnings.

Hyundai Elantra sedan

A red 2023 Hyundai Elantra compact sedan parked underground
2023 Hyundai Elantra | Hyundai Motor America

Starting MSRP: $20,500

The Hyundai Elantra comes in a close second to the Toyota Corolla at 19 cubic feet of cargo space. The figure uses the SEL Premium trim, the mid-level trim with a premium package included. By this metric, the Elantra has more cargo space than many SUVs in Hyundai’s lineup, including the Ioniq 5 and Kona

All Elantra models come with at least an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system that bumps up to 10.25 inches on the top trims. There’s also lots of standard safety equipment, like forward collision mitigation, driver attention warning, rear automatic braking, and safe exit warning systems. The Elantra also comes with some of the best warranties on a small car. The basic warranty covers five years or 60,000 miles; the drivetrain warranty lasts 10 years or 100,000 miles; the free-maintenance warranty is three years or 36,000 miles; the rust and roadside warranties are for seven and five years, respectively. That’s part of why TrueCar named the Elantra the best compact car on the market.

Honda Civic sedan (2020 model)

Starting MSRP: $23,977 (per Kelley Blue Book)

Honda’s Civic sedan is close behind the Corolla and Elantra, with 18.8 cubic feet of cargo space behind the backseat. This measurement is the prior generation of Civic models, using a 2020 Honda Civic Touring trim. This distinction is made because the Civic was redesigned for the 2022 model year and offers different cargo space figures.

The 2020 Honda Civic is the previous generation of the iconic small car, but there are still plenty of amenities. Kelley Blue Book (KBB) named it the best small car of 2020. All models come with cruise control, keyless entry, remote start, and Bluetooth streaming. The Honda Sensing driver assistance suite is standard on all models except the Type R trim/performance model. It includes systems like road departure mitigation, forward-collision mitigation, automatic emergency braking, and lane-keeping assist.

Nissan Sentra

Starting MSRP: $19,950

The Nissan Sentra is tied with the Honda Civic at 18.8 cubic feet of cargo space behind the backseat. This figure was measured using the 2020 Nissan Sentra SV trim, the mid-range option for the Sentra. The small car debuted its eighth generation for the 2020 model year, so the cargo space figures from the website Cars are current for the 2022 model year.

The Sentra is the most affordable small car on this list. Safety features like collision warning systems, blind-spot monitoring, and driver attention assist are all standard. KBB reviewers enjoy comfortable seats but note this is not a driving enthusiast’s car. However, Consumer Reports still named the 2022 Nissan Sentra the best new small car under $30,000.

Honda Civic sedan

Starting MSRP: $22,500

The 2022 Honda Civic kicked off the 11th generation of the iconic small car. By Cars’ measurements, the new generation has less room: 18.1 cubic feet of space behind the backseat. The website Cars used the 2022 Honda Civic Touring trim, the top trim in the lineup. 

The Honda Civic was named the best small car of 2022 by Edmunds. Additionally, KBB agrees in its rankings of the best compact cars of 2022 and 2023. Reviewers note how fun it is to drive and the technology standard on all models, like a 7-inch infotainment touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a suite of driver aids. Assists like adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, forward collision mitigation, driver attention monitor, and a traffic sign reader system are all standard.

Which small car is the best?

Each of the small cars with the most cargo space in Cars’ rankings offer a lot for drivers. It comes down to what you’re looking for in a small car.

The Nissan Sentra is a great, comfortable option if you’re on a budget and looking to save the most. Drivers looking for maximum cargo space and great resale value can’t go wrong with the Toyota Corolla. The Hyundai Elantra is another good value with outstanding warranties and a lower starting price. The Honda Civic is consistently highly rated by reviewers and combines safety and convenience with a great driving experience.


7 Reasons a Sedan Is Better Than an SUV