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2023 Affordable SUV Challenge: Which SUV Has the Most Cargo Space?

volkswagen taos 1 5t se 2023 44 interior cargo scaled jpg 2023 Volkswagen Taos | Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry

We conduct a number of different tests for our multicar comparisons, evaluating things like real-world fuel economy, car-seat fitment and acceleration, to name a few. We also measure how much cargo space there is in each test vehicle because differences in how automakers report cargo volume can make comparing numbers among cars a fraught exercise.

Related: What’s the Best Affordable SUV of 2023?

The six SUVs that were part of our recent Affordable SUV Challenge were smaller, subcompact models, and there were some significant differences in the amount of cargo space they offered. Here’s how things shook out after we made all of our measurements:

1. 2023 Volkswagen Taos SE: 17.51 cubic feet
2. 2024 Kia Seltos SX Turbo: 17.44 cubic feet
3. 2023 Honda HR-V EX-L: 15.48 cubic feet
4. 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid S: 14.85 cubic feet
5. 2024 Chevrolet Trax Activ: 13.58 cubic feet
6. 2024 Subaru Crosstrek Premium: 12.69 cubic feet

In our scoring for cargo space, the Taos’ and Seltos’ cargo areas were so close — the difference was just seven-hundredths of a cubic foot — that they tied, both getting the maximum 30 points. So, what gave them the edge?

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The height of their cargo areas played a significant part. Both the Taos and Seltos have traditional, upright SUV exterior styling as opposed to the lower-slung, sleeker looks of the Trax and Crosstrek, the two models with the least cargo space, per Cars.com measurements. The Taos’ and Seltos’ exterior design carries over to the interior, where the Taos’ cargo area was 25 inches tall and the Seltos’ was 22 inches tall — 5 inches and 2 inches taller, respectively, than the HR-V’s next-tallest, 20-inch-tall cargo area. The other three SUVs in the comparison test all had 17-inch tall cargo areas. The 8-inch difference between the tallest and shortest cargo areas was greater than the differences between the widest and narrowest and shallowest and deepest ones, which was 5 inches in both cases.

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If you’re thinking that 25 inches doesn’t sound all that tall for a cargo area, that’s because we only measure to the top of the rear seatbacks, not all the way to the headliner of the interior. We stop at the seatback because a pile of high, unsecured cargo can become a safety hazard in an accident.

More From Cars.com:

Cargo space and versatility are two attributes that draw shoppers to SUVs, and the Taos and Seltos show you can get nearly the amount of cargo space offered by some compact SUVs in a subcompact model with the right kind of packaging.

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Mike Hanley has more than 20 years of experience reporting on the auto industry. His primary focus is new vehicles, and he's currently a Senior Road Test Editor overseeing expert car reviews and comparison tests. He previously managed Editorial content in the Cars.com Research section. Email Mike Hanley

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