Just Because It’s Not Jacked Up Doesn’t Mean It’s Not Practical
Crossovers continue to gain popularity because they’re perceived as more practical vehicles than smaller cars. However, that’s not always true—a handful of crossovers are less practical than wagons and hatchbacks. Not everyone wants a jacked-up, car-based crossover. Some buyers prefer not to sacrifice fuel economy and handling. Additionally, some cars have a more useful interior layout than their crossover counterparts, and their load floors are much lower, making it less of a hassle to load your Ikea purchases into your vehicle. Sure, wagons and hatchback are not popular, but they continue to exist for a reason. Here are 10 crossovers and SUVs with less practicality than you’d guess at first glance and 10 jacks-of-all-trades you should consider instead.
The Nissan Juke is fun to drive and compact enough that it’s easy to zip around city streets. But this mini crossover sacrifices everything to the gods of driving fun, so it doesn’t have a lot of space for gear. Cargo space is limited to 10.5 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 35.9 cubic feet with them down. Passengers seated in the second row are essentially crammed in a claustrophobic space with small rear windows and a low roofline.
If you don’t like the Juke’s resemblance to a robotic frog, consider the Mazda3 in the hatchback body style. It offers more useful space for people and gear than the Juke despite its swoopy exterior styling. The Mazda3’s handling is also at the top of its class, and the optional 184-hp, 2.5-liter inline-four doesn’t sacrifice fuel economy in the name of driving fun.
Evoking the same adorable cuteness as the 500 hatch, the Fiat 500X offers a higher ride height and more room than the city car that inspired its exterior design. There’s a good deal of space inside—18.5 cubic feet behind the rear seats and up to 50.8 cubic feet with the seats folded—and a false cargo floor with hidden storage. However, that’s about as much space as in compact hatchbacks, and it’s merely mid-pack in the small crossover segment. Additionally, rear-seat passengers won’t have much space, especially when the 500X is equipped with the optional panoramic sunroof, and the second row doesn’t fold completely flat.
For maximum usable cargo and passenger space combined with the Fiat brand’s quirky Italian charm, the 500L is the right car for the job. Essentially a tall hatchback, the 500L offers up to 68 cubic feet of cargo space, which is more than in larger crossovers such as the Ford Escape and Mazda CX-5. The 500L also offers an adjustable false floor, like the 500X, and even more flexibility than its crossover sibling thanks to its taller height and boxier shape.
Essentially a hatchback on stilts, the Audi Q3 has less cargo space and flexibility than compact hatchbacks. At 16.7 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 48.2 with them down, the Q3 doesn’t have much of an advantage over a conventional hatchback, let alone a wagon, when it comes to hauling gear or people.
Volkswagen Golf SportWagen
Forget #Dieselgate for now and realize that even without the torquey diesel engine, the Volkswagen Golf SportWagen is an excellent car. Featuring a crossover-slaying 66.5 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats folded, the long-roof Golf breaks the mold, giving you an expansive interior for the family, up to 36 mpg on the highway, and plenty of smiles from behind the wheel. Should you need all-wheel drive, a ruggedized version called the Alltrack will also arrive in 2016 as a 2017 model, giving you more space than that Q3 ever will along with four-season traction.
Another example of a vehicle created to fill a niche, the BMW X4 is a called a Sports Activity Coupe because of its sloping roofline. That swooping, turtlelike exterior also means there’s not much space in there: only 17.7 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row and 49.4 cubic feet with the seats folded.
BMW 3 Series Sports Wagon
Although smaller in stature, the 3 Series Sports Wagon is more practical than the similarly priced X4 thanks to it having a more traditional shape. Behind those rear seats is 17.4 cubic feet of cargo space that’s expandable to 52.9 cubic feet, giving the 3 Series Sports Wagon comparable space in a more usable interior package. Add to that the car’s engaging driving dynamics, excellent handling, and good fuel economy, and you get a well-rounded package that’s perfect for family duty, road trips, and tearing up canyon roads.
A latecomer to the mini crossover game, the Chevrolet Trax‘s diminutive size makes it great for the city. However, its interior space isn’t the most efficient; you only have up to 48.4 cubic feet of cargo space. Additionally, the Trax is relatively narrow, diminishing its practicality even more and giving you less space for your gear.
Subarus, with the exception of the BRZ, are built with sensibility and practicality in mind, and the Impreza—especially in hatchback form—is no different. Offering 22.5 cubic feet behind the rear seats and up to 52.4 cubic feet with them folded, the Impreza has one of the most generous interiors in the compact class, giving it the ability to haul more than some small crossovers. Additionally, the standard all-wheel-drive system means all-weather capability isn’t an extra-cost option.
Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe
Following BMW‘s lead in the crossover coupe niche, Mercedes-Benz introduced the GLE Coupe for those who think the CLS-Class needs to get jacked up and look like an attack armadillo. Although it has up to 60 cubic feet of cargo space, the GLE Coupe’s shape renders that moot because that sloping roofline cuts into rear visibility and interior capacity.
Mercedes-Benz E-Class Wagon
Despite having less maximum cargo capacity than the GLE Coupe at 57.4 cubic feet, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class Wagon has more usable space because it doesn’t have a swoopy roofline and its body is a little bit boxier at the back. Should you need to haul on the road and take the family along, there’s the completely bonkers E63 AMG S Wagon with its 577-hp, twin-turbo V-8 to turn your car into a family-hauling, luggage-carrying cruise missile. Just be sure to strap your loved ones in tight, and don’t scare the children.
Retro-styled and filled with character, the Jeep Renegade offers a lot of funk and some mild off-road capability (this is a Jeep after all) in the Trailhawk variant. However, despite its boxy shape, the Renegade doesn’t have the most space in its class, and it’s only able swallow up to 50.8 cubic feet of gear, less than some compact hatchbacks and wagons.
Among compact hatchbacks, the Kia Forte5 offers the most space for passengers and cargo thanks to its expansive interior. With up to 56.4 cubic feet of space for gear, the Forte5 makes some crossovers—especially the new breed of fun-size ones—seem impractical. Add to that an available 201-hp, turbo inline-four, and you’ve got the power to haul an impressive payload of shopping and flat-pack furniture.
Mitsubishi Outlander Sport
One of the first small crossovers to hit the U.S. market, the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport is now one of the oldest and least spacious in its class. Although it has a maximum cargo capacity of 49.5 cubic feet, the Outlander Sport can’t compete with class rivals and some compact hatchbacks, meaning you don’t really get much for the puffed-up appearance.
Think of the Honda Fit as the subcompact hatchback that’s mastered interior space sorcery. It’s more spacious than any other car of its size and small crossovers such as the Outlander Sport. With up to 52.7 cubic feet of cargo space and the flexibility of the Magic Seats, you have plenty of options for carrying your gear, friends, or both. Add to that the Fit’s fun-to-drive personality, and you have an excellent all-around vehicle.
Even though it’s marketed as a crossover, consider the Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class as a tall hatchback with sporting pretentions. Despite that hatch in the rear, the GLA isn’t very good at carrying gear or people because of its cramped interior. Sure, it has up to 43.6 cubic feet of cargo space, but that room is less usable than in a traditional hatchback.
Volkswagen Golf GTI
Instead of picking a crossover with sporting pretension, consider the original hot hatch, the Volkswagen Golf GTI, over the GLA-Class. The GTI offers an excellent blend of practicality, fuel economy, a well-built interior, and world-class driving dynamics, plus up to 52.7 cubic feet of cargo space, for the price of an entry-level GLA. Should you need your hatchback to be even quicker, consider the 292-hp Golf R, which is the most powerful Golf to date.
As the first Mini with four doors, the Countryman offers more practicality without sacrificing the quirkiness and character that’s part of the brand’s identity. However, with each new Mini model growing larger, the Countryman has become less viable, and compared with similarly sized crossovers, it has less space even with the rear seats down. In fact, even the new four-door hatchback nearly matches the Countryman’s maximum cargo capacity of 42.2 cubic feet.
There’s no reason to call the Mini Clubman a small hatchback anymore; instead, it should be known as the Mini of wagons because it essentially is one now that it has four actual doors and is 14 feet long. In comparison to the Countryman, the new Clubman offers up to 47.9 cubic feet of space, so it offers more room for all your gear and then some.