Although the original sport-utility vehicles were introduced specifically as more durable alternatives to car-based wagons, most modern SUVs have shifted their focus to providing a refined, sedan-like ownership experience.
Today’s SUVs may handle like cars, but they provide greater cargo capacity than the average sedan. Drivers who need a lot of cargo room, yet also require the flexibility to carry people, don’t have many other options: Only a handful of station wagons are on the market, and none can handle as much stuff as an SUV of the same length. As for a rougher-riding pickup, you either have to deal with an open bed for cargo or pay extra for a cap or cover. The current crop of SUVs also has a wider variety of sizes and pricing options for customers.
Mainstream shoppers can choose from four basic SUV segments. The cargo-capacity leaders in each one are discussed below.
Subcompact SUVs: 2017 Nissan Rogue Sport
These smallest SUVs all hover around 170 inches in length, but they can have surprisingly large differences in terms of cargo space. Thus, the 2017 Nissan Rogue Sport leads the segment with a maximum cargo capacity of 61.1 cubic feet, while the rival Chevrolet Trax tops out at 48.4 cubic feet. Those measurements are with the vehicles’ rear seats folded. The Rogue Sport has 22.9 cubic feet of cargo space with its back seats in use. The Rogue Sport recently went on sale this spring as the fun-sized sibling for the compact 2017 Nissan Rogue.
Relative to the Rogue Sport, the 2017 Kia Soul actually offers slightly more overall cargo room (61.3 cubic feet), but this petite, boxy crossover is considered a wagon by most. Additionally, the 2017 Jeep Wrangler has 61.2 cubic feet of maximum cargo space, but you have to completely remove the vehicle’s rear seats to reach that total.
Compact SUVs: 2017 Honda CR-V
Compact SUVs, with lengths of roughly 180 inches, have become top sellers. Among these models, the 2017 Honda CR-V sets the pace for cargo space. The CR-V was redesigned for 2017, and the changes have increased storage capacity, leaving the current model with 39.2 cubic feet behind the rear seats and 75.8 cubic feet with the rear seats folded. Those are segment-best marks for both categories. For context, the Ford Escape has less than 70 cubic feet of maximum cargo room.
Midsize SUVs: 2017 Chevrolet Traverse
This segment generally includes longer three-row SUVs, and some can be quite long indeed. The 2017 Chevrolet Traverse, for example, is less than an inch shorter than the Bowtie brand’s full-size body-on-frame SUV, the Chevrolet Tahoe. Unsurprisingly, the Traverse’s 203.7-inch footprint helps give it the greatest cargo capacity in the class. Customers enjoy 24.4 cubic feet of space behind the third row, 70.3 cubic feet aft of the second row, and 116.3 with second- and third-row seats folded. What is a surprise, and relevant for current shoppers, is that the redesigned 2018 Traverse will see significant decreases in cargo space across the board. Yet even then, the new SUV’s cargo capacities behind the second and third rows top the class at 23 cubic feet and 58.1 cubic feet. With the second and third rows folded, the 2018 Traverse will be able to fit 98.5 cubic feet of gear.
Another roomy choice in this segment is the 2017 Honda Pilot, which delivers 83.9 cubic feet of maximum cargo capacity.
Full-Size SUVs: 2017 Ford Expedition
A handful of mainstream brands still offer traditional full-size SUVs with three rows of seating and the same sort of body-on-frame construction used for full-size pickups. Ford offers a large SUV with an extended-length version, and it takes the highest honors here: The 2017 Ford Expedition EL, which stretches 220.8 inches, can furnish 42.6 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row, 85.5 cubic feet behind the second-row seating and 130.8 cubic feet with both back rows folded. That compares to the standard-wheelbase Expedition at 206 inches long and with cargo ratings of 18.6 cubic feet, 55 cubic feet and 108.3 cubic feet behind its third, second and first rows.
The 2017 Toyota Sequoia has the most space among full-size SUVs that don’t have extended wheelbases. It has room for 18.9 cubic feet of stuff with all seats in use, 66.6 cubic feet after the third row has been folded and 120.1 cubic feet with both the second and third rows folded.