Compact Crossovers are the Opposite of “Compact”

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Compact crossovers are the new family vehicle, but what size car do they really replace?

Automotive segments are not set in stone. Even automotive reporting sites bounce back and forth between the terms used to describe vehicles. The term “compact crossover,” encompassing a category that includes vehicles like the Honda CR-V and Nissan Rogue, is useful for describing the crossover segment, but that term, “compact,” completely misses the mark.

The reason it does is that inside, compact crossovers are anything but compact. For families, the word “compact” alone suggests that it’s too small for a couple of kids an their luggage. Let’s look at the data to explain why that’s not true.

The EPA’s Vehicle Classes vs. The Automotive Industry’s

Part of the confusion stems from what the EPA considers a vehicle class, and what the automotive industry does. The EPA only has five vehicle size classes, separated by total interior volume (passenger plus cargo) that are supposed to encompass the entire automotive landscape:

Minicompact < 85 (2407)
Subcompact 85–99.9 (2407–2831)
Compact 100–109.9 (2832–3114)
Mid-Size 110–119.9 (3115–3397)
Large ≥ 120 (3398)

The automotive industry, on the other hand, has informal categories that sprout up every few years, that aren’t really defined by such rigid data points. Until the mid-1990s, nobody had ever heard the term “crossover,” let alone “compact crossover.”

Yet the word “compact” suggests that there’s not a heck of a lot of room inside, and a maximum total interior volume of 109.9 cubic feet certainly confirms that. The Mazda CX-3 — generally regarded as one of the smaller “subcompact crossovers” in terms of interior volume — has 101 cubic feet of passenger volume alone.

Add in the 12.4 cubic feet of cargo volume with the rear seats up, though, and the CX-3 is right in the middle of the EPA’s “Mid-Size” category, exactly where the Honda Accord is.

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Total Passenger Volume Sedans vs. Compact Crossovers

It turns out that the shape best for packing in humans inside a can is a cube. That’s why new models like the Kia Soul win over so many fans. For their footprint and MSRP, boxy designs offer the most space. This is true too of compact crossovers.  The Honda CR-V offers a total of 105.9 cu ft of passenger volume. The Corolla offers 97.1 and the Accord 103.2. So in terms of overall space inside, the compact crossover is actually bigger than a midsize sedan and much larger than a compact sedan.

That larger overall volume can convert into larger dimensions inside, but not necessarily where you might need it.

In legroom, the CR-V’s front and rear numbers are 41.3 inches and 40.4 inches.  But the Corolla’s 42.3 inches up front and 41.4 inches in the rear are slightly larger. The Accord maximizes space up front with 42.5 inches of legroom, but squeezes passengers in the rear, with just 38.5 inches in back.

2017 Honda CR-V

Cargo Volume – Compact Crossovers vs. Sedans

It will likely be no surprise to anyone how much more cargo a compact crossover can handle compared to a sedan, but the numbers are dramatically different. The CR-V has a total of 39.2 cubic feet of cargo area when the second-row seats are up and usable. This simply blows the 15.8 cubic feet offered by the Accord and the 13 cubic feet of the Corolla out of the water.

2017 Honda CR-V

Even more impressive, like most crossovers, the CR-V’s seats can fold, and when stowed the CR-V’s cargo area expands to a whopping 75.8 cu ft. Simply put, the compact crossover segment offers dramatically more cargo area than any sedan. We should also add that it is much more user-friendly space since the hatch opens much wider and taller, allowing a person more access and making it possible for larger items like TV sets and bicycles to slide in easily.

Conclusion – “Compact” Crossovers Are Bigger Than Sedans in the EPA’s “Large Car” Category

The “compact” Honda CR-V is positively gargantuan in comparison to what most people consider “Mid-Size” sedans. With a total of 144.3 cubic feet of interior space, it dwarfs many examples of what the EPA calls a “Large Car,” which is generally reserved for taxi and limousine vehicles like the Ford Crown Victoria and the Lincoln Town Car.

If you’re hauling stuff and don’t think a “compact” crossover is big enough, give these vehicles a second look.

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John Goreham

John Goreham