Q. Which car has a lot of trunk space for less than $20,000?
A. You have several choices among compact sedans, hatchbacks and wagons, and the latter two are your best bets for cargo space and flexibility.
A $20,000 price ceiling effectively eliminates midsize cars because once you add the destination charge and any options, the car will most likely cost over $20,000. The 2012 Hyundai Sonata, for example, starts at $19,695, not including the $760 destination charge, and that is with a manual transmission. Automatic costs an extra $1,000.
Among compact sedans, three that stand out are the Volkswagen Jetta, whose trunk measures 15.5 cubic feet (larger than some midsize cars); the Chevrolet Cruze, at 15.0 cubic feet; and the Hyundai Elantra, at 14.8 cubic feet. All three also have split, folding rear seatbacks that expand the cargo area.
Hatchbacks and wagons offer more cargo volume and are better suited to carrying large objects, such as a television. The Dodge Caliber's cargo volume grows from 18.4 cubic feet to 47.4 cubic feet with the rear seats folded, and the 2012 Ford Focus goes from 23.8 cubic feet to 44.8 cubic feet with the rear seatback folded. The Elantra Touring wagon has 24.3 cubic feet behind the rear seats and 65.3 cubic feet with the seats folded.
You could also think inside the box with cars such as the Kia Soul, Scion xB and Nissan Cube, whose name aptly describes its shape. The Cube lists a modest 11.4 cubic feet of space behind the rear seat, but folding both sides of the 60/40 split rear seatback creates 58.1 cubic feet of space.
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