The Mazda3 doesn't have the largest trunk in the compact-car segment. While its 12.4 cubic-foot trunk is just a touch smaller than that of the Honda Civic and about 0.6 cubic foot smaller than the Toyota Corolla's, its load area is significantly smaller than the segment-best Volkswagen Jetta.

Having said that, the Mazda's trunk holds a decent amount of luggage, as I discovered on a recent trip. I don't usually pack a lot of bags, but this was different. This trip was to fly back east where my fiancé and I were going to get married. With an event like that comes a lot of stuff, and going with just the TSA's "one carry-on and a personal item" wasn't going to cut it. We had to check a lot of luggage and would still barely comply with the TSA's carry-on rules. There were two large bags, a giant, puffy wedding gown, two backpacks and another carry-on -- but we would have to get them to the airport first. The compact Mazda3 was our airport shuttle.

The Wedding Limo

As we put our luggage in the trunk, we discovered that numbers don't tell the whole story. Had I been less concerned about squishing or folding the dress, all of our luggage would've fit in the trunk. We knew that folding down the 60/40 split rear seats would've opened the cargo space by a significant amount, but to make sure the dress wouldn't get flattened or damaged by bags rolling on it during a sudden stop, we kept the seats up. So the gown got the entire back seat to itself, with everything else stowed separately in back. Aside from the trunk space, there are nooks and cubbies that store smaller items, about what you would expect in a compact sedan.

While we were happy with the amount of stuff that the trunk carries, the real space champ in the Mazda3 line is the 4-door hatchback. It is better set up for packing large amounts of gear. With the rear seats up, the hatch holds 20.2 cubic feet of cargo; fold down the rear seats and that goes up to a whopping 47.1 cubic feet. It's an advantage the Mazda3 has over most of its competition since few compact cars also offer a hatchback version.

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