Cheryl, Georgetown, Texas

“Small” is a relative term that allows a lot of leeway, so we may not have included every possibility in our search. With that in mind, here are some educated suggestions to help you find the right answer.

2011 Chevrolet Equinox

Using the dimensions provided by the manufacturers, the Chevrolet Equinox and similar GMC Terrain list the most rear legroom among smaller SUVs — 39.9 inches. Depending on personal interpretation, the Equinox and Terrain are either large compact crossover SUVs or small midsize models. Among smaller SUVs and crossovers that come close in rear legroom are the Chevrolet HHR, 39.5 inches; the Jeep Compass and Patriot, 39.4 inches; and the Toyota Venza, 39.1 inches.

Bear in mind that manufacturers do their own measuring, and the dimensions they list may be skewed in their favor. The best way to determine how much legroom a vehicle has is to sit in it and see for yourself, checking not only how much space there is for your knees but also for your feet and for getting in and out of the backseat. Some rear doors are too narrow for larger people to negotiate easily.

If you sat in the Venza’s and HHR’s backseats back-to-back, you wouldn’t care what the spec sheet says — the Toyota wins overwhelmingly in terms of sheer space.

The Cars.com Vehicle Recommender is a helpful tool that can make it easier to find the right vehicle for your needs because it allows setting parameters such as seating capacity, engine type, gas mileage and price to narrow the field and zero in on the best candidates.

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Answered by Rick Popely on May 18, 2011 in What Car Should I Buy? | Permalink

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