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How Car Ergonomics Work

Vehicle Cargo Holds

To badly paraphrase Freud, sometimes a cargo hold is not just a cargo hold. That is, car trunks are now employed for numerous purposes besides hauling gear or spare tires or holding suitcases on the way to the airport. Many trunks now include built-in pockets, flaps that hide storage areas for a spare tire and its associated equipment, a rubberized bottom and covers to conceal and protect cargo. Many trunks are also expandable (by way of rear seats that fold down), are removable or disappear completely into the vehicle's floor.

User flexibility and add-ons are the latest in cargo hold innovation, with expandable cargo areas allowing a car to serve as anything from a plush dog carrier to a space for your bicycle. For example, a Volkswagen GTI has rear seats that flip down, increasing the cargo hold area from 12.3 to 46 cubic feet (0.3 to 1.3 cubic meters). The Mercedes-Benz GLK350 comes with two types of electrical outlets in its cargo hold -- a 115-volt outlet and a 12-volt power plug -- although it's bested by other vehicles, like the GMC Acadia, which has five total outlets. The Honda Element, often marketed to outdoors enthusiasts, has a washable floor, causing one site to name it amongst its top 10 cars for tailgating [source:].

Many car companies trumpet their vehicles' cargo hold areas, measured in cubic feet, or tout the ability to fold down seats. But all of that space may be useless if it simply becomes an extension of someone's messy closet. That's why some manufacturers are now integrating trunk organizers, an accessory that has traditionally been sold by third parties.

And when you're done tailgating, camping or loading in the dogs, you may not have to worry if your hands are full. New cars increasingly feature so-called "soft closing," or automatically closing, trunks. Just gently push on the door to the cargo area and the car will do the rest, using a motor to close the lid firmly in place.

For more information about car ergonomics and how to get the most comfort out of your car, take a look at the links on the next page.