Small crossover utility vehicles are hitting the road in record numbers.
The all-new Trax is Chevy’s first entry into the fast-growing small CUV segment – “52 per cent of vehicles sold in Canada are from small or compact car or SUVs and we’re really predicting this segment will continue to grow. It’s going to grow upwards of 25 per cent by 2017,” says Dayna Callaway, assistant marketing manager, crossovers, at General Motors of Canada.
The Chevrolet Trax is a five-door, five-passenger crossover based on GM’s Global Small Crossover architecture that will be available in more than 140 markets, but not the United States.
The Trax LS FWD base trim, which starts at $18,495, comes well-equipped with a tilt and telescoping steering wheel, steering wheel audio and phone controls, remote keyless entry, and power windows and door locks. Standard safety features include 10 airbags, stabilitrak with ABS, traction control, hill hold assist, OnStar and available all-wheel-drive.
The most expensive Trax is the LTZ AWD, which costs $29,330, and adds heated front seats, an automatic transmission, air conditioning, fog lamps and 18-inch painted aluminum wheels, which are much nicer than the base model’s 16-inch steel wheels, which leave a glaring gap between the fender arches and tires. The 18-inch wheels are beefier and fill the gap, adding more presence to the Trax’s stance.
Built in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, the Trax stays true to Chevy’s brand heritage on the exterior. From the front end, it’s easily recognizable as a Chevy with its dual port grille and hallmark bow-tie emblem. The Trax is nicely sculpted with simple yet elegant lines, including a subtle centreline crease on the hood. The look is attractive, but not jaw-dropping. Its compact size, measuring 4,280 mm in length, 1,776 mm in width and 1,674 mm in height, makes it easy to drive and park, even in tight spots.
Inside, it’s functional, clean and uncluttered. At night, blue ambient lighting creates a calming atmosphere in the cabin. There are multiple smart storage compartments hidden throughout the cabin, including a centre stack bin for change or a smart phone, an upper and lower glove box bin and six cup holders. A storage tray under the seat is also available.
My LTZ tester comes with Chevrolet’s MyLink infotainment system – it has a seven-inch colour touch screen with an easy-to-use navigation system, a rear-view camera, XM satellite radio, a USB port, voice recognition and Bluetooth, but no CD player. With a new generation of tech-savvy buyers, GM considers a CD player outdated. Why would anyone need a CD player when they can access thousands of songs from their smart phones via MyLink? There’s logic in its reasoning, but I still prefer a good old-fashioned CD player in my vehicle.
The front driver’s seat is four-way adjustable while the front passenger seat moves two ways. But the adjustments are manual and require some elbow grease to find a comfortable driving position. On long drives, the seats get a bit uncomfortable. In the rear seats, three passengers are tight on shoulder and leg room, but headroom is excellent in all seating spots. The rear seats are 60/40 split folding. The front passenger seat can also fold flat for extra flexibility in case you need to lug skis or other long items. The cargo area is ample with 532 litres of room and 1,371 litres with the rear seats lowered.
Only one engine is available in the Trax – it’s a 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder that delivers 138 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque. Mated to the engine is a standard six-speed manual transmission, but both of my testers (a LT FWD and a LTZ AWD) are fitted with a six-speed automatic.
The Trax performed well driving into Quebec along a mix of paved and unpaved public roads. But on snow-covered streets in the tiny communities of Ladysmith and Denholm, the LTZ AWD outperformed the LT FWD. The LT FWD wasn’t as sure-footed on the icy, snowy roads, but the AWD was confident and secure, remaining firmly planted on the road at all times.
Heading back toward Ottawa along the winding, sweeping roads, the Trax had minimal body lean in corners. It handled like a car and its compact size made it easy to manoeuvre, even in tricky spots. But under hard acceleration and travelling up hills, the four-cylinder engine was strained at times.
The Trax excelled on the fuel economy front. The official numbers are 5.7 litres/100 km on the highway and 7.8 in the city for the FWD trim with a manual transmission; the AWD with an automatic is rated at 8.7 city/6.5 highway. My AWD tester averaged 8.8 litres/100 km combined driving, which wasn’t too bad considering our route and that my driving partner, a Quebec journalist, had a lead foot.
The Trax fills a much-needed hole in the Chevy lineup. It’s a smart, functional, fuel-efficient CUV that won’t break the bank.
2013 Chevrolet Trax
Type: Five-passenger compact crossover
Price range: $18,495-$29,330
Engine: 1.4-litre. turbocharged. DOHC, inline-four
Horsepower/torque: 138 hp/148 lb-ft
Transmission: Six-speed manual or six-speed automatic
Drive: Front- or all-wheel
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 7.8 city/5.7 highway (manual FWD); 8.7 city/6.5 highway (automatic AWD); regular gas
Alternatives: Hyundai Tucson, Nissan Juke, Kia Soul, Suzuki SX-4, VW Tiguan, Ford Edge, Subaru XV Crosstrek, Mazda CX-5