EngineTurbo 1.4L I4
Power138 HP / 148 LB-FT
Curb Weight2,805 LBS
Cargo48.4 CU-FT (max)
MPG26 City / 34 HWY
Warranty3 Year / 36,000 mile
As Tested Price$26,805
That news might not surprise you, but it did me. Perhaps it's something as basic as the Trax's tall-hatchback looks, or the emphasis Chevrolet put on the urban driving cycle during my test in San Diego. But before my chat with Majoros, I'd considered this a crossover pointed at the Millennial city mouse more than his bumpkin cousin.
But a closer look had me re-examining the granola cred of Chevy's smallest crossover. Having spent my fair share of time in New England and around New Englanders, I started by mentally listing the Trax's Subaru-like traits: practicality, thrift, all-weather ability and, well, just a dash of ugliness. (I suppose a hatchback needn't always be ugly to sell in Maine, or Boulder or Portland... but a 'distinctive' face doesn't seem to hurt.)
After a day of driving through sunny San Diego and its surroundings, I can say that Trax makes an interesting case for itself against the standard bearers of the L.L. Bean set, but I'm less sure of its argument for young urbanites.
Chevy's has downsized its own, rather conservative crossover styling to fit the proportions of the subcompact Trax; to my eyes, it looks a lot like an Equinox whose suit shrunk in the wash. That's fine for offering a cohesive look for the Chevy family of crossovers, but it seems out of step with the rest of the segment.
The Trax looks a lot like an Equinox whose suit shrunk in the wash.
If the Trax's current competitive set were the cast of a high school-based TV show, the Kia Soul would play the lovable nerd, the Nissan Juke perhaps the outsider musician and the Subaru XV Crosstrek the athletic outdoorsy kid. Chevy may see the Trax as the hipster chick wearing intentionally ironic mom jeans, but to me the styling is a little too on the nose; more like an actual grownup trying to hang with the kids. These mom jeans are genuine.
Per my earlier point, that quasi-conservative look may be just fast enough for staid New Englanders, but I have a hard time seeing the bluff, big-Bowtied front end playing in Bushwick or Wicker Park.
Inside, the Trax is every bit as excitement-free. Don't get me wrong, the styling of the cockpit is clean and refreshingly free of the kinds of faux-lux ornamentation that has turned many an entry-level GM vehicle into a gauche mess. But there's no part of the interior that feels youthful, or edgy, or otherwise indicative of must-have-it design.
There's no part of the interior that feels youthful, or edgy, or otherwise indicative of must-have-it design.
When viewed practically, though, the interior is the spiritual kinsman to a pair of duck boots paired with Carhartt cargo pants. Visibility from the driver's seat is excellent, forward and side, though the smallish rear window and raked roofline detract a bit from the backwards visage. The seat itself is cozy and upright, slightly flat, but not bad for a vehicle nobody will basically ever want to enter a hot corner in. A raised ride height, relative to traditional hatchbacks, means getting into and out of the seat is a doddle, too. Most importantly, cupholders and cubbies surround: there are two gloveboxes (lil' and big), and a pop-open nook at the top of the center console, goodly door pockets and four receptacles for front-passenger beverages alone.
The rear seats aren't nearly as commodious as the front, lacking especially in the headroom department, but there's still reasonable room for two adults back there. (Assuming the adults aren't corn-fed Dutch boys like me.)
And, perhaps most important for the practical-minded, there's a great big load space to be found under the hatchbacked rear. Even with the seats up, there seems to be enough room to lug a 3,000-watt generator and a week's worth of groceries up to the camp... you know, as a general "for instance."
With the rear seats folded, the Trax will swallow 48.4 cubic feet's worth of stuff.
Chevy says that with the rear seats folded (something that seems to require the front seats to be far forward to accomplish), the Trax will swallow 48.4 cubic feet's worth of stuff. That's a bigger hold than the Juke but smaller by 3.5 cubes than the Crosstrek's hatch, and way smaller than the clever Soul's 61.3 cubic feet of stowage.
As I mentioned at the top, Chevy seemed to be heavily pushing the urban-driver's car theme by way of our prescribed driving route. Starting at the airport, we did some coastal commuting up to La Jolla, got in a few quick turns on stretches by the ocean, and then traversed downtown San Diego as though we were residents.
The Trax proved plenty nimble in low-speed city driving, aided by its short wheelbase and reasonably quick steering. Getting into and out of tight parking spaces is second nature for the vehicle, and those excellent sight lines certainly were of use in downtown traffic, too.
Getting into and out of tight parking spaces is second nature for the vehicle, and its excellent visibility was of use in downtown traffic.
But I can't say that the powertrain – a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder making 138 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque that you'll recognize from the Sonic, Cruze and the Trax's upscale Buick Encore cousin – was much fun when threading through sleepy California commuters. Routed to a six-speed autobox and pushing 2,805 pounds of curb weight in the front-drive configuration I sampled, the blown four sounded rough when the throttle was opened up and didn't have much in the way of guts, either. I really had to kick the throttle in its proverbial nuts to get the Trax moving, that or make use of the horrible thumb-switch gear-change button on the side of the shiftlever. If and when I did those things, my rewards were still-mild response times and an exhaust/engine soundtrack that would make an EK Civic sound like an F40.
Not that one should throw the baby out with the bathwater, though – a Trax buyer who couldn't care less about engine response might still be happy to hear that the fuel economy is expected to be excellent. According to the EPA, a front-drive Trax is good for 34 miles per gallon on the highway, easily besting the competitors I've already named, including the far less torquey Kia. City and combined figures stand at 26 and 29 mpg, respectively, which are just about equal to the 27/29 of the lighter but more powerful Nissan, too.
The ride and handling story is a near parallel to that of the powertrain, vis-à-vis fun vs. practical. This isn't a chuckable hatchback. The suspension is soft, the steering pretty flavorless and the biggest dynamic plus is the chassis' wheelbase-aided ability to rotate quickly. All of those same tuning choices do make the Trax a quiet, controlled and docile thing, too. It's hushed on the highway and so smooth over rough roads that I hardly noticed a bump after the one pothole I intentionally steered toward (San Diego County is not rife with the things, I'll admit).
It's hushed on the highway and so smooth over rough roads that I hardly noticed a bump after the one pothole I intentionally steered toward.
For those of you keeping score at home, that brings us to four checkmarks for the Trax in the practical column and zero in the young/fun column. Of course, the biggest deciding factor for the bulk of both groups is price.
Chevy asks $20,995 plus $875 in delivery and destination for its most basic, front-wheel-drive Trax model, and you'll need to add $1,500 to that for the all-wheel drive that lets this CUV play in the Snowbelt and mountain regions of our fair nation. That $23k total rings up as about $500 less expensive than the always-all-wheels-driven XV Crosstrek with the optional CVT, for the best apples-to-apples comparison. A Juke S AWD is slightly cheaper than both of them, at $22,995. Front-driver comparisons are less kind on the Trax, headlined by the base, 1.6-liter Soul that retails for just $15,900, delivered (the Kia doesn't offer all-wheel drive).
Don't forget, the newly announced Honda HR-V and Mazda CX-3 will have something important to say about this segment next year, too, as will the Fiat 500X and Jeep Renegade.
The parsimonious and the sensible buyer should love this small crossover, which excels in its reasonableness above all.
Whenever a small, affordable vehicle is launched, its automaker hopes a river of new, young buyers will flow into the brand. Such is the case with Trax, and I'm sure that its size and low price point will bring some young 'uns into Chevy showrooms.
But I like Majoros' sales story better, based on both my test and my understanding of the (for lack of a better term) Olive Kitteridge demographic. The parsimonious and the sensible buyer should love this small crossover, which excels in its extraordinary reasonableness above all.