The tiny Chevrolet Trax crossover, earns an updating for the 2017 model year. Trax debuted as a 2015 model and is a close cousin to the Buick Encore, both built upon the foundation of the subcompact Sonic.
The front end of the 2017 Chevrolet Trax has adopted the appearance of other Chevrolet vehicles, and the interior has been updated, substituting a flowing dashboard with analog instruments for the previous motorcycle-inspired digital display. New safety features are available, too. Nothing has changed in the Trax’s engineering, however.
The Buick Encore costs more than the Chevrolet Trax, and offers more amenities as well as a more upscale appearance. Trax is the lowest-priced all-wheel-drive model offered by General Motors and is Chevrolet’s smallest crossover.
Nothing other than front doors are shared with the Buick Encore, and the design of the Trax is not as expressive as that of the Encore. Chevrolet stylists chose a safe course, emphasizing squarer body lines, in contrast to Buick’s sweeping curves.
Four adults actually fit into the Trax’s versatile, spacious interior. A fifth can squeeze in, if all are on the small side.
Performance is not a strong point. The turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine produces 138 horsepower, along with 148 pound-feet of torque starting at a low 1850 rpm. The 6-speed automatic transmission has a wide gear-ratio range. Takeoffs are comparatively swift, and the deep-overdrive top gear delivers relaxed cruising, as well as satisfying fuel economy. In between, the Trax engine strains toward highway speeds, and passing or merging requires quite a bit of free space.
Electric power steering responds well and ensures easy maneuverability. Ride/handling is typical for the Trax’s class, meaning controlled and comfortable, if lacking in sportiness.
Hard plastic components trim the cabin for an effect that looks practical and utilitarian. Contrast stitching is available for the dashboard, for a look that’s more traditional tone. For 2017, Trax adds Apple Car Play and Android Auto compatibility to its MyLink infotainment system.
Safety scores excel. Crash-testing by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration resulted in a five-star overall rating. Trax rated Good in all tests performed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, including the difficult small overlap frontal impact.
Both the driver and front passenger get knee airbags. For 2017, Chevrolet offers blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, forward collision alert, and lane-departure warning.
The 2017 Chevrolet Trax comes in LS, LT, and Premier trim levels (the latter replacing the previous LTZ).
Trax LS includes air conditioning; cloth upholstery; keyless entry; power windows, locks, and mirrors; OnStar 4G LTE connectivity with wi-fi hotspot; MyLink infotainment; 7-inch touchscreen; Bluetooth; and 16-inch steel wheels with plastic covers.
Trax LT gets upgraded cloth upholstery, cruise control, remote start, heated power mirrors, roof rails, and 16-inch alloy wheels. Trax Premier features leatherette upholstery, heated front seats, a Bose seven-speaker sound system, power driver’s seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel, rear park assist, auto-dimming mirror, foglamps, and 18-inch alloy wheels.
Ten airbags and a rearview camera are standard. All-wheel drive adds $1,500, and includes rear disc brakes.
Though it blends some styling cues from Chevrolet trucks into its tall, two-door hatchback body, the Trax looks bland. Buick’s Encore has a far more expressive look, as do such rivals as the Jeep Renegade and Nissan Juke. Still, the Trax conveys a candid, practical personality.
Adopting a front-end similar to other Chevrolets, for the 2017 updating, makes the Trax a bit more appealing. Trax LT and Premier models add halogen projector headlights with LED lighting, and LEDs are used for the taillights of the Premier model. Steel wheels on the Trax LS, in contrast, hark back to the past, though its lack of roof rails improves its appearance. Even on the Trax LS, small trim items are body-colored.
Upgrading gives the 2017 Trax cabin a fresh theme, to complement the admirably quiet interior. A new dashboard eliminates the prior twin-cockpit, digital-readout design, in favor of analog gauges and a flowing shape. Even the base model’s black cloth upholstery features contrasting stitching, though some materials fall short in quality.
From the driver’s seat, the Chevrolet Trax feels larger than its external appearance suggests. In both front and rear, occupants get ample headroom. Comfortable front seats have lower cushions that are sufficiently long to suit taller drivers. Seat height is manually adjustable, via a very short lever, even if power seats are installed.
Still, the Trax is a narrow car, and front passengers’ shoulders are only inches apart. Only the driver gets a fold-down armrest. More than a dozen storage spots can be found.
Cargo space totals 18.7 cubic feet with the 60/40-split rear seat up; and 48.4 cubic feet with the seat flat-folded. That’s more than competitors like the Nissan Juke or Mini Countryman provide. Folding the front passenger seat makes space for long objects, such as surfboards.
The Chevrolet Trax feels solid on the road, with a suspension that absorbs bumps reasonably well. The electric power steering tracks well on the highway, with sufficient feedback and heft to feel confident. Handling is average for the class, uninspiring but well-controlled. The Trax is not as joyful to drive as the relatively sporty Mazda CX-3 or even the Jeep Renegade.
With its modestly powered turbocharged engine, the Trax performs nicely around town, accelerating capably up to 50 mph. Just as you approach highway speed, the Trax begins to slacken. Passing on the highway requires some planning, before pushing on the gas pedal.
Acceleration to 60 mph takes 9.4 seconds with front-drive, a sluggish performance that matches the pace of most other subcompact and compact vehicles. Though quiet at lower speeds, engine noise grows considerably at highway velocities. While idling, the engine can barely be heard. The transmission shifts imperceptibly into neutral, to reduce vibrations.
All-wheel drive, which adds considerable weight, is an option for all three trim levels. The all-wheel drive starts by powering all four wheels, shifting gradually to the rear wheels as speed rises. Past 37 mph, all power goes to the front wheels unless they’re short of traction.
Expect thrifty fuel economy, though some competitors are more efficient. The front-wheel-drive 2016 Trax was EPA-rated at 26/34 mpg City/Highway, or 29 mpg Combined. All-wheel drive drops the estimate to 24/31 mpg City/Highway, or 27 mpg Combined.
Chevrolet Trax is a sensible urban vehicle with a practical hatchback shape. It lacks power and stylishness, but frugal fuel economy and a low starting price add to its appeal, and its cabin is larger than expected for a subcompact crossover.
Driving impressions by Kirk Bell, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.