Ranked as a small urban crossover SUV, Chevrolet’s Trax competes in an overcrowded, if popular, field. Introduced as a 2013 model and facelifted for 2017, the Trax blends a small turbocharged engine with a low-budget selling price.
Little is new for the 2019 model year, except for three new body-color choices.
LS, LT, and Premier trim levels are offered. Developing 138 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque, the turbocharged 1.4-liter 4-cylinder engine mates with a 6-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard, with all-wheel drive a $1,500 option for each trim level. All-wheel-drive models are equipped with all-disc brakes, while front-drive versions stick with rear drums. Needless to say, AWD can be a welcome benefit in harsh weather and on slick pavement.
Chevrolet offers two special Trax versions: a Redline Edition for LT trim, and a Midnight Edition that can be fitted on Premier versions. Two Driver Confidence packages also are offered, featuring such safety equipment as blind-spot monitors, rear cross-traffic alerts, forward-collision warnings, and lane-departure warnings. Both packages are standard on the Premier trim.
Prices do not include $995 destination charge.
LS ($21,300 with front-drive, $22,.800 all-wheel drive) comes with a rearview camera, a four-way driver’s seat, remote keyless entry, 16-inch steel wheels, and a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.
LT ($23,200 with front-drive, $24,700 all-wheel drive) adds alloy wheels, cruise control, LED taillights, and deep-tinted rear windows.
Premier ($27,600 with front-drive, $29,100 all-wheel drive) includes synthetic leather seat upholstery, heated front seats, keyless start, Bose 7-speaker audio, power sunroof, 18-inch wheels, lane-departure warnings, and forward-collision warnings.
Some might brand the Trax anonymous. Closer in tone to a pair of sensible shoes, the Trax relies on functionality rather than creatively curved lines and surfaces.
Especially in base LS trim, with steel wheels and hubcaps, the Trax comes across as a plain but functional vehicle. Unpainted bumpers and lower body trim give the Trax an almost rugged demeanor, but it’s still closer to a hatchback than to an SUV.
More spacious inside than it looks from the outside, the Trax promises greater cargo-carrying utility than most subcompact cars. Drivers also benefit from good outward vision.
Front seats are firm, but only the driver gets a fold-down center armrest. A four-way manual driver’s seat is standard, with power-adjustment available.
For adults, the back seat is a tight fit, though a bit better than expected considering the tiny exterior dimensions of the Trax. Rear head clearance is good, but legroom is limited. A fifth passenger will be a snug fit for short trips.
Cabins are trimmed with plastic and metallic trim. Infotainment arrives via a 7.0-inch touchscreen, positioned above simple climate controls and a set of buttons. Cloth upholstery in LS editions is upgraded in the LT edition, which features matte silver trim. Moving ahead another step, the Premier trim adds contrasting stitching to the dashboard, accompanied by synthetic leather upholstery.
With the rear seat upright, cargo space approaches 19 cubic feet. Fold that 60/40-split seat down, and volume grows to a useful 48.4 cubic feet.
Ten airbags are standard. Otherwise, the Trax is light on advanced safety features. Crash-testing has yielded some satisfying results, but lack of automatic emergency braking is a drawback.
Some other small crossovers are fitted with such automatic braking systems. Chevrolet does offer forward-collision warnings, but only for top Premier trim.
Crash-testing by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration resulted in top five-star ratings all around: overall, as well as for both frontal and side impacts. Only in the rollover rating, which is a calculated figure, did the Trax drop to a four-star score. Virtually all upright-style vehicles get only a four-star rollover rating, if not lower.
In each element of its own crash-testing program except for the small-overlap collision, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rated the Trax “Good.” For the front passenger, that test resulted in an “Acceptable” rating. The small-overlap test simulates impact with a stationary object, such as a utility pole.
The Trax isn’t built for sporty driving; it’s made for commuting. Its minimal dimensions accurately suggest excellence in urban environments. The combination of a short wheelbase and a simple suspension make the Trax more suited to city driving than to twisting its way down country roads.
Turbocharging the tiny engine hasn’t turned it into a performance-seeker. No surprise there, though the Trax is nimble enough. The engine and 6-speed automatic transmission are tuned for efficiency, and require some prodding to extract all the power on tap. Steering is quick and light-feeling.
Safety technology that’s standard on some competitors is absent from the Trax. Only the Premier trim gets forward-collision warnings, and no Trax is fitted with automatic emergency braking.
Despite its minuscule engine and modest weight, the Trax isn’t all that frugal â€“ though it’s fairly thrifty for a small crossover model. Front-wheel-drive models are EPA-rated at 26/31 mpg City/Highway, or 28 mpg Combined. All-wheel drive drops the figures to 24/29 mpg City/Highway, or /26 mpg Combined.
Moderate prices are the main attraction of Chevrolet’s smallest crossover SUV, making it a potential alternative to a basic used car. Base LS editions qualify as plain, with a shrunken standard-equipment list. The Trax is there for your daily driveâ€”just keep it in town to keep it happy.
Driving impressions by Andrew Ganz, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.