Published on Friday 20 December 2013 21:00
Ten Second Review
Chevrolet's little Trax is yet another fun and fashionable small Crossovers model that also aims to be versatile, capable and practical too. It's a likeable little slice of Americana in this growing segment.
All-purpose SUVs come in many shapes and sizes these days. Everything from large, sturdy rock-hoppers to, well, something like this, Chevrolet's small SUV Crossover model, the Trax.
The Trax, like its near-identical design stablemate the Vauxhall Mokka, offers a trendier and more affordable way for a small, fashionable family to get a foothold in the growing soft roading market segment. All so-called 'Crossover' models claim to do that, be they cars like Nissan's Qashqai or Peugeot 3008 that are based on family hatchbacks. Or more compact models like Nissan's Juke or Skoda's Yeti, based on smaller superminis. The Trax sits in the smaller of these two Crossover categories but offers a bit more power and space than you'll find in many of its direct rivals. It's certainly a more interesting alternative to that Focus-sized family hatch you may have been considering. But does it really stack up as a realistic day-to-day family choice? Let's find out.
This Chevy isn't quite as sharp and wieldy as a rival Nissan Juke - the steering's a little vague for that. It also has a rather firm ride which robs it of the kind of 'big SUV' polish you get in, say, a comparable Skoda Yeti. Having said all that, what the Trax can offer is a decent compromise between these two extremes that I'd expect will adequately satisfy most potential buyers.
Under the bonnet, there are three main engine options, the most affordable, as ever, being the least desirable of the trio, the 2WD-only 115PS petrol 1.6-litre variant. A better bet for petrol people is the 140PS 1.4-litre turbo which is more efficient, quicker, has a better 6-speed manual gearbox and is offered with a four wheel drive option. Diesel buyers get two or four wheel drive mated with a 130PS 1.7 VCDi unit.
The AWD system is one of those fully adaptive set-ups that reacts to the surface you're driving over. So there are no knobs and levers: just a set of sensors that constantly monitor things like your steering angle, the wheel speeds, the throttle pedal position and the engine revs. Based on all this data, the electronic torque transfer device that controls the whole set-up will always know when extra traction is required, at which point it will automatically and seamlessly send up to 50% of the engine's torque from the front to the rear axle.
Design and Build
The Trax is a confident-looking thing with a front end dual port grille that instantly marks it out as a Chevrolet, complete with trademark centre-positioned bow tie badge. Take a seat inside and there's a slightly curious combined LCD and analogue instrument display but a cleanly styled centre console dominated by a multi-function MyLink infotainment screen. This enables you to link in your 'phone and download videos and various apps.
In the back, there's more space than you'd perhaps expect from something based on a car from the Fiesta class, especially when it comes to headroom. The rear seat row also incorporates a 230V three-pin mains power supply - ideal for game-minded kids. As for luggage space, well, there's no high boot lip to negotiate and beyond it lies 356-litres of carriage room. Push forward the split-folding rear bench and the Trax really is spacious, offering a total capacity of 785-litres - or 1,370-litres if you load above the windowline. There's 1.5m of loadbay length and if that isn't enough, then the front passenger seat can fold flat and enable objects of nearly 2.3m long to be carried. In other words, this car is a lot more versatile than it might look.
Market and Model
So, what will you be paying for this small, trendily-styled five-door little SUV/Crossover? Well, pricing lies mainly in the £16,000 to £21,000 bracket. Within that, there's a £750 premium for petrol buyers who want to make the jump from the entry-level 115PS 1.6 to a comparably-trimmed version of the pokier and more efficient 140PS 1.4T. Pricing for the sole diesel variant, the 130PS 1.7 VCDi, starts at around the £19,000 mark, which if you're interested is around £700 more than a comparable petrol 1.4T. Both the diesel and the top petrol variant get the option of AWD for a further £1,500 and buyers of the front-driven diesel can also specify a 6-speed automatic gearbox for a £1,000 premium.
Even the base LS variant comes with 16-inch alloy wheels, auto headlamps, daytime running lights, front foglamps, privacy glass, roof rails, power front windows, reverse parking sensors, a Thatcham Category 1 alarm, air conditioning, cruise control, a trip computer, Bluetooth 'phone compatibility, steering wheel controls for a decent quality 6-speaker CD stereo with MP3, USB and Aux-in compatibility and Hill Start Assist to stop you from drifting backwards on uphill junctions.
Most of the range though is built around the much plusher LT spec, recognisable by its larger 18-inch alloy wheels, skid plates and special door sills. The key interior addition is Chevrolet's innovative MyLink Connected Radio system with its 7-inch colour touchscreen display and Siri speech recognition.
Cost of Ownership
As far as cost of ownership is concerned, it would be fair to call this Trax 'class competitive'. As you'd expect these days, a start/stop system is fitted across the range (though only on manual gearbox models) to cut the engine when you don't need it, stuck in traffic or waiting at the lights. As a result, even the oldest engine in the line-up, the 115PS 1.6-litre petrol unit, returns 43.4mpg on the combined cycle and 153g/km of CO2. As for the 140PS 1.4-litre petrol turbo Trax model, well despite the extra power and weight on offer, the figures are actually a bit better, even if you specify your car with AWD. In that form, the car returns 44.1mpg on the combined cycle and 149g/km of CO2. Get the 1.4T model with front wheel drive and the respective figures improve to 47.1mpg and 139g/km.
Stacking up even better of course is the Trax in 1.7-litre VCDi 130PS diesel form. This manages 62.7mpg on the combined cycle and 120g/km of CO2 - or 57.6mpg and 129g/km in AWD form. Bear in mind though, that specifying a 2WD diesel Trax with automatic transmission will exact a heavy penalty, hitting your fuel and CO2 figures by around 15%.
We live in an ever more curious world. Not for nothing is adventure tourism now accounting for a quarter of all European holidays. Ours is a society in which people increasingly want to try something different. Like a Chevrolet Trax? Perhaps.
This car won't take you through the Serengeti of course, but it'll bring slightly more of a sense of adventure to the school run and makes an appealing second car family choice. Of course you could say the same of most contenders in the Nissan Juke-dominated compact Crossover segment, full of rivals with obvious virtues. But then, this Chevrolet has a few notable selling points of its own, with a decent set of engines, clever infotainment technology and an appearance that's pure, concentrated American SUV.
There are downsides of course, but they're not game-changing ones. It could be better to drive - but it's good enough in this respect for most in its target market. It could be slightly cheaper to buy - but Chevy dealers should be able to help you on that one. Which leaves us with what? A model with an appeal that builds as your interest in it grows. And the latest staging post in Chevrolet's SUV history, a car very much of its time.