Chevrolet is well known for its full-size SUVs like this Tahoe. But, it’s really small utes that are fast becoming today’s big deal. The Nissan Juke, MINI Countryman, and Buick Encore are already out, with more coming like the Honda HR-V, Jeep Renegade, and our focus this week, the Chevrolet Trax. Now, Chevy is no stranger to tiny utes. But, their last one, the Tracker built with Suzuki, was less than the best. So let’s see the new Trax is on the right track.
Utility vehicles are coming in ever more shapes and sizes these days, so love them or hate them; they’re not going away anytime soon. This 2015 Chevrolet Trax plays into a segment that is ripe for explosive growth: sub-compact crossovers.
While most efforts so far have been luxury minded, like the Mini Cooper Countryman, and Buick Encore, with which this Trax shares a platform, more mainstream brands are now joining the downsizing. And it’s about time, as we think the Encore’s size would work for Chevy from the get go.
And actually it has been, as the South Korean made Trax is already sold in over 60 global markets. It’s just new to Chevy dealers here.
Mechanically, the Trax is nearly a clone of the Encore, including front-wheel-drive being standard with all-wheel-drive optional. Power comes from the same “little engine that almost can”. Lifted from the Chevy Sonic subcompact, it’s a 1.4-liter I4 turbo with 138-horsepower and 148 lb-ft. of torque, attached to a 6-speed automatic transmission. Also from Sonic is the MacPherson strut front suspension, and compound crank torsion beam under the rear.
On both city streets and the sweeping canyons east of San Diego, where we got our first drive, the suspension tuning proved fully competent; similar to Encore; not sporty, not soft, but a good middle ground. Ride quality is pretty good for a short wheelbase vehicle, until the roads get really choppy.
The all-wheel-drive system is a fully automatic on-demand system. Sending power rearward when slip is detected, which does include on tight turns. Curb weight is as much as 3,300 pounds with all-wheel-drive.
On the technology front, the Trax is fully up to speed with a 7-inch MyLink display in the center stack, Siri Eyes Free connectivity, standard keyless entry; and optional remote start. Like all newest GM’s, OnStar 4G LTE with built-in WiFi is standard, as is a back-up camera; though navigation, by way of the BringGo app is optional.
The instrument panel is more Sonic than Encore with a large, round, motorcycle style tachometer on the left, and a rectangular digital display right for speed and more. The 3-spoke steering wheel has nicely integrated controls; and the overall fit-and-finish of the interior seems perfectly fine for a Chevy price point.
A full complement of 3 in the back seat would be uncomfortable for all parties involved, but both leg and knee room were adequate for 2 adults; reliefs cut into the front seatbacks help a lot. Up front, there’s a good amount of room as well, but seats are narrow and you still sit very upright.
As for cargo, rear seatbacks fold 60/40, and the front passenger seat folds flat as well, for longer items. At 18.7 cubic-ft., rear cargo space is larger than both the Nissan Juke and Jeep Renegade, 48.4 cubic-ft. with the seat backs folded.
And there’s a wealth of small item storage bins throughout the interior. 10-airbags are standard, including rear seat-mounted thorax bags.
On the outside, all of the current Chevrolet design cues are here; dual-port grille, smooth body sides with rounded fenders, and a gently sloping rear with well integrated spoiler that extends down the sides of the back glass, and stacked tail lamps.
It’s a smooth design with plenty of curves, a fairly aggressive stance, and enough glass for fine visibility. Body lowers are covered in plastic; and simulated skid plate’s front and rear hint at capabilities that are probably best left untested.
16-inch wheels are standard, with the top trim model getting 18’s. Wheelbase of just 100.6-inches, and a front track of 60.6 inches makes for a tidy package. Overall length comes in at 168.5-inches; ground clearance is a good 6.2-inches.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings for a front-wheel-drive Trax are 26-City, 34-Highway, and 29-Combined. Sending power to all 4 wheels will lower those numbers to 24-city, 31-Highway, and 27-Combined. That’s still good for an above average Energy Impact Score of 11.4-barrels of annual oil use with CO2 emissions of 5.1-tons.
Pricing follows an affordable Chevrolet formula starting at $20,995. All-wheel-drive adds $1,500 more, which makes it the least expensive all-wheel-drive Chevrolet you can buy. A base Encore stickers for 4-grand more.
So for 2015, GM morphs the Buick Encore into the Chevrolet Trax, and fortunately all of the competency is left fully intact. The Encore was a much bigger hit than expected, so this one will certainly have higher expectations. But, we think the Trax is off on the right track to fully meet them.
Engine: 1.4 liter
Torque: 148 lb-ft.
EPA: 26 mpg city/ 34 mpg highway
Energy Impact: 11.4 barrels of oil/yr
CO2 Emissions: 5.1 tons/yr