Built in Mexico and for sale in Canada and not the US, the 2015 Chevrolet Trax arrived in 2014 as Chevy’s entrant into what has become a quickly growing class in the urban utility vehicle (UUV). Really, Chevrolet was a bit ahead of its time with the, with manufacturers like Mazda, Fiat and even Mercedes-Benz jumping on the bandwagon since.
Looking like a Chevy Sonic hatch on stilts (the Trax is only a few millimeters longer and wider), the bulldog-like profile and stance of the Trax will surely appeal to those that like a little cuteness from their crossover. The proportions are nice; I just wish there was a little more detailing. The LTZ-standard foglight housings with chrome surrounds are nice, but the headlamp lens shape, the two-tier grille and tame wheel design (the 18 inchers on our tester are standard on the top LTZ trim), but there isn’t anything that really draws your eye, here; wish it looked as little more like the Trax concept first seen in 2012 at the Paris Auto Show.
Actually, the car’s real debut came in 2009’s Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, a nod to the need to attract a more youthful buying group. Our tester did come with a Sunset Orange paintjob, though. Hard to miss that.
Inside, it’s a bit of a different story. The motorcycle-inspired half digital, half analogue gauge cluster is a very cool, trendy and modern touch, while the big, 7-inch infotainment touch screen is your access point for Stitcher, XM radio, and TuneIn radio. 7-inches is big, and looks even bigger thanks to the Trax’s compact environs. It comes as standard on the 2LT and LTZ trims, and as an option on the 1LT. Doesn’t flip up to reveal a hidden storage bin as is the case in other Chevy products, though. Shame, that.
Otherwise, Chevy has made good use of the space you do have in the Trax; there’s a dual-tier glovebox, another covered storage bin above the centre stack and vertical bins on either side. The cupholders count six (even though it only seats five), and there’s a tray under the front passenger seat for the most valuable items.
Rear cargo storage isn’t quite as well implemented, however. The bottom seat cushions fold into the floor and the seatbacks fold almost flat, which is all well and good, but the process is a multi-step one that doesn’t go smoothly. And once you want to flip them back up, make sure you hold on to the seatbelt buckles so they don’t get buried under the cushions. It just isn’t very intuitive, but you do get 1,371L of cargo space once they’re down, which is nice.
Other niceties afforded by the top-spec LTZ trim include leather seating, heated front seats and Premium Bose 7-speaker audio.
Something that all Traxs get, though, is a nice, high driving position afforded by the taller ride height and a great view forward through the massive windshield. That’s one of the biggest draws of this new type of vehicle; it looks like you’re driving an SUV from inside, but it doesn’t feel like it from inside. Rather, the driving dynamics are much more car-like.
Trouble is, the interior measurements kind of follow that trend; there isn’t that much more rear legroom than there is in a Sonic, and front seat occupants actually get less. More headroom, though. Of which there’s less in the back. Bit mixed, that.
All four available trims can be had with either front wheel- or all-wheel-drive, with our tester being fitted with the latter.
It’s a front-biased set-up; if the rear wheels begin to need more grip, then power can be transferred back that way. It’s a very functional system; at the press launch of the Trax in 2013, we were given some slippery, snowy roads in the Ottawa/Gatineau area and even when provoked, the Trax would step back in-line briskly. This is a little vehicle that can do a lot more than its taut packaging suggests. It reminds a little, actually, of those little Suzuki Samurais that took the off-roading world by storm all those years ago, the Trax clearly benefitting from the partnership GM used to have with the Suzuki brand.
The rest of the powertrain works well; power comes from a turbocharged Ecotec four-banger good for 138 horsepower and 148 lb.-ft. of torque; power comes on quickly with little more than a hit of lag, to be expected from a turbocharged powerplant like this. It doesn’t feel like a sports car, per se, but the Trax isn’t a sports car so enough juice to make highway passing easier is all you really need.
A six-speed automatic transmission comes as standard on all trims except for base, which is a nice nod to the Trax’s need to be capable around town just as it is out on the highway. Having said that, the engine and chassis are involving to the point where you’d almost want to try the manual. You can only have it with FWD, though. No big surprise, there.
Chevrolet has to be respected for venturing into what is quite a new segment for North America, so they get my respect on that front. I like the Trax’s powertrain, too, but I just wish they would have pushed the envelope a little more on the styling front. They really had a chance to show the world that Chevy could build something that wasn’t an excercize in conservative styling. I’m not asking that they take on the Juke, which resides at the other end of the UUV spectrum, but can you imagine what we’d be saying if even a few of the styling cues from the concept made it to production? A bit of an missed opportunity, I’d say.