I’m still trying to figure out how we got to the place where small crossover SUV’s were the car du jour for the auto industry. Essentially, these are glorified hatchbacks, which US consumers wholly rejected. However, they seem to love these mini-truck versions. Lots of consumers like to sit up a little higher, claiming better visibility – but as a driving instructor, I know that’s because most drivers don’t really look far enough ahead to begin with. Really what you end up with is a more expensive hatchback with a higher center of gravity.
Don’t get me wrong, I love hatchbacks – but there’s something off about the proportions of these small crossovers. They are very short and stubby, making them look a bit like those caricature drawings you get done at the fair. The 2017 Trax has an all-new front fascia and rear valence, modernizing the look and bringing it in line with some of Chevy’s other offerings. It’s not a bad-looking car, per se – but this isn’t exciting to look at.
The excitement is missing from the driving experience too, with the 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder feeling a bit underpowered for hauling around all the gadgets in our Premium trim test vehicle. The features are nice, but since this is more of a budget/entry-level car to begin with, I wonder who’s really getting one this loaded. The Trax starts at $21k, which is already a bit high for what you’re getting – but tops out at nearly $30k once you add in a bunch of options and AWD Premium. They used to call it the LTZ model, but nobody really knows what that means, so I applaud the ‘Premium’ moniker.
Adding AWD to a vehicle this small seems counterintuitive as well. The 138hp engine already has a tough enough time moving this thing around, driving two more wheels really puts a damper on acceleration. The fuel mileage takes a hit too, turning in only 22-City and 30-Highway MPG. I would probably opt for a front-wheel-drive variant and use the fuel savings to buy a set of winter tires.
There’s lots of tech crammed into this little car, but some of the active-safety systems and warnings are a bit unrefined. There’s an overly-sensitive forward-collision warning, and some key missing features. The 4G hotspot is great, however, and the USB ports actually have enough current to quickly charge your phone while Android Auto and Apple Car-Play do their thing. You won’t be disappointed here.
You will likely be disappointed by the cargo space, however. They have yielded cargo space in favor of better rear-seat legroom, which is welcome, but it makes the hatch all but useless. If you fold the back seats, you can carry things – but only one passenger. The upshot is that the overall vehicle length makes city parking easy, and that’s how I feel this car is best suited. Unfortunately, for such a small car, the city mileage would have me looking for a hybrid alternative.
Overall, this Trax is a fine enough car – but it just doesn’t do anything well enough to make me want to buy it. There are lots of compromises here, and that’s fine if it’s a bargain – but at close to $30k, there are better alternatives in this class. If you’re a die-hard Chevy fan, maybe that is enough to tip you this way – but I would look elsewhere.
By Jason Saini
Special thanks to the Chevrolet Division of General Motors Company for providing the 2017 Chevy Trax for review.