New & Used Chevrolet Trax: In Depth
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The Chevrolet Trax is a subcompact crossover that joined the bowtie brand's U.S. lineup early in 2015. It's essentially a mechanical clone of the Buick Encore, which was new for 2013. Befitting its brand, the Trax is more value-oriented than the Encore, with a lesser complement of standard equipment and its own tuning for the suspension and steering.
The Trax is sized like the Chevy Sonic but rides higher and offers all-wheel drive. Its rivals have varying degrees of ruggedness: they include the Jeep Renegade, Nissan Juke, Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3, Fiat 500X, and the fancier Encore.
Chevrolet has sold the Trax in Canada, Mexico, and various other international markets since the 2013 model year. In the U.S., it will be designated a 2015 model.
MORE: read our 2015 Chevrolet Trax preview
The Trax can be thought of as a replacement for the departed Pontiac Vibe hatchback; it's 169 inches long, with a 101-inch wheelbase and a 61-inch track width. It occupies the space of a subcompact car, but it's a bit taller to accommodate more people and cargo. Like the Buick Encore, it will also provide the higher seating position that makes some folks feel more secure when driving among big trucks and SUVs.
A 138-horsepower, 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine will power all U.S.-bound Trax models. It makes 148 lb-ft of peak torque at just 1,850 rpm and is hooked up to a six-speed automatic transmission. Fuel-economy ratings are 26 mpg city, 34 highway for the front-drive model and 24/31 mpg for the all-wheel-drive version. It should be noted that all ratings beat those of an Encore with the same powertrain by 1 mpg, likely due to the Buick's higher weight. The Trax feels confident but not lively or particularly fun in its handling. Suspension underpinnings are pretty typical for this type of vehicle. A column-mounted electric power steering unit provides maneuverability and responsiveness, and all models include four-wheel disc brakes (ventilated in front).
The Trax fits right in with the rest of the Chevrolet small-car lineup, with a rather tall hoodline and blunt snout, showcasing the Chevrolet dual-port grille and bowtie design. That tall nose meets a body that otherwise looks like an elevated hatchback, with some body-side sculpting helping to avoid too much of a slab-sided look. Yet faux skid plates and rubberized wheel-well liners hint at a more rugged side that might or might not actually be there. Inside, the Trax gets a look that has quite a bit in common with the Chevy Sonic hatchback—including a version of the Sonic’s motorcycle-inspired instrument panel (digital speedometer, analog tach). Somewhat surprisingly, the U.S.-market Trax benefits from some of the so-called Quiet Tuning that went into making the Encore a bit more refined than your average mini crossover—the Trax gets thicker window glass as well as added sound deadening in the dash.
Four adults (technically up to five) can fit in the Trax, which includes all the hatchback versatility you’d expect; in back, you get 60/40-split folding seats that do lay flat, and even the front passenger seat will fold flat to accommodate longer items. Cargo space expands from 18.7 cubic feet with the rear seatbacks up, to 48.4 cubic feet with them folded forward, and there are plenty of cubbies for smaller items.
For the U.S., the Trax will include ten standard airbags and a rearview camera system, as well as an electronic stability control system with rollover mitigation, electronic brake force distribution, and Brake Assist. LS, LT, and LTZ trims will be offered, and upper trims will include next-generation OnStar telematics services and MyLink connectivity, with an available seven-inch color touch-screen system, additional USB ports, and SiriusXM satellite radio services. The Trax receives a top five-star rating from the NHTSA, as well as the IIHS's Top Safety Pick nod.
That system is compatible with expanded Siri Eyes Free connectivity for iPhone models, and with the BringGo navigation app, which allows smartphone users with the installed app to project maps and directions to the vehicle’s display screen. Chevrolet’s new OnStar 4G LTE embedded vehicle data system will also be offered in the Trax, potentially turning the vehicle into a Wi-Fi hotspot when needed.