- Roomy, versatile interior
- Actually seats four adults
- Excellent safety ratings
- Bland exterior styling
- Acceleration not particularly peppy
- Steel wheels on LS a throwback
With its useful hatchback shape and thrifty fuel economy, the 2016 Chevrolet Trax is a smart package for city dwellers who value practicality over power or style.
The 2016 Chevrolet Trax is the automaker's smallest crossover, and platform-mate to the Buick Encore. Although both Encore and Trax are based on the Chevrolet Sonic's architecture, the Encore is decidedly more upscale.
The Trax is one of a new breed of subcompact SUVs. With a lower entry price, the Trax offers most of the amenities of its larger sibling, the compact crossover Equinox. It also gives the brand its least-expensive all-wheel drive entry.
It took a while to get to the U.S. as Chevrolet worked to improve the crash structure. That paid off because the Trax scores well in crash tests. The list of standard safety features is impressive as well. A rearview camera system is standard, as are electronic stability control with rollover mitigation, and an astonishing 10 airbags. Both the driver and front passenger get knee bags, the front and rear outboard positions get side thorax airbags, and side curtain bags cover those in the front and rear outboard positions.
The Trax’s engineering is much like that of many typical small cars and car-like crossovers, with a MacPherson strut front suspension and a torsion-beam rear setup with a tubular V-shaped beam and twin-tube gas shocks. Column-mounted, electric-boost power steering provides maneuverability and responsiveness, and ride and handling are typical for the class: controlled and comfortable but not sporty.
All U.S. Trax models come powered by a 1.4-liter turbocharged inline-4 making 138 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque—with peak torque from just 1,850 rpm on up. It’s paired to a 6-speed automatic transmission with a wide range of gear ratios, allowing relatively quick takeoffs but a deep overdrive sixth gear for relaxed, fuel-efficient highway cruising. Fuel economy ratings are 29 mpg combined for the front-wheel-drive version, according to the EPA, dropping to 27 mpg if you add all-wheel drive. Unfortunately, the little four struggles to get up to highway speeds and requires plenty of space when passing.
You could consider the 2016 Trax a tall five-door hatchback, or a classic two-box utility vehicle in miniature. It has the footprint of a subcompact, but at 66 inches tall, it's quite a bit higher than a typical subcompact hatch. An arched-back roofline and nicely sculpted flanks do their best to keep it from feeling too slab-sided. Up front it has a taller, stubbier version of the current Chevrolet corporate grille that blends into a high hood line. Rubber-look lower-body components offer a hint of ruggedness, though the Trax isn’t meant for the trail, even with all-wheel drive.
Inside, the Trax gets an instrument panel look that has a lot in common with the Sonic's motorcycle-influenced layout, including a sweeping tachometer and a digital speedometer. Otherwise, the dash and trim have a simple, sporty, upright appearance. The look and feel are hindered by an abundance of hard black plastics, a sure sign of cost containment.
This small crossover—or tall hatchback, more appropriately—fits four adults, or five in emergencies if the three in back are quite small. The rear seat is split 60/40 and folds forward flat, while there’s storage in all four doors as well as various cubbies. Cargo space expands from 18.7 cubic feet with the rear seatbacks up, to 48.4 cubic feet with them folded forward. The front passenger seat can fold flat for long items, too.
The 2016 Chevrolet Trax is offered in LS, LT, LTZ trim levels, with a starting price around $21,000. LS models come with 1990s-style 16-inch steel wheels and silver plastic wheel covers, while LTs get 16-inch alloy wheels and top LTZ models have 18-inch alloys. However, the LS has a healthy list of standard features, including air conditioning; keyless entry; power windows, locks, and mirrors; 4G LTE connectivity with a built-in wi-fi hotspot; Onstar capability; and the MyLink entertainment system.
MyLink comes with a 7.0-inch touchscreen, SiriusXM satellite radio services, a USB port, an aux jack, and Bluetooth phone and streaming music connectivity. It is compatible with Siri Eyes Free connectivity for iPhones, 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.
The LT model adds roof rails, heated power adjustable mirrors, and a handful of other features. Buyers can mix and match features that appeal most to them within the LT model designation. The top-of-the-line LTZ includes heated leatherette seats, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, and a Bose seven-speaker sound system. A sunroof is optional, and a loaded LTZ tops out at around $29,000.
The Trax manages decent fuel economy, but doesn't fare well against newer competition. The best fuel economy is achieved by front-wheel drive models, which carry ratings of 26 mpg city, 34 highway, 29 combined, according to the EPA. By comparison, the HR-V and CX-3 are rated at 31 mpg combined. Trax models with AWD are rated at 24/31/27 mpg.