The Car Connection Chevrolet TrailBlazer Overview
The Chevrolet Trailblazer returned to life for the first time since 2009 as a small crossover SUV sized between the Chevy Trax and Equinox but styled like the larger, more attractive Chevy Blazer.
The Chevrolet Trailblazer competes in a crowded class in and out of the GM family. Rivals include the Ford Ecosport, Honda HR-V, Jeep Renegade, Kia Seltos, Hyundai Kona, and Mazda CX-30, not to mention the Trax, Equinox, and Buick Encore GX that shares powertrains with the Trailblazer.
MORE: Read our 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer review
The new Chevy Trailblazer
Offered in L, LS, LT, Activ, and RS trims, the subcompact crossover balances off-road pretensions with practical intentions. A stout nose with a steep grille fronts the Trailblazer, and top Activ and RS trims add two-tone roofs for more variety. The sportier RS trim buffs up with blacked-out 18-inch wheels and a black mesh grille, while the Activ trim wraps all-terrain tires around 17-inch wheels and adds a skid plate up front for a bit more clearance off the trail.
A pair of turbocharged 3-cylinder engines shared with the Buick Encore GX nudge the front wheels through a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). Opting up for all-wheel drive results in a slightly more powerful 155-horsepower 1.3-liter turbo-3 with a 9-speed automatic transmission. The 1.3-liter with a CVT in front-wheel drive returns the best fuel economy at 31 mpg combined, which is on par with competitors' more potent turbo-4s.
The Trailblazer boxes out the competition with excellent rear leg room and a cargo area as spacious as mid-size crossovers. Clever storage solutions such as an adjustable load floor in back and a stylish smartphone storage area up front optimize the space.
Standard features include automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, active lane control, automatic high beams, and a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. Features such as an 8.0-inch touchscreen or adaptive cruise control cost extra even on the highest trims.
Chevrolet Trailblazer history
The Chevrolet TrailBlazer was a mid-size sport utility vehicle sold from 2002 through 2008, built on a body-on-frame truck platform that spawned similar vehicles for most of GM's other brands. Those included the GMC Envoy, Buick Rainier, Oldsmobile Bravada (briefly, until the Oldsmobile brand was killed off), the Isuzu Ascender, and even the Saab 9-7X, the only truck-based and U.S.-built model ever sold by the now-defunct Swedish import brand.
The TrailBlazer was replaced in the Chevrolet lineup in 2009 by the Traverse crossover utility wagon, which offered more car-like ride and handling and more interior space due to its unibody construction. Similarly, the Buick and GMC versions of the same vehicle were replaced by the Enclave and Acadia, respectively.
The TrailBlazer name actually started as an upscale trim level on the prior generation of Chevy Blazer mid-size utilities, but became its own model with the 2002 introduction of a new vehicle. Its truck heritage was evident in its solid rear axle, and the choice of either a 273-horsepower 4.2-liter inline-6 or a 302-hp 5.3-liter "small block" Chevy V-8, both engines mated to a 4-speed automatic transmission. The large engines and heavy structure produced low fuel-efficiency ratings, with the highest combined fuel economy rating for any version of the TrailBlazer being 16 mpg.
An optional four-wheel-drive system provided both automatic engagement and manually selectable settings for high and low ranges. A detachable trailer hitch was standard on the TrailBlazer, and three trim levels were offered: base LS, mid-level LT, and top-of-the-line LTZ, which included disc brakes, alloy wheels, a more luxurious interior with leather upholstery, a premium Bose sound system. The styling of the Chevy TrailBlazer was lightly upgraded for 2006 on the LT models and up, with a new grille and front fascia and some minor interior trim changes.
The TrailBlazer SS, a performance model, was introduced in 2006 with the same 391-hp 6.0-liter V-8 used in that year's Corvette sports car, though with some tuning changes. It wore 20-inch alloy wheels on lowered suspension, and could be ordered with rear-wheel drive or an all-wheel-drive system unique to that trim package. Another version was the TrailBlazer EXT, which had a longer wheelbase to permit a third row of seats. This model was sold only from 2002 through 2006; it was canceled when GM closed the plant in which it was assembled.
The TrailBlazer name was reintroduced for a 2013 sport-utility based on the new Colorado pickup truck, but that vehicle was not sold in North America.