2017 Chevrolet Trax vs. 2017 Honda HR-V: Compare Cars

December 5, 2016
2017 Chevrolet Trax

2017 Chevrolet Trax

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We're in the midst of a small-SUV explosion, with new entry-level vehicles arriving every year from major automakers. They blend tall hatchback bodies with the all-wheel drive that qualifies them as crossover SUVs.

Both the Chevrolet Trax and the Honda HR-V are recent new entries in the niche, and two years later, Chevy has already updated its entry.

Each is a smaller sibling to a popular vehicle: the HR-V to the CR-V, the Trax to the well-known Equinox. Both are among the more spacious small SUVs, and are well suited to city and suburban use by couples or young families. Optional all-wheel drive gives secure traction for unplowed roads and the occasional muddy trail.

MORE: Read our latest reviews of the 2017 Chevrolet Trax and the 2017 Honda HR-V

Though the Trax was recently updated, we think the HR-V's more flexible interior helps it pull ahead. We've rated the Trax a middling 5.8 overall, while the HR-V comes in at a more impressive 6.8. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

When it was launched, Chevy's designers played it safe with the Trax. It was relatively anonymous, almost the generic small SUV—not bad, just bland. For 2017, an updated front fascia, grille, and headlamps give it a fresh and more distinctive look. The rear fascia is new, too, and LED signature lighting and taillights are available on higher-end models. However, the base model still has budget-grade black door-mirror pedestals, and it lacks roof rails and some chrome trim.

The Honda's more exaggerated styling works to disguise the "tall hatchback on wheels" shape of most utility vehicles. It's rakish, using the brand's latest styling language to give the HR-V more pizzazz—a thick chrome top bar in the grille, swept-back front light units, and strongly etched side accent lines. At the rear, though, it's a shrunken copy of the latest Acura MDX.

Inside, the Trax gets a redesigned instrument panel and dashboard for 2017, trading a motorcycle-style cluster with digital readouts for a more flowing design with analog gauges. There's chrome trim added, and available contrast stitching. The look is more traditional, and certainly improved, but hard plastic surfaces remain, and the overall effect is still utilitarian and practical.

The HR-V's cabin has better finishes and materials than the related Honda Fit hatchback. The clean surfaces have a few foibles, like the slim air vents cut into the passenger-side dash. Overall, the interior has more flourishes and "design elements" than other small SUVs.

2016 Honda HR-V

2016 Honda HR-V

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2016 Honda HR-V

2016 Honda HR-V

Enlarge Photo
2016 Honda HR-V

2016 Honda HR-V

Enlarge Photo
2016 Honda HR-V

2016 Honda HR-V

Enlarge Photo

Both vehicles offer comfortable seats, quiet rides on decent pavement, and a roster of the latest infotainment and electronic safety systems that would have been seen only in luxury cars not so many years ago. Neither of these vehicles is likely to be used off-road much—or at all—so they're tuned for on-road finesse and comfort.

The Trax comes as a base model with front-wheel drive, and offers all-wheel drive as an option. It has only a single powertrain: a 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, making 138 horsepower and paired to a 6-speed automatic transmission. That gives it adequate power, though it's not particularly quick. Fuel economy ratings for the Trax are 29 mpg combined for the front-wheel-drive version, dropping to 27 mpg if you add all-wheel drive.

The HR-V has a 141-hp 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine, paired to either a continuously variable transmission or a 6-speed manual. All-wheel drive is an option, but only with the CVT. The most fuel-efficient model of the HR-V (front-wheel drive and CVT) delivers a combined 31-mpg EPA rating, near the top of the burgeoning class of mini-SUVs.

The HR-V has adequate power, but it's not notably quick either—although it's enough for safe highway merges. It handles well enough, although the high seating positions makes body roll more obvious.

Rather to our surprise, the Chevy Trax can hold four adults in reasonable comfort. Five is a very tight squeeze, with rear-seat riders needing to stagger their shoulders, but it's possible. The straightforward and practical Trax has lots of trays, bins, cupholders, and the like to hold your gear. And the front seats can fold flat to carry long items diagonally.

2017 Chevrolet Trax

2017 Chevrolet Trax

Enlarge Photo
2017 Chevrolet Trax

2017 Chevrolet Trax

Enlarge Photo
2017 Chevrolet Trax

2017 Chevrolet Trax

Enlarge Photo
2017 Chevrolet Trax

2017 Chevrolet Trax

Enlarge Photo

One of the Honda's biggest advantages over competitors is interior volume. The rear seat of the HR-V will accommodate two adults with generous head and leg room, plus the two up front. The HR-V is by far the roomiest vehicle in the segment, and it includes a version of Honda's unique "Magic Seat," which creates a surprising abundance of cargo space if you fold both sections.

Chevrolet has achieved top safety ratings for the Trax from the IIHS, which named last year's model a Top Safety Pick. It also earned five out of five stars overall from federal testers. A rearview camera system is standard, as are electronic stability control with rollover mitigation, and a total of 10 airbags. For 2017, Chevrolet also offers blind spot monitors, rear cross-traffic alerts, forward collision alert, and lane departure warning—which could earn the 2017 Trax an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ designation.

The HR-V gets five stars from the NHTSA, but the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) only rates it as "acceptable" in side-impact and small-overlap crash tests. It has a more limited array of electronic active-safety systems as options, a major demerit in our eyes. 

The Trax and HR-V are similarly priced, with a base 6-speed manual, front-wheel-drive model around $20,000. 

In the end, the Chevy Trax has an advantage over the Honda HR-V in performance, comfort, and fuel economy. Both offer more spacious cabins and better rear-seat room than competitors like the Jeep Renegade and the Mazda CX-3.

Each is a modern and capable small utility, but they're both all-rounders for the mass market, not competitors for similar crossovers that specialize in off-road ability or sporty handling. Both the Trax and the HR-V are likely to suit a buyer looking for a comfortable and accomplished small SUV; we suggest buyers should drive each to see which they prefer.

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Summary

5.8
Expert Rating
The 2017 Chevrolet Trax may lack power and style, but it's a smart package for city dwellers thanks to a useful hatchback shape, thrifty fuel economy, and a low price.
6.8
Expert Rating
Think of the 2017 Honda HR-V as a Fit with all-wheel drive and a little more headroom. It's not as fun as it could be, but it makes a lot of sense.

Styling

5.0
Expert Rating
The 2017 Chevrolet Trax combines cues from Chevy trucks in a tall hatchback-style body, but the result is rather generic.
Read More
7.0
Expert Rating
Simple inside and quirky outside, the Honda HR-V stands out from the crowd in ways we really like.
Read More

Performance

4.0
Expert Rating
Controlled but unremarkable handling is the highlight of the Chevy Trax.
Read More
6.0
Expert Rating
The HR-V rides well, but it's not especially fun to drive and it can feel underpowered with a load of passengers or cargo aboard.
Read More

Comfort & Quality

5.0
Expert Rating
Low-rent interior materials are somewhat offset by a cabin that is commendably quiet for the class.
Read More
7.0
Expert Rating
Honda's excellent packaging triumphs yet again in the versatile and roomier-than-it-looks HR-V.
Read More

Safety

7.0
Expert Rating
Federal and independent testers give the 2017 Chevy Trax high marks.
Read More
6.0
Expert Rating
The HR-V's crash test scores aren't the best and it lacks some of the safety tech offered on rivals.
Read More

Features

7.0
Expert Rating
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto join the list of features favored by young buyers.
Read More
7.0
Expert Rating
The base HR-V is outfitted nicely, but there aren't many customization options.
Read More

Fuel Economy

7.0
Expert Rating
The engine's modest power is offset by thrifty fuel economy, though some rivals are more efficient.
Read More
8.0
Expert Rating
At 31 mpg combined for the front-wheel drive HR-V, you'll pass a lot of gas stations.
Read More

MSRP

from $21,000
from $19,465

Invoice

from $20,160
from $18,937

Fuel Economy - Combined City and Highway

28
28

Engine

Turbocharged Gas 4-Cyl, 1.4L
Regular Unleaded I-4, 1.8 L

Drivetrain

Front Wheel Drive Read Full Specs
Front Wheel Drive Read Full Specs
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