2021 Chevrolet TrailBlazer

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Robert Duffer Robert Duffer Senior Editor
August 20, 2020

Buying tip

Need AWD? The mid-grade LT trim is the best value with the most options. Otherwise, go all in with the sportier elements on the Trailblazer RS.

features & specs

AWD 4-Door LS
AWD 4-Door LT
26 city / 30 hwy
26 city / 30 hwy
26 city / 30 hwy

The 2021 Chevy Trailblazer is a stylish but underpowered subcompact crossover.

Remakes make for new takes, from “Jurassic Park” to jean shorts to the Chevy Trailblazer. That name might conjure up images of a truck-based SUV boxing out a Ford Bronco or Mitsubishi Montero but those days have gone the way of Blockbuster Video and Livestrong wristbands. 

The 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer returns as a small crossover styled after another comeback kid, the Blazer. The five-seater fills out GM’s expansive lineup of crossover SUVs between the smallest Trax and slightly larger Equinox. And it shares its turbocharged 3-cylinder engines with the 2021 Buick Encore GX. Modern times are nothing if not an amalgam of other things. 

Yet the 2021 Chevy Trailblazer looks good, is priced right, and offers plenty of space. But its pokey powertrains and limited feature availability temper its TCC Rating of 5.6 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

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The subcompact crossover comes in L, LS, LT, Activ, and RS trims. Activ trim enhances the image of a versatile off-roader, even if it isn’t. The RS trim blacks out the 18-inch wheels and other elements for a sportier vibe. Otherwise the broad and steep nose of the Trailblazer give it a truck-like face, and the profile gets sporty on its own with wheels pushed to the corners.

Getting behind the wheel of either the 1.2-liter or 1.3-liter turbo-3 dispels any notion of sportiness. The 1.2-liter pairs with a continuously variable automatic transmission in front-wheel drive; opting for all-wheel drive comes with an effortless 9-speed transmission and 1.3-liter only. Those little overachievers tend to the loud side on the highway, and they hit 60 mph eventually. With 31 mpg combined at best, the small turbo-3s are no more efficient than competitors’ larger, punchier turbo-4s. 

But the Trailblazer is also roomier than other smalls, with excellent rear leg room and a cargo area with as much volume as mid-size crossovers. The rear seats can be thin, the front seat bottoms short, and it isn’t until the mid-grade LT trim that the driver gets a power-adjustable seat, so comfort comes on a case-by-case basis. 

Clever packaging and storage nooks keep it smart and good standard safety features such as automatic emergency braking project a value for the $20,000 subcompact crossover. That projection is short-lived. Beyond a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, the standard features don’t add up to a value. Even on the top trims nearing $30,000, features such as an 8.0-inch touchscreen or adaptive cruise control cost extra.


2021 Chevrolet TrailBlazer


Styled like a small Blazer, the 2021 Trailblazer cuts an attractive profile in a crowded small crossover class.

Slotting between the Chevy Trax and Chevy Equinox, the 2021 Trailblazer sheds those dull skins to stand out like the Blazer. Balanced black cladding trims the sides and ends, and a steep, upright nose gives it the brawniness of a truck. Rounded wheel arches house 16- to 18-inch wheels, depending on trim. It earns a 6 for its rugged good looks, even if most of the trails it blazes are in and out of urban jungles. 

The baby Blazer motif carries over to the inside, where cloth seats and door panels mix up the black-on-black-on black dash. Plastic chrome elements break up the formalwear, and an attractive center stack with vents as a top hat taper into a neat storage pocket for phones. 

The top RS and Activ trims offer variation with standard two-tone roof choices.

Review continues below


2021 Chevrolet TrailBlazer


The 2021 Trailblazer looks sportier than it acts.

The small crossover is powered by a choice of two small turbocharged three-cylinder engines shared with the Buick Encore GX. They are neither potent nor efficient. Front-wheel drive and a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) are standard, and the handling is unremarkable. It’s a 4. 

The base L model comes with a 1.2-liter turbo-3 that makes 137 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque. It only comes with front-wheel drive and can be had in L, LS and LT trims. We haven’t tested it yet. 

For all-wheel drive, it has to be a 1.3-liter turbo-3 with a 9-speed automatic transmission. The uprated engine makes 155 hp and 174 lb-ft available at 1,600 rpm, and provides enough thrust from a stop to overtake a less-motivated vehicle. At cruising speeds or on-ramp entrances, it might take a bit more time to get where you want to be. A 0-60 mph time can be had in under 10 seconds, but not by much. It can tend to the louder side at highway speeds, but it is nothing unusual for the class. Responsive steering might suggest you can push it around corners, but the body roll endemic to the tall hatch will make you snuff out that temptation.  

On paper, the $1,400 upcharge for the 1.3-liter might not seem worth it for the slight gain in performance, but it’s complicated. The LT is the only trim with the choice between the 1.2-liter or 1.3-liter with the CVT in front-wheel drive. For drivers who value the change in seasons and value all-wheel drive, it’s $2,000 more but all-wheel drive can only be had with the 1.3-liter and the 9-speed automatic. The refined 9-speed shifts expectedly, almost unnoticeably. 

Sport mode delays shift points to dig a little deeper towards the red zone, but it’s content moseying up paved trails instead of blazing them. The selectable all-wheel-drive knob lets drivers choose to turn it on in inclement weather or shut it off when cruising in nice weather to improve fuel economy. When activated, more torque shifts to the rear wheels at low speeds for better traction on slick, steep, or rough terrain.

Ground clearance increases from seven to eight inches on all-wheel-drive models, but anything more than a light dirt path should be limited to the Activ trim. It has adaptive dampers to be softer on the road and stiffer off-road, 17-inch Hankook Sport Terrain tires, and better ground clearance up front thanks to a pseudo-skid plate.

Review continues below


2021 Chevrolet TrailBlazer

Comfort & Quality

Spacious and with clever storage solutions, the 2021 Trailblazer is one of the roomiest small crossovers.

Larger than the Trax with one of the roomier cargo areas in the small crossover class, the 2021 Trailblazer opens up to 25 cubic feet of cargo volume. That earns a point on our scale to a 6.  

Fitting five adults would be a squeeze, but a foursome and their clubs could ease the pains from the golf course in relative comfort. Removable storage sides in the cargo hold enable long clubs to fit sideways, and a clever two-tiered storage floor can be raised about three inches to create a flat load floor when the 60/40-split rear seats are folded down. The space expands to 54 cubic feet with the seats down, making it one of the largest in the class. 

Other clever storage solutions include a smartphone recess at the bottom of the center stack, a small shelf above the glove box, seat back pockets, and large cup holders in the doors. Nothing revolutionary, but it’s all-around considerate. The lower dash exposes hard plastics that indicate the entry-level status of the Trailblazer, but the plastic chrome trim around the vents and controls add some visual texture to the black-clad cabin.

The cloth front seat bottoms can be on the shorter side but the 10-way power adjustable driver’s seat on LT and above trims offer enough support to be comfy while cruising. The passenger might disagree, due to a manual seat that adjusts in only four positions. Second-row riders are subjected to thin seats but treated to nearly 40 inches of leg room, which is nearly identical to the larger Blazer. Head room is ample, and a 6-footer can fit behind another 6-footer.

Review continues below

2021 Chevrolet TrailBlazer


A four-star NHTSA crash-test rating offsets decent standard safety equipment on the Trailblazer.

With just a four-star NHTSA safety rating, the overall safety score doesn’t look promising despite standard safety features. We won’t ascribe an official rating until the IIHS conducts its crash-testing.

A four-star rollover rating for crossover SUVs is common, but the three-star rating on the front passenger side sinks the overall safety score, according to the NHTSA. The side crash-testing earned five stars. 

Unlike the Blazer and other higher-priced GM vehicles, Chevy didn’t omit standard safety features on the Trailblazer because the competition loads their small crossovers with it. Automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, active lane control, and automatic high beams come standard, while adaptive cruise control, rear park assist, and blind-spot monitors are available on all but the base L trim.

Review continues below


2021 Chevrolet TrailBlazer


A reasonable price range on the 2021 Trailblazer excludes several features that are optional on even the highest trims.

The 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer comes with decent safety features and the latest convenience features, such as wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. But upgrades such as a larger 8.0-inch touchscreen, synthetic leather seats, heated front seats, and adaptive cruise control aren’t made available until the mid-grade LT trim, which at about $25,000 starts to erode the value proposition. 

Still, it earns a 6 for an easy-to-use infotainment system. 

Offered in base L, LS, LT, a sportier RS trim, and off-road pretending Activ trim, the 2021 Chevy Trailblazer comes in several styles without cracking the $28,000 mark. 

The base L model is basic, but starts under $20,000. It comes in front-wheel drive only with the smaller 1.2-liter turbo-3 with a CVT. In addition to the standard features listed in the “Safety” section above, it comes with a 7.0-inch touchscreen with large icons, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, wi-fi hotspot, cloth front bucket seats, two USB ports, and power features. 

If all-wheel drive is needed, we’d skip the LS trim for the LT for $26,695 with the uprated engine and 9-speed automatic. Riding on taller 17-inch black wheels, it adds keyless entry and ignition, heated front seats, tinted rear windows, heated side mirrors, and a 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat.

If front-wheel drive does the job just fine, then the top Activ or RS trims hit the sweet spot at $26,495. The Activ trim wears a more rugged look on its two-tone body, with sport terrain tires wrapped around 17-inch wheels, a skid plate, and what Chevy calls off-road suspension tuning. 

The sporty RS appeals to us for the same price. Looking like a baby Chevy Blazer, it sports 18-inch black wheels, leather-wrapped flat-bottom steering wheel, leather shift knob, a rear center armrest, LED taillamps, and synthetic leather-trimmed seats. Features such as adaptive cruise control and the larger touchscreen are optional extras. 

All 2021 Trailblazers come with a 3-year/36,000-mile warranty, and the first scheduled maintenance item is complementary.

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2021 Chevrolet TrailBlazer

Fuel Economy

The smaller engines in the Trailblazer don’t beat the efficiency of many other 4-cylinder engines.

The pokey little puppies powering the Trailblazer are 3 mpg combined more efficient than the turbo-4 in the Chevy Trax, but that gets it to just about average for the small crossover class. It’s a 6. 

In front-wheel drive with the CVT, the 1.3-liter is more efficient than the 1.2-liter, netting an EPA-rated 29 mpg city, 33 highway, 31 combined. That matches other inline-4s such as the Kia Seltos at 29/34/31 mpg. It’s better than the 3-cylinder in the Ford Ecosport at 27/29/28 mpg.

The smaller engine comes in at 28/31/29 mpg. Adding all-wheel drive penalizes fuel economy on the 1.3-liter with the 9-speed automatic by 3 mpg across the board, to 26/30/28 mpg. 

The all-wheel-drive Subaru Crosstrek gets 27/33/30 mpg combined.

Review continues below

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The Car Connection Consumer Review

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MSRP based on FWD 4-Door L
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Styling 6
Performance 4
Comfort & Quality 6
Safety N/A
Features 6
Fuel Economy 6
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