2015 Chevrolet Trax-LS FWDPosted on March 16th, 2015
Compact crossover with new connectivity features
By Nina Russin
Life is plan B. I thought about this sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the interstate outside Fort Worth, Texas, as I scanned the horizon for signs of clearing. It had been a plan B week and from what I could see, things were not getting better. Fortunately the car I was driving, the new Chevrolet Trax compact crossover is engineered to embrace the unexpected.
The adventure began two days prior, descending into Dallas Love Field through a blanket of clouds. As is typical for business travel, I had come half prepared, armed with enough clothes and an itinerary including two events: the first, the Texas Auto Writers Spring Roundup, and the second, a Volkswagen ride-and-drive 200 miles to the southeast in Austin. Entering the Trax curbside, I realized I had no idea beyond the airport exit sign of how to get to my first destination.
Nor did I have an abundance of time, having chosen the last direct flight out. If things went swimmingly, the window upon arriving at the hotel would be just enough to dump my suitcase in the room before dinner.
I pressed the blue OnStar button below the rearview mirror and within a minute a cheerful voice came over the speakerphone. The OnStar rep downloaded directions into the car and I was on my way.
Features such as concierge service, navigation and mobile hotspots are common among luxury brands, but the cost of admission keeps most buyers outside the gate. The idea behind the Trax is to offer these features at an affordable price.
The Trax shares chassis components with the compact Buick Encore, with base MSRP $3,000 lower. Starting price for the LS is $20,120 excluding the $875 destination charge. The front-wheel drive model comes with a 1.4-liter turbocharged engine rated at 138-horsepower and six-speed automatic transmission. Buyers in all-season climates can opt for a slightly pricier all-wheel drive variant.
Standard comfort and convenience features include Chevrolet MyLink radio with Bluetooth streaming audio, OnStar, 4GLTE connectivity for creating a mobile hotspot, air conditioning, power door locks, mirrors and windows, remote keyless entry, a fold-flat second-row seat, redundant steering wheel controls, 12-volt power points and USB ports.
The Trax is also a safe car, having earned a five star frontal crash rating from NHTSA and Top Safety Pick from IIHS. Standard safety features include ten airbags, stability control, daytime running lamps and a rearview camera. While it lacks some of the Encore’s premium interior finishes, there’s no doubt that the Chevrolet Trax is a lot of car for the money.
If a cow crosses the road…
Monday mornings are rarely something to look forward to. The switch to daylight savings time the previous day made for bleary eyes as members of the Texas Auto Writers Association headed over to the Texas Motors Speedway for breakfast.
Pitch-black skies limited visibility, but water cascading off the porte cochere was not a good sign. As I headed for the parking lot, a steady downpour created standing water in its wake. A week of steady precipitation had already soaked the surrounding grassy areas to capacity.
I loaded up the back of the Trax and headed towards the hotel exit. Out of the darkness a face emerged. It seems that the parade of cars had aroused the curiosity of one of the cows from the neighboring ranch. Realizing that the Trax was neither a source of food nor a threat, the cow moved on to greener pastures.
The mood at breakfast was somber. A soaked track meant that the Corvette, Mustang and Viper in the garage area weren’t going to get beyond second gear. With the track closed, journalists were left with the low-speed loop road around the property’s perimeter or a short route on the nearby highway.
Late in the afternoon, we headed back to the hotel anticipating much needed showers and hot food. The Trax, sitting in several inches of muddy water, welcomed me with an invitingly warm, dry interior and ferried me back to the hotel.
Everything is bigger in Texas
In over four decades of driving, I don’t recall ever encountering a 200-mile long section of road construction. But everything is bigger in Texas, including roadwork.
The drive between Fort Worth and Austin where I was headed for a second car program takes about three hours on the 70 mile-per-hour interstate. That is, three hours if there’s no traffic and as I discovered, that is rarely the case.
Instead of chugging along at highway speeds, I found myself crawling through a quagmire of commuters and construction equipment at ten miles-per-hour.
With OnStar feeding me directions to the destination, I was free to stream music and get some work done: a Godsend since the drive occupied the remainder of the workday.
EPA fuel ratings for the Chevrolet Trax are 26 around town and 34 on the highway. Since I spent most of the drive in stop-and-go traffic, my average was closer to 26. But even at that, I had plenty to complete the drive. The trip, including the drive from the airport to the track was about 250 miles. I arrived at the destination with enough gasoline to go another hundred at the same snail’s pace.
Weaving through highway traffic is relatively easy, with a clear forward view and decent over-the-shoulder visibility. A small rear glass and thick D-pillars create blind spots in the back, so those who can afford it should opt for available blind spot monitoring.
Electric power steering saves weight under the hood to extend fuel economy. Low-speed assist is quite good, but on-center response is noticeably soft.
The suspension consists of MacPherson struts up front and a torsion beam rear end. The compact torsion beams enabled engineers to maximize space in back, especially the cargo bay. The suspension did a good job of smoothing out the ride through the endless parade of upended pavement and potholes along the route.
Four-wheel disc brakes stop the car in firm, linear fashion. Braking was consistent throughout the test drive, despite standing water in several locations.
NVH is moderate. With small engine cars it’s important to contain curb weight, which can mean reducing the amount of sound insulation. The base Trax weighs just over 3,000 pounds: a pretty good number for a five-passenger crossover. The trade-off is some road noise, especially at higher speeds.
The Trax interior looks plain in comparison to the premium Buick Encore, but includes the features key to buyers with active lifestyles. Fold-flat second-row seats mean the car meets our bicycle-friendly standards. A cargo area cover keeps items stashed in back free of prying eyes.
Interior finishes including the standard cloth upholstery are practical for owners who like to play hard on the weekends. Connectivity features such as OnStar and MyLink are intuitive to use, with easy access to controls from either front seating position. Redundant steering wheel controls minimize driver distraction.
Global car comes to the US
Although the Chevrolet Trax is new to the US market, the global platform has been in existence for some time, with America the 67th destination for the platform. Chevrolet builds the affordable Trax in Bupyeong Gu, In Korea. Chevrolet’s new compact crossover is on display at dealerships nationwide.
Like: A versatile compact crossover with connectivity features rarely found in the segment.
Dislike: Poor on-center steering response and large blind spots in the rear corners due to the car’s thick D pillars.
Model: Trax LS-FWD
Base price: $20,120
As tested: $20,995
Horsepower: 138 Hp @ 4900 rpm
Torque: 148 lbs.-ft. @ 1850 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 26/34 mpg city/highway2015, Best Value 2015, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, Chevrolet, performance, pricing, standard safety
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