2015 Chevrolet TraxPosted on December 8th, 2014
Compact crossover combines value with versatility
By Nina Russin
Twenty-fifteen may be remembered as the year of the compact crossover. Just as buyers downsized from large sport-utility vehicles to midsized crossovers a decade back, the market continues to trend smaller, with buyers wanting better gas mileage, but not wanting to sacrifice cargo space.
So many new compact crossovers are entering the market this year that the choices seem overwhelming. Nissan, Scion, Fiat, Mazda, Porsche, Jeep and now Chevrolet are all throwing their hats into the pond.
Chevrolet’s entry called the Trax is based loosely on the Buick Encore and also shares chassis parts with the Chevrolet Sonic. The Trax debuted in China last April, and Mexico and Canada in 2012. The United States is the 67th market for the vehicle.
Targeting active urbanites
The target market for the Trax is, not surprisingly, buyers with active lifestyles: in this case, young urbanites who like to venture off the grid on weekends. Base MSRP for the front-wheel drive model is $20,995. Available all-wheel drive adds $1,500. Average transaction price for the all-wheel drive LTZ is about $27,000.
Knowing that connectivity is key to the car’s youthful target demographic, product planners made 4GLTE connectivity standard, accommodating up to seven devices. A large center stack screen also displays Chevrolet MyLink apps, audio selections and optional navigation screens.
Power comes from a 138-horsepower 1.4-liter turbocharged engine and six-speed automatic transmission. Buyers can upgrade from 16-inch steel wheels to 18-inch alloy rims.
Engineers recalibrated the car’s electric power steering to give the 2015 model better on-center response at speed and improved maneuverability at slower speeds. The Trax has a 36.7-foot parking radius.
A new acoustic laminated front windshield and thicker dash mat reduces noise intrusion to the interior.
Test drive in San Diego
I had the opportunity to test drive the all-wheel drive Trax LTZ at a recent media event in San Diego, California. Although steady rain throughout the day obstructed some of the coastal scenery, it was a good environment for testing the all-wheel drive, since roads in that part of the country where rain is the rarity rather than the norm, tend to accumulate oil.
Turbocharging gives the four-cylinder engine surprisingly good acceleration off the line, with 148 foot-pounds of peak torque available as low as 1850 rpm. I had no problems keeping up with traffic on San Diego’s two-lane highway entrance ramps and found it easy to pass slower vehicles at speed.
General Motors produces good automatic transmissions, and having a traditional step transmission versus a continuously variable unit tends to enhance performance on these types of cars. I noticed no shift shock under normal driving conditions. All wheel drive and the optional 18-inch rims provided a stable footprint on a variety of driving surfaces.
The electric power steering system is one of the better units on the market. There is a slight hesitation in response that is typical for these systems, but I would have no concerns about the car’s ability to perform emergency evasive maneuvers.
The transmission consists of an independent MacPherson strut system up front and torsion beam rear axle. Although I’m not a big fan of solid rear axles, they work fairly well on small platforms and have the advantage of being compact, enabling engineers to maximize space in the cargo area.
Buyers who are weighing the relative advantages of the all-wheel drive model versus the standard front-wheel drive car should note that the former comes with rear disc brakes while the latter comes with drums. Drum brakes have a tendency to fill with water in wet weather and stop unevenly. They are also harder to service.
I was able to adjust the power driver’s seat for a clear forward view and found the seats to have plenty of lower lumbar support for a two-hour drive. The interior is pleasantly quiet. My driving partner and I had no problems conversing while driving along the highway.
Keyless entry and available keyless start save the driver from fumbling for the key fob: a safety benefit for those returning to their vehicles after dark in urban centers.
The Chevrolet Trax seats up to five passengers. Legroom in the second row isn’t as abundant as it is in the brand’s larger crossovers, but it’s fine around town. Two rear passengers will be more comfortable than three on longer road trips. Rear seats fold flat in a 60/40 pattern to extend the cargo area for longer items.
A standard rearview camera makes it easier to parallel park the car on the street and monitor cross traffic in crowded parking areas. The center stack screen is large and easy to read. Available Siri Eyes Free enables the driver to utilize infotainment features without taking his eyes off the road.
The only downside to the car’s interior is in materials used. The dashboard is made of a rather unattractive plastic that’s hard to the touch. Metal and composite trim pieces don’t really do much to improve that. This would be an easy problem for product planners to fix in a mid-cycle update.
I actually preferred the cloth trim on the base model to the vinyl seating. It looks nicer and for buyers with active lifestyles, it’s easier to keep clean.
The Chevrolet Trax comes with ten standard airbags, antilock brakes, traction and stability control. Standard OnStar automatically notifies police and emergency medical personnel in the event of a collision.
The driver can also get turn-by turn directions by depressing the blue OnStar button and speaking with a representative. I have found this feature extremely useful when I have gotten lost along a route and can’t find a safe or convenient place to pull the car over. OnStar can also locate stolen vehicles and unlock the vehicle remotely should the driver inadvertently lock his keys in the car.
The Chevrolet Trax begins rolling into dealerships later this month and will be widely available after the first of the year.
Like: A versatile compact crossover with 34 mile-per-gallon fuel economy, standard 4G LTE connectivity and a spacious cargo area.
Dislike: Unattractive dashboard material. Drum brakes on the front-wheel drive model don’t stop as well as discs in wet weather and are more difficult to service.
Model: Trax LTZ AWD
Base price: $20,995
As tested: N/A
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/highway2014, Best Value 2015, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, Chevrolet, performance, pricing, standard safety
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