Base Price: $20,120
Price as tested: $23,115
Engine: 1.4-liter, 138 Horsepower, four-cylinder available with all-wheel drive.
Mileage: 26 city, 34 hwy
Curb Weight: 3,048 pounds
Chevrolet’s response to a class of baby SUVs once dominated by Honda, Mazda and Nissan, is the bold and attractive 2016 Trax. Small on the outside but deceptively large on the inside, Trax is easy to maneuver and comes standard with modern technology.
Small enough to fit into even the tightest parking spots yet large enough for five passengers and their cargo, the sub-compact SUV offers buyers a lot of bang for their buck. While Trax was completely redesigned for 2015, the 2016 model adds new color choices.
With ample legroom and headroom (even for a guy who’s 6-foot-5) Trax seats five passengers comfortably. However, the 18.7 cubic feet of cargo space, while still larger than a typical sub-compact sedan’s trunk, is smaller than its competitors. But that space more than doubles to 48.4 cubic feet with the rear seats folded down.
Exterior design cues, such as the split grill that’s decidedly Chevy, help Trax to stand out in a crowded, competitive class. A unique bold styling with bulbous fenders really sets Trax apart from the class-leading Nissan Juke and Kia Sol.
Power, on the other hand, is its number one downfall. A 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder offers sluggish acceleration but makes up for it with decent fuel economy. With a 138-horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque, it took about 10 seconds for my Trax to hit 60 mph – and that was with no passengers or cargo in the car.
That sluggishness is exasperated by the all-wheel drive option, which adds another 150 pounds to the car without an increase in horsepower.
The EPA estimates Trax fuel economy at 26 mpg on city streets and 34 on the highway. With my lead foot, which was needed just to get the car moving, I averaged 28 mpg over about 50/50 city/highway driving.
I was impressed by Trax’s muted road noise at high speeds, a feature its competitors seem to have overlooked entirely.
Unfortunately, Trax’s attractiveness stops on the exterior. The underwhelming interior seems pieced together with low-end materials. It’s like a plastic wonderland with many carry-overs from Chevy’s Spark economy car, which doesn’t work for this segment. Upgrading to the higher-end LTZ trim replaces some of those plastic features with nice chrome accents.
Inside the Trax, a dual-cockpit instrument panel houses a seven-inch, high-resolution, full-color display for the standard MyLink voice-activated infotainment system. There are also displays for available SiriusXM satellite radio and a standard rearview camera, as well as the available GPS-enabled app navigation system that customers can download.
But what Trax lacks in power and interior style, it makes up for in safety, offering nice visibility with limited blind sports. And with a recently announced 5-star Overall Vehicle Safety Rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Trax is one of the safest vehicles in its class. Features such as a protective safety cage made of ultra high-strength steel surrounding the passenger compartment, 10 standard air bags, a rearview camera and available rear park assist also appeal to women, who make up 58 percent of sales, and people under 35, who represent 19 percent of sales.
Ultimately, Trax isn’t trying to be a wild, sporty SUV, but instead a practical, spacious family car with a competitive price.
With a base price of $20,120, Trax not only competes with other small SUVs but also smaller sedans. The Trax LT with front-wheel drive, which I tested, comes standard with power windows, push-button start, cruise control and steering-wheel controls from $22,445. Add on leather wrapped, power-adjustable seats for another $670 and you’re out the door for $23,115.