It's tough to bring out a challenger in a market segment heavily dominated by the Toyota Fortuner and Mitsubishi Montero Sport, but Chevrolet is doing it with this: the 2014 Chevrolet Trailblazer.
The impact of Chevrolet's 7-seat diesel SUV was surprising and immediate, especially on the sales charts. In 2012 the brand sold a total of 3,328 units with the Trailblazer being launched at start of Q4 that year. In 2013, The Covenant Car Company (TCCCI, the official distributor of Chevrolet) logged a total of 5,058 units sold, something that will be surely surpassed this year given that they've already registered 4,066 units from January to June 2014.
Granted that Chevrolet did launch the Sonic hatch, Sonic sedan, Malibu and Spin, but it seems like the Trailblazer is becoming more and more of a common sight on our streets. This was confirmed by TCCCI as the Trailblazer accounts for nearly 50% of their monthly sales.
Is this SUV all it's cracked up to be? Let's find out in this newly introduced 2014 Chevrolet Trailblazer 4x2 LTX variant.
The Chevrolet Trailblazer nameplate was first introduced for the North American market in 2000, eventually making its way to the Philippines in 2004 with GM Philippines until 2008. It directly competed with the Ford Explorer back then and was powered by an inline six gasoline engine with unimpressive fuel economy in local traffic; an American-market SUV through and through.
The only thing this current Trailblazer shares with the first generation model is the name. Though it is still a body-on-frame SUV, this new iteration is based on a jointly developed pickup platform with Japanese automaker Isuzu which also spawned models such as the Chevrolet Colorado, Isuzu D-Max and Isuzu MU-X.
Design-wise, the Traiblazer is a bit of an acquired taste. It's not as flashy and imposing as the upcoming Ford Everest or conservative like the current Toyota Fortuner. One thing for sure is it does impose a sense of authority on the road thanks to its muscular wheel arches.
Inside, there's a mix of modern and contemporary design cues. It comes loaded with top-spec features like a backup camera with rearview mirror monitor, leather seats, and additional storage pockets to keep valuables away from prying eyes. However, the plastics look and feel cheaper when compared side by side to the Fortuner and Montero Sport. Chevrolet Philippines recently introduced this new 4x2 LTX variant to enhance its Trailblazer lineup; a premium 4x2 grade which features additional amenities like a rear camera and leather seats.
The entertainment system, while featuring Bluetooth and USB connectivity is rather unconventional as the speakerphone function needs significant improvement. The USB port uniquely uses a mini-USB format which requires an adapter to plug in a device, which is quite inconvenient. Sound quality is above average.
Under the hood is an improved VM Motori-sourced 2.8-liter common rail diesel with variable geometry turbo; badged as a Duramax, producing 200 PS at 3600 rpm and 500 Nm of torque at 2000 rpm. The updated engine produces 20 PS more power and 30 Nm more torque thanks to an improved cylinder head design and higher boost. The engine is mated to a 6-speed automatic with manual select.
Despite being a modern common rail diesel, the engine does sounds rather like an older generation. But don't let the sound fool you as it does perform. Press the accelerator and you can feel the strong pull from this generously-powered SUV. Economy-wise it logged about just under 8 km/liter in moderate to heavy city traffic (20 km/h average speed), while it managed 11.6 km/liter on the highway.
However, don't get too excited as it still is an SUV with high vertical clearance and handling feels quite challenging (read: heavy). It does take on uneven roads and potholes comfortably, which is always a good thing. It does blaze a trail when taken on the off the beaten path with light to moderately rough roads but do keep in mind that it is still a 4x2 despite its height, so better to be wary of tricky paths that demand 4x4 drivetrains.
The 2014 Chevrolet Trailblazer 4x2 LTX does offer an interesting proposition with the PhP 1,588,888 price tag. Nice interior amenities, good safety features, a punchy engine and a different look in a sea full of Montero Sport and Fortuner badges do work in the Trailblazer's favor. However, we think Chevrolet could have been a bit more liberal with the design, had more striking color options and used interior materials the felt and looked better.