Marcus De Guzman / Kelvin Christian Go | August 04, 2016 14:57
Everyday turbo cruiser
It was bound to happen sooner or later. Now, it is safe to say that crossovers and utility vehicles are now the latest, most popular trend in today’s local motoring scene. Aside from their looks and road presence, some even consider them more practical to own compared to traditional sedans thanks to increased ride height and plentiful storage bins.
Chevrolet is one of the few brands that entered late in the B-segment crossover, but they did bring something special to the table. Underneath the bodywork of the Trax is a very potent motor and comfortable ride quality. We’ll get to that later, but first, let’s start with the exterior.
It’s not the most groundbreaking of designs, but Chevrolet was able to incorporate both sharp lines and rounded curves throughout the Trax. The front end, of course, features the distinct dual-port grill that’s then paired to large headlights. Flared wheel arches dominate the side profile of the crossover, particularly the rear quarter panels which give it an aggressive tone. On the other hand, the brand somehow played it safe with the rear. It does get stacked taillights and a tailgate-mounted spoiler, but still appears rather conservative. All in all, the simple design was fine, but the use of wide wheel arches, large headlights and wedge-shaped front end give the Trax a wide look for its size.
The interior was typical Chevrolet and I mean that in a good way. The 3-spoke multifunction steering wheel was easy to grip, while the fabric seats were quite comfortable. The option of having lumbar support may be too much to ask for its price, but it’ll do wonders on long drives. The motorcycle-inspired, semi-digital instrument panel with multi-information display was another quirk I particularly liked in the Trax, along with the vast array of storage bins and cubby holds found throughout the crossover.
The center dashboard layout of the Trax was pretty straightforward. The three rotary controls for the aircondtioning system was something I really liked. What I found perplexing were the thin slots that flanked the central aircon vents. Based on our previous review of the range-topping LT variant, these were intended for placing smartphones. In terms of cargo capacity, it has decent trunk space, but given its limited size, it’s best to plan out what to bring or carry back home with the Trax.
Being the entry-level model, it does not get Chevrolet’s MyLink touchscreen infotainment. Instead, it has an integrated audio system with extra features like Bluetooth, USB and Aux connectivity. Making adjustments to the sound quality and other settings will be a lengthier procedure given its tactile controls, but the buttons and guidelines were easy to follow.
Perhaps the Trax's best feature lies beneath its hood. It's a turbocharged EcoTec inline-four that displaces 1.4-liters. Despite its small size, the engine produces an admirable 140 metric horsepower between 4,900 – 6,000 rpm along with 200 Nm of torque readily available between 1,850 – 4,900 rpm. All of that power is then sent to the front axle via a 6-speed automatic gearbox. It does have a manual mode, but through the unintuitive +/- buttons placed on the gear lever.
Starting it up, the engine does not sound like much. It was only when I hit the open road that I realized that the motor was quite a powerhouse. With torque readily available at just below 2,000 rpms, it was quite easy to make the Trax gain speed. Jump on the throttle pedal and the turbo fully spools up, providing all available power. Like most turbocharged front-wheel drive cars, torque steer is inevitable, but the Trax does come with an array of safety systems like: stability control, cornering brake control, roll over mitigation, straight line stability and panic brake assist as such.
Handling-wise, the sure-footed chassis allowed the Trax to be quite nimble along winding roads. But even with that, there was practically no road feel from the steering wheel, thanks in part to the electronic power-assisted steering system (EPAS). Maybe a slight tweak of the EPAS can mend its rather numb feedback.
Also worth noting is the Trax’s comfortable ride quality. Normally, most B-segment crossovers suffer from a bouncy ride thanks in part to a stiff suspension system or short frame. The Trax departs from that typical notion and delivered a pliant ride. It’s no sedan but it comes close.
In terms of fuel economy, the Trax yielded admirable results. Around the city, the Trax was able to average between 9.0 – 9.3 km/l. Out on the highway, it can easily achieve 14.0 km/l.
All in all, the entry-level Trax LS is a crossover that shines in performance and ride quality. Its exterior design is decent, but there’s room for improvement. As this particular variant is the entry-level LS, some key features like the reverse camera, hill descent control, automatic headlights, touchscreen infotainment, cruise control and center armrest were omitted. With it however, Chevrolet was able to price it at PhP 998,888. This slashes PhP 220,000 from the top-of-the-line LT variant.
It is still priced quite high compared to its competitors but it is the only B-segment crossover that has a turbocharged gasoline inline-four. If one is in the market for a small crossover that also packs a punch, the Trax is a suitable choice.