A matter of time was what it always was. With the strong sales of the Ford EcoSport and the introduction and upcoming introduction of other models that we can consider subcompact crossovers, it was really inevitable for Chevrolet to release one of their own.
And here it is: the all-new Chevrolet Trax. We'll test it extensively and thoroughly because, well, there's a lot riding on this mini sport ute.
The design isn't something that I wouldn't describe as revolutionary; if anything, this Chevy's look feels a bit safe to me. There's the signature split grille with the 3D bowtie emblem that dominate the snub nosed fascia. The proportions and side profile are definitely chunkier than its competitors, especially with those bulging wheel arches with 18-inch rims (standard on the LT) that give a rather wide appearance to the Trax. In the back there's not much to report, though it finishes off the look quite cleanly.
Frankly speaking this new B-segment crossover seems to have a conservative sense of style applied to its body that measures 4245mm long, 1765mm wide, and 1670mm tall. While I do feel that Chevy's designers could have been more liberal on the drafting table, the look does work for it and brings the Trax squarely in line with the brand's family look.
Once inside it's all signature Chevrolet with the steering wheel, the layout of the buttons on the console, the steering-column mounted gauge pod with the analog tachometer and digital readouts for everything else (i.e. speed), and the abundant use of black, gray and silver. What I did notice was Chevrolet's rather clever use of the cabin to provide several options for storage. Apart from the standard cupholders and door pockets, the Trax has a small compartment in front of the driver's left knee to store small items like a wallet, a flip up cover on top of the dash to reveal another space to store sunglasses, as well as upper and lower glove compartments on the passenger side dash. There are also two recessed pockets flanking the audio unit; these, I'm told, are intended for smartphones.
The front seats are plush and comfortable; it's surprising because this is a small vehicle and they're typically not that comfortable. There's also quite a bit of lateral space, so it's easy to find a comfortable position for a long drive. The back is also quite good; not too upright and with some good padding. The boot is deep for its size though it's not that wide; I doubt if it can fit a golf set laterally, though you can fold down the seats so you can fit it longitudinally.
A twist of the key fires up the little 1.4-liter engine under that hood. The Ecotec engine may sound puny, but it's important to note that it's actually turbocharged, and thus it makes a rather healthy 140 PS and 200 Nm of torque. Those figures are routed through a new 6-speed automatic driving the front wheels. There's a manual mode on the transmission stick, but given that it's a +/- switch, it's not really that intuitive or engaging.
If there's one thing we found out right away, it's that the Chevrolet Trax definitely has some go. The 1364cc is eager to please, especially since the boost kicks in at about the 2500 rpm mark. Peak torque is attained at 1850 rpm, while peak power starts at 4900 up to 6000 rpm. Be a bit too leadfooted with the throttle and you can light up the front tires. There's a hint of torque steer, but that's expected of a front driver, and there are plenty of systems like traction control, stability control, CBC, EBD, ABS, and many other letters that make up a veritable alphabet soup for safety.
Around the city, the Trax delivers a very good ride. Short wheelbase cars tend to have bumpy ride qualities, but not so for the Trax as suspension tuning absorbs most of the rough stuff as best it can. Noise suppression also got a significant level of attention, and is comparable to crossovers one level up in class, size and price. The shifting of the 6-speed auto is also decent, providing rather linear acceleration. The fuel economy was also quite good; 9.1 km/l in the metro (18 km/h average) and 14.2 km/l on the highway (92 km/h average).
Don't expect to carve corners as the electric power steering isn't much for feel, but the Trax can handle itself in the bends. Control in the corners isn't groundbreaking, but it's progressive; it doesn't break away suddenly when you're nearing the limit and it stays composed. Both front and rear brakes are discs so the crossover squats (good) instead of nosediving (bad) under heavy braking.
Overall, the Trax 1.4 LT performed very well during our time with it. The design is something that could have been tweaked a bit more and the ride height could have been taller to be a true crossover, but the Trax has got its fundamentals right. I liked how intuitive the controls and the cabin features were (especially those smartphone “pockets”), the drive was very comfortable, and the long list of features (especially the MyLink infotainment system) are great. Even the driver's folding armrest was a nice touch.
The one that holds this particular variant back, however, is the price.At PhP 1,218,888, the Trax LT may not be able to go toe-to-toe with the top-spec EcoSport on the price list, but delete a few features and you can get the LS for significantly less at PhP 998,888. If that variant has the same fundamentals down right, it could be a very good contender in this soon-to-be competitive class.