The case of the 2022 Chevrolet Trailblazer is one replete with lessons.
That in itself is an indicator that this will not be a glowing review. I had received the keys of the Trailblazer with a very open mind; hopeful that the guys at Chevrolet Philippines (TCCCI, or The Covenant Car Company, Inc.) will have a product that is worthy of such a respected name. They need it to be good, especially since they had such a good thing going with the Thailand-made Trailblazer SUV and Colorado pick-ups.
But gone are those products, the factory was sold, and GM actually pulled out of Southeast Asia altogether, leaving Chevrolet Philippines trying to find a way to move forward.
Just as with my review of the little Tracker a few months back, I walk away from the Trailblazer a bit confused. It could have been good with a bit more effort from the manufacturer. Honestly, it could have been great with a bit more research into what others are doing and adjusting accordingly. But somehow, that doesn't seem to be the case.
Okay so they're still using the Trailblazer name, but over the generations, they've kind of made it smaller and smaller. Originally, it was a rival to something like the Ford Explorer; a midsize (but still big) American SUV. Then it became a pick-up passenger vehicle (PPV) meaning it competed against the likes of the Ford Everest. That proved to be a very successful move for the brand; at least in the Philippine market.
But the 2022 Trailblazer shares nothing with those models apart from the name. It's not a high clearance SUV or rough and tough PPV. This is a crossover and a small one at that. This doesn't rival models like the RAV4 or CR-V; instead, it's comparable in size to models like the HR-V, Corolla Cross, Territory, and so on and so forth.
That's not a bad thing actually. That class of vehicle is quickly becoming very popular; all you have to do is look around your nearest mall, supermarket, or office parking lot to find out why. They're everywhere. But what I think Chevrolet should have done is to use a different name; maybe adopt what Mitsubishi does and use Sport for the smaller version of a model like Montero Sport/Pajero Sport (smaller Montero/Pajero) or Outlander Sport (smaller Outlander).
There is a lot of potential with the Trailblazer from the get-go. Where Chevrolet really got it right (at least in my opinion) is with design. Honestly, I think it has a lot of curb appeal. The front, the side, and the rear have a lot of character; as do the wheels. If anything, it actually reminds me of a Citroen Cactus with the details and overall impression.
Pop the hood, and you'll see another point in Chevrolet's favor: this one is powered by a small gasoline engine that only has 3 cylinders, but it's got a turbo. This 1.3L turbo isn't a slouch with 155 PS and 236 Nm of torque; the larger 1.5L turbo in the Territory only makes 149 PS. Even the torque band for the engine is great; max torque is achieved starting at 1600 rpm. That means it's got punch, and you can keep the revs low for great efficiency.
This Trailblazer has a CVT which may not sound impressive, but together with the engine, this should be very efficient. The only downer is that our market isn't getting the all-wheel-drive version. Together with the ground clearance, that means this isn't going to be blazing any actual trails.
That may not matter for the new target market that needs a practical everyday vehicle for road trips. What matters more is practicality and versatility. This version that we drove is the Premier, and it comes with a neat power tailgate; honestly, I think that's unnecessary given that it's not a tall vehicle at 1.65 meters, but it's a nice feature.
With the boot open, the depth to the back seat is 32 inches while the width between the wheel arches is 40 inches. That's actually pretty good for a vehicle of this size, and if you want to fit a golf set it should be able to do so with a max width of 54 inches just behind the wheel arches. The cargo floor can also be lowered for even more space, and the 60:40 rear seats can also fold flat with the board in the up position. That means the maximum length that can fit inside is about 55 inches, give or take a few.
So far it's been promising even with the downsizing. But when we started exploring the interior, that's when things start to go in all kinds of directions for Chevrolet. The rear seat is quite bare. The cushioning is alright, but there is no center armrest, no USB ports, nor are there any cupholders.
To be honest it feels more deluxe than premier; if you still remember how movie theaters were like back in the day, you know what I mean. They did leave in-seat heaters. You may not have a place to put your cup of boba, but you can enjoy a nice warm seat in our tropical weather.
I may have been won over by the exterior, but the dashboard leaves a lot to be desired. For one, it looks dated. The GM parts bin doesn't seem to have progressed as much as other automakers, and you can see that with the controls, the switches, the buttons, and the dials.
The quality of the plastics and the precision of the build is what I think they need to work on. Plastic is expected in this class, but many automakers are finding ways to make the material look more premium than it is. Unfortunately, I'm not getting that vibe in here. The bigger issue I think is with the panel gaps and how the interior pieces fit together. If you want to see what I mean, open the video above and start watching around the 12:12 mark.
It's not all gloom here though. The Trailblazer Premier still has a lot going for it. It's a nicely loaded vehicle with the features a lot of us want and need. Apple Carplay, Android Auto, Bluetooth, good audio quality, climate control, cruise control, and a variety of safety features.
What I do think they need to do is do a bit more proofreading on the spec sheet because a lot of things were listed twice. Also, it feels like they tried to list features that really didn't need listing anymore just to be able to say the Trailblazer has it. I didn't need to know that the vehicle has fading brake assist or the ability to detect if the space-saving spare is being used. If they said it had adaptive cruise control, then that's OK. But it just has regular cruise control.
The Trailblazer drives well. The suspension is on the slightly firm side, but not uncomfortable. Steering is not exactly engaging, but that was to be expected. This isn't a handling machine, but it does point well if you try on a few corners at a manageable speed.
It's easy to maneuver and it's very efficient during my drive. In the city, it's easy to get over 9 kilometers per liter if you're patient with the throttle. If you do that on the highway you can expect 15 kilometers per liter or even more. What I really like is the punch it has; granted it's not a performance car by any means, but it feels like it has a good deal of thrust when you put your foot down.
Are the positive qualities of the Trailblazer Premier enough to offset the drawbacks inherent in the model? I want to say yes, but the market, the competitors, and the expectations have already moved quite a bit forward for me to do so. It's a decent offering, but with a market this competitive and this discerning, decent may not be enough. Every vehicle has to be outstanding. That's something that they really have to work on over at the manufacturing level. Yes, we're referring to you GM Korea (formerly Daewoo).
At the local level, what they really need to work on is the pricing. When we tested the 2022 Trailblazer Premier, it was priced at PHP 1,621,888. Currently, that puts it in between the Honda HR-V RS Turbo at PHP 1,598,000 which has adaptive cruise and really good build quality, and the Toyota Corolla Cross HEV (yes, the hybrid) at PHP 1,650,000.
Not only does the Trailblazer Premier have an uphill battle, but it's also caught between a rock and a hard place.