The city of Detroit doesn’t exactly conjure up images of picturesque landscapes or scenic vistas. Many are more likely to imagine row upon row of factories and densely populated urban areas.
In spite of these preconceived notions, we found ourselves driving along rolling hills, with manicured lawns on either side and lofty garage houses that could very well house some supercars for all we knew.
This was all just a short drive from the Motor City, where verdant patches of forest punctuate serene little lakes in a little country called Rochester.
This is Detroit’s suburbs and it’s here we’ve been brought by Chevrolet to escape the hustle and bustle of the busy city in their latest vehicle bound for the Philippines, the Trax.
If the name sounds familiar, it’s because Chevrolet previewed it at the Manila International Auto Show in April. It also made a brief appearance in the recent film, Transformers: Age of Extinction, as the minions of the Decepticons.
In our market, this compact SUV will slot just under seven-seater Captiva, but not compete directly with Ford’s EcoSport. Despite the similarities — 1.4-liter turbo engine, front-wheel drivetrain, seating for five, SUV body with a versatile interior, vibrant colors to choose from —this vehicle will be competing more with vehicles like the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4.
The Trax is a stocky kind of vehicle, with a shape reminiscent of the retro-futuristic Chevy HHR. They’re not related from a mechanical standpoint, though there are a couple of visual similarities from the long hood, muscular wheel arches and high window line.
Chevrolet has given it some off-road cred with the addition of 17-inch alloy wheels with still quite a lot of tire, and scratch-proof rocker panels running all around the vehicle. Roof rails are added on top for extra utility. The Trax hopes to appeal to the active young professional or an athletic couple that could be looking to start a family.
It all starts with what the vehicle is capable of carrying. Behind, the Trax features a fairly voluminous rear cargo area. There are compartments in the side for additional storage and hooks for a net or tie-downs. The rear bench can fold-flat with a 60/40 split. There’s no spring-loaded switch or lever that threatens to sever your finger here. Instead, the rear seat cushion is unlocked and stows vertically. The seatbacks then fold flat to accommodate bulky cargo. The front passenger seat can fold flat too, leaving enough room for a surfboard or a couple of bicycles.
There’s also a lot of the smaller, more practical kind of storage solutions that you’ll more likely use every day. Among them are the dizzying number of cupholders, pockets, and even a drawer under the front passenger seat. Up on the center stack are vertical slots to place your cell phone, while charging.
When not packed with sports equipment, the Trax is still a great partner even in the Philippines’ traffic. It’s easy to get comfy in the leather seats. Steering-mounted audio switches make it easy to control entertainment from the seven-inch, full-color Chevrolet MyLink infotainment system. There’s Bluetooth, USB and AUX connectivity.
For sure what many are you are dying to know is how it drives. The Trax features the brand’s trademark twin cockpit design. The instrument cluster is something like the Spark’s, with the kind of digital multi-info instrument cluster that looks and operated more like a sport bike.
In spite of its size, all it takes is a 1.4-liter turbo to move it along. Its 140 PS on paper may not sound like much, but its 200 NM of torque are the more impressive figures. What the Trax lacks in horsepower, it more than makes up for in torque.
Just a little press on the throttle gets the vehicle going already. It pulls smoothly and with verve. It might not have the neck-snapping acceleration typical turbos exhibit, but the smooth and potent power delivery almost had us thinking we were driving a 2.0-liter at times. This is paired with a six-speed auto that drives the front wheels. Simply slot it down to manual mode and the driver can shift with the +/- buttons on the side of the stick.
The ride quality was just the right mix of tautness and comfort. And it’s not simply because we were on American streets. Detroit, after all, notorious for its harsh winters has some of the most potholed highways thanks to the regular doses of ice and salt. These were all soaked up smoothly by the Trax’s suspension.
In addition to these, the Trax also comes with a whole host of safety features. The Philippine model will have daytime running lights, six airbags (dual front, side and curtains) and a standard Electronic Stability Program (ESP) which includes Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS) and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD).
Parking was easy thanks to the astoundingly wide parking spaces in this country. Nonetheless, our Trax will come with a reversing camera and sensors to cope with the tighter spaces.
There will also be additional safety systems like Traction Control System (TCS), Hill Start Assist (HSA), Cornering Brake Control (CBC) and Panic Brake Assist (PBA).
Our short sojourn, driving from our hotel in Metropolitan Detroit out to the suburbs of Rochester provided an interesting glimpse at American suburban culture. It may not seem like an exciting lifestyle at first, but the lifestyle’s mix of urban commute coupled with weekend outdoor activities is not unlike what any young professional goes through here. If anything, we may have been living the suburban lifestyle already, to which Chevrolet hopes the Trax will make a perfect companion.
Philippines customers will be able to choose between LS and LT variants. Prices aren’t final yet, but The Covenant Car Company, the Philippine Chevrolet distributor is working to make it available at a sub-P1m price tag for the LS and the LT at just below P1.15. Needless to say, the LT will be the top of the line variant, sporting all of the equipment mentioned above. We’ll know for sure once the Trax arrives in October.