Chevrolet is well known for creating big, hulking SUVs. It virtually invented the segment back in 1935 with the Chevy Suburban, reportedly the longest-running vehicle nameplate in the world.
So it’s no surprise that 78 years on, it’s still churning out SUVs, the latest of which is the Chevrolet Trax, the company’s first foray into the ‘small SUV’ market. The car promises plenty of usable space, a commading driving position, car-like handling, and optional all-wheel-drive, all of which should help it compete with the likes of the Nissan Qashqai and Juke, Vauxhall Mokka and Skoda Yeti.
The Chevrolet Trax will be available in two trim levels, LS priced at £15,495 and LT starting at £17,495. We hopped in the top of the range LT model with the optional all-wheel-drive sytem to see whether it does its iconic badge justice, or whether we’re better off putting more faith in European SUV upstarts.
Muscular is the first word that springs to mind after laying eyes on the Trax. It’s a relatively compact thing by SUV standards (4.2m long, 1.7m wide and 1.6m high) but the chunky bodywork, particularly around the front and rear wheel arches, give it a sense of strength and power.
Under the surface, it’s essentially a Vauxhall Mokka, but the exterior design epitomises the Chevy brand perfectly with to a blunt, aggressive front, large headlamps and a dual port grille adorned with the iconic Chevy bowtie. It’s slightly more cutesy when viewed from the rear, but that’s no bad thing as the rearward-swept roofline and spoiler are easy on the eye. Overall, the Trax is a distinctive-looking thing that should appeal to those that want a car that stands out among the plethora of Qashqais and Jukes that roam our streets.
The Chevy Trax is a small SUV, so those expecting acres of practicality may be a tad disappointed. The boot provides 356 litres of storage space by default, rising to 785 with the rear seats folded down. It’s adequately large, offering far more space than a Juke, but noticeably less than a Qashqai.
Chevy has used made clever use of the available space, installing plenty of storage cubbies inside the boot and throughout the cabin. There are storage trays under the cargo bay and under the passenger seat, two glove boxes (one that is designed to house your mobile phone next to USB and aux ports) plus four cup holders in the centre console.
Those looking to make even smarter use of space can purchase a range of accessories including cargo trays and nets to keep loose items from tumbling all over the place, an organiser box with flexible partition walls, ski, snowboard and surf board carriers, a roof box and even a base carrier that accomodates bicycles.
Performance & Handling
The Chevrolet Trax is powered by a choice of 1.4-litre turbocharged and 1.6-litre naturally-aspirated petrol engines, or a 1.7-litre turbo-diesel unit. Equipped with a six-speed manual transmission, the 1.4-litre unit manages 140hp and 200Nm of torque, which is sufficient for a 0-62mph time of 9.8 seconds – certainly enough to keep your attention. The pace never feels blistering, and it struggles somewhat when going up long hills, but the engine hustles the car along well enough despite its small size.
The 1.7-litre diesel sounds unrefined and generates 10hp less than the 1.4-litre petrol car but its 300Nm of torque makes it the livelier, more entertaining engine.
The Trax’s steering is responsive and it changes direction well. Body roll is kept to a low enough degree despite the vehicle’s high centre of gravity, but the suspension is a little on the firm side. The pre-production cars we drove were fitted with suspension tuned to make the best of butter-smooth European roads, but final UK-spec Trax models will likely be offered with softer suspension that is better suited to our pockmarked road network.
The models we tested featured all-wheel-drive. We were unable to test its off-roading skills to the absolute limit, but suffice to say it’ll happily trundle along dirt tracks and up hillocks and provides you with slightly more confidence in such situations than your average family hatchback might. The ground clearance is decent enough, though the car’s low approach angle means you may scuff the bottom when tackling changing gradients.
Economy & Environment
The 1.4-litre Chevrolet Trax offers 44.1mpg on the combined cycle, with CO2 emissions of 149g/km. These figures are on a par with those offered by the Nissan Qashqai 1.6-litre petrol, and bear in mind Chevy’s offering does this while delivering more power.
The 1.7-litre diesel car is the model of choice for those seeking ultimate efficiency. The manual transmission version does 62.7mpg while spitting 120g of CO2 per kilometre — decent numbers and almost exactly what you’d get from the Nissan Qashqai 1.6-litre dCi.
Equipment & Value
The Trax is available in two trim levels, the entry level LS and the top-spec LT. The LS car comes with a decidedly weak air conditioning system (you’ll have to crank it up to max to get any use out of it), electric front windows, 16-inch alloys, Bluetooth and privacy glass as standard. The LT model, which commands a £2,000 premium, includes electric windows all round, 18-inch alloys, hill descent control, turn signals integrated in the wing mirrors, an auto-dimming rear view mirror, leather steering wheel and Chevy’s MyLink infotainment system.
MyLink is a clever, if slightly flawed, box of tricks. The system connects to your mobile phone via either Bluetooth or a USB cable and allows the user to control a set of apps via the car’s touch screen interface. Currently, MyLink only includes three apps; Stitcher, a news podcasting app; Tune-in radio, an Internet radio service; and Blingo, a navigation app.
Stitcher and Tune-in Radio work well, though reception can be patchy depending on the amount of 3G or 4G coverage available to your handset. Blingo has its advantages over a traditional integrated car sat-nav – its more easily updatable and the app can provide directions while on foot – but it’s flawed in other areas. It relies on the GPS antenna in your mobile phone, which is typically not as effective at picking up a satellite signal as a proper integrated GPS antenna. As a result there were several occaions when we lost satellite signal, even when driving on the open road.
Other minor quirks with MyLink include the fact you constantly have to manually unlock your mobile phone before you can use the apps (which gets annoying if you’re already on the move), the lack of physical shortcut buttons to the Nav app (you have to tap three different virtual buttons before you can access Blingo) and the fact you can’t use multiple apps simultaneously. If you want to listen to Internet radio, you can’t use the sat-nav at the same time.
The Trax hasn’t yet been independently crash tested, but we expect it’s very safe as the car is based on the Vauxhall Mokka, which scored a five-star Euro NCAP rating. The Trax comes with six airbags, ABS brakes with electronic brake force distribution, hydraulic brake fade assist and rollover mitigation.
We think highly of the Chevrolet Trax. It’s sufficiently engaging to drive thanks to powerful, efficient engines and it is spacious and comfortable, though it remains to be seen whether Chevrolet softens the ride for the UK market. It won’t set pulses on fire, but it’s a great little SUV that compares well to established competition such as the Nissan Qashqai and juke, while providing a cool factor its rivals sorely lack.
Model tested: Chevrolet Trax 1.7 VCDI AWD
Engine: 1.7-litre turbo diesel
Acceleration: 0-62 in 9.3 seconds
Top speed: 123mph
Emissions: 120g/km CO2
Price: £20,495 as tested