Compared to most crossovers, the new Chevrolet Trax is small. Based on the Chevrolet Sonic, it could be smaller, perhaps, if it were based on the Chevrolet Spark, so it’s not exactly tiny. But it’s still significantly smaller than the Ford Escape, which itself casts a smaller shadow than the Chevrolet Equinox, Chevy’s next smallest crossover and the reason for the Trax in the first place
“Small” as defined for the Chevrolet Trax is a wheelbase of a mere 100.6 inches long, or just a smidge longer than the Nissan Juke’s and just a little bit shorter than the Kia Soul’s, two models that Chevrolet considers prime competitors. They’re models that their makers often tout as fit for urban venues, and considering their compact size, there’s a certain logic to that. Cities are congested and so on, and if you need to squeeze a vehicle where many won’t go, a small CUV might do. On the other hand, the tight 36.7 turning circle combined with its relatively narrow width will be just as useful in suburban supermarket parking lots.
Note though that the diminutive dimensions of the Trax means interior space is, well, constrained. While front legroom is satisfactory, elbow room is dear and the middle of three seatbelts in the back is unlikely to ever be used. Claims of seating for five don’t mention five of what.
But that’s missing the point of the Chevrolet Trax. While it’s about as long and wide as the Chevy Sonic sedan, it has the higher h-point—hip-height of the seat—typical of an SUV/CUV, and more headroom, especially in the back. And with its tall-hatch configuration, it has more cargo capacity than the Sonic and its ilk, especially with the rear seat tipped-and-tumbled, and for long stuff with the front passenger seatback folded. (Warning: Don’t have an accident with loose stuff that could fly about and hit you).
We’ll point out, however, that the five-door Sonic hatch has almost identical cargo space as the Trax, at about 19 cubic feet with the rear seat up and 48 cubic feet with the rear seat folded. That’s also about the same as the Jeep Renegade and Kia Soul, and beats both numbers for the Juke.
The Chevy Trax has a folding rear seat we’d like to see more of. Instead of the just seatback folding forward and therefore not all the way to a flat floor, in the Trax, the seat bottom tips forward and the seatback folds down into the seat bottom’s usual space. The result is a flat and more usable load floor.
In addition to the big cargo volume spaces, the Trax comes with what may be a class record in this size of vehicle for most small bins, pockets and boxes for keeping assorted oddments in the car. Because the front seats aren’t enough apart, there’s no center console, just an armrest on the driver’s seat on the Trax LT trim level we tested. But the Trax has a upper and lower glove box, plus another glove box in the middle top of the dash, and a little tip-out bin to the left of the left of the steering wheel, along with a couple of pockets in the front doors… Chevy claims 15 in all. Make it your duty to find them all.
And there’s another storage compartment under the cargo area’s floor.
The Trax is also chockablock with neat tech stuff, including a standard nine-inch color touchscreen multi-information screen mounted in the center stack. Chevy’s MyLink system is standard, which includes a number of connectivity features, capable of talking with smartphones and MP3 players. The system includes Bluetooth streaming audio for music and phone, as well as Pandora, TuneIn radio and Stitcher. The Trax also comes with 4G LTE wifi standard. Leave your CD’s at home, however. The system doesn’t have a CD player.
(Note: If you were cutting edge back in the day, you probably still have a CD player you plugged into your cassette player. It can probably be adapted…).
A rear backup camera is also standard, displayed on the screen. Rear park assist is optional. The Trax also has ten, count ‘em, ten airbags, including side-mounted rear airbags.
The Chevy Trax comes standard with a 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder rated at 138 horsepower. That’s not an overwhelming number by itself, but like most new era turbo engines (and unlike those of yore), it makes 148 lb-ft of torque, and bigger number than horsepower, and just as important, between 1,850 and all the way up to 4,900 rpm. It’s still far from an overwhelming figure when it comes to the stoplight grand prix, but the 0-to-60 mph sprint of about eight seconds is less important for this type of vehicle than the engine’s responsiveness around town. The swix-speed automatic transmission doesn’t have to shift as often for a given amount of acceleration, which in more relaxed and efficient operation.
The 2015 Chevrolet Trax has an EPA gas mileage estimate of 24/31 mpg city/highway. We didn’t do that well, though our conditions were less than ideal, with very low temperatures, and test driving in an area with steep hills requiring heavy throttle on the way up and braking on the way down. Our full-tank-of-gas number for mixed driving was 24.2 mpg.
Typical of this class, the Chevrolet Trax has MacPherson strut front and torsion beam rear suspension. It does what’s expected. The ride is acceptable and cornering average. The Trax, even with a narrow track and taller-than-a-car height, isn’t so tall it wants ot lean excessively. Road and wind noise are above average.
The base Chevrolet Trax has front-wheel drive, though our tester had all-wheel drive, tempting after the winter we’ve just been through and not available on the Trax’s platform-mate Sonic. We were glad to have it.