2015 Chevrolet Trax road test: Just right for the big-city folks

2015 Chevrolet Trax LT FWD

2015 Chevrolet Trax LT FWD

To be honest, it took a while to wrap my brain around the 2015 Chevrolet Trax LT that I recently put through its paces.

The problem is terminology. The Trax is referred to by many as a subcompact sport-utility vehicle. Isn’t that kind of like an oxymoron? You know, giant shrimp, tallest midget, etc.

I get subcompact, since this trucklet measures only 14 feet from stem to stern. But sport-utility? The Trax arrived at my doorstep with front-wheel drive (all-wheel drive is an option) and a meager 6.2 inches of ground clearance. How would you like to spend a winter in Maine with this tall midget?

I will also concede some utility, since the cargo area ranges from a minimum of 18.7 to a maximum of 48.4 cubic feet —- if you fold both the rear seatbacks and the front passenger’s seatback into the floor, So, using today’s terminology, I think we better skip the SUV moniker and call the Trax a subcompact crossover.

Chevrolet Trax instruments

Chevrolet Trax instruments

Maybe we can even go a bit further. Let’s use some General Motors lingo, and call the Trax a “city smart” subcompact crossover. I can make sense of the little bugger if it is purchased primarily for commuter and in-town use.

I can easily see a young New York couple emerging from their leased garage space and navigating Manhattan’s challenging traffic on weekend errand runs.

Heck, I can also see the Trax crossing the Hudson River for a shopping trip to the Ikea store in Elizabeth, NJ. It might even be a satisfactory vehicle for vacations along the Jersey shore or excursions to the Hamptons.

After all, despite its diminutive dimensions, it will hold four adults in reasonable comfort on short trips.

The Trax also was a welcome vehicle on the narrow streets of Charleston, SC, where it spent a lot of its time while in my possession.

Chevrolet Trax front seats

Chevrolet Trax front seats

Okay, the brain’s back in gear now and the Trax is making sense as a (mostly) urban runabout. Considered in that context, it is actually a sensible choice.

Manufactured in South Korea, the Trax is a close relative to, and slightly bigger than, the Chevrolet Sonic. Before arriving in the United States this year, it had been available in 66 markets globally with sales of about 180,000 vehicles.

Power comes from Chevrolet’s turbocharged 1.4-liter, 4-cylinder engine. The workhorse in a variety of General Motors models, it produces 138 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque, and is teamed with a 6-speed automatic transmission.

The EPA rates fuel efficiency with regular-grade fuel at 26 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway. I averaged 30 mpg in a week of mixed driving conditions.

Nobody will call the 3,136-pound Trax speedy, but it is adequately powered for its mission. It’s certainly quick enough off the line to slice and dice its way through busy big-city streets.

Chevrolet Trax rear seats

Chevrolet Trax rear seats

Where it might disappoint is on the open road. The little engine runs out of breath relatively quickly, so drivers are advised to think carefully before attempting to pass that big rig on an uphill grade.

On the other hand, the Trax is reasonably comfortable and easy to drive on the highway as long as it is not bedeviled by stiff crosswinds.

The passenger comfort and the adequate drivability are the result of a suspension with MacPherson struts and coil-over springs up front, and a torsion beam with coil springs and twin-tube shock absorbers at the rear.

Column-mounted electric rack-and-pinion power steering provides the guidance. Stopping is supplied by disc brakes up front and drums at the rear.

Standard safety equipment includes 10 airbags, rear-view camera, stability control, traction control, electronic brake-force distribution, emergency brake assist, and cornering brake control

Whereas relatively inexpensive small vehicles generally don’t have the features associated with luxury vehicles, the Trax may surprise a prospective buyer.

Chevrolet Trax cargo space

Chevrolet Trax cargo space

Standard equipment in the $22,445 base price includes the MyLink infotainment system with 7-inch diagonal color touch screen that is capable of linking smart phones and iPods. It allows Bluetooth streaming of Pandora, Tune-In radio and Stitcher.

Also onboard are Siri Eyes Free for voice-controlled phone connectivity, stereo sound system with 3 months of free satellite radio, air conditioning, power windows, cruise control, driver information center, automatic on/off headlights, OnStar emergency communications system with 6 months of automatic crash response, remote vehicle start, turn-by-turn navigation, and a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hot spot.

The only option on the test Trax was the LT Plus Package It adds a 6-way power driver’s seat, leatherette seat trim, rear park assist and a leather wrapped steering wheel for $500, after a $175 discount.

Add everything together, including the $875 delivery charge, and the Trax carries a manufacturer’s suggested price of $23,815.

If you are looking for a rugged go-anywhere, do-anything vehicle, cross the Trax off your list. But, if you are looking for a reasonably accommodating, well equipped small vehicle that is particularly well suited to do battle in urban traffic, then the Trax may be just the right crossover for you.

To read John Matras’ assessment of the Trax, click here.

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