Engine: 1.4 L turbocharged four-cylinder, 138 HP, 148 lb-ft.
Transmission: Six-speed automatic.
Fuel economy (US): 26 MPG city and 34 MPG highway (FWD Auto).
Fuel economy (CDN): 9.2 L/100 km City, 7.0 L/100 km Highway (FWD Auto).
Price (US): Starts at $20,995 after destination charges for LS FWD, $27,405 for LTZ AWD.
Price (CDN): Starts at $20,730 after destination charges for LS FWD, $32,200 for LTZ AWD.
Canada appears to be the North American test-bed for small automobiles. The Smart Fortwo spent an entire generation in the Great White North before making its way to the U.S. market and Nissan offered the compact X-Trail crossover to Canadians before the introduction of the Rogue.
Before Pontiac died, the G3 (Wave) and G5 (Pursuit) were both offered in Canada before their subsequent introduction to American consumers. Picking up where its late corporate sibling left off, Chevrolet is now offering the subcompact Trax crossover for American consumption after a two-year run in the land of maple syrup and hockey.
SEE ALSO: 2013 Chevrolet Trax Review
Welcome to America
With an overall length of 168.5 inches, the Trax slots in between its two main competitors, the longer Mitsubishi Outlander Sport and the shorter Nissan Juke. Although taller than either of those vehicles, the Trax’s 6.2 inches of ground clearance is less than the Outlander Sport or the Juke, highlighting the little Chevrolet’s mission as more of an urban run-about than a mild off-roader.
Those familiar with the Trax from other parts of the world will notice its tall, uninspired styling hasn’t changed much aside from a new grille that adds horizontal chrome bars. Chevrolet changed more under the skin than anywhere else by reinforcing the Trax to handle the IIHS small overlap crash test.
Subtle Tweaks for the U.S.
Other changes performed to the mechanics of the Trax for emigration to the U.S. market include re-calibrated steering for greater effort and on-center feel as well as stiffer damper settings to give it a larger, more planted feel. Having driven the Canadian spec Trax on a few occasions, I can attest to the steering improvements. It’s better weighted if not still too loose for my liking.
Available with either 16-inch wheels wearing 205/70R16 tires or 18-inch wheels with larger 215/55R18 rubber, the Trax delivers a smooth ride for a vehicle with a short 100.6-inch wheelbase. Although the larger 18-inch wheels with the lower profile tires hurt ride quality to a degree, both versions of the Trax absorb large bumps with surprising composure and minimal rebound.
Like the Buick Encore that the Trax shares a platform with, the only engine available is a 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder making 138 HP and 148 lb-ft. of torque. Like any GM vehicle equipped with this powerplant, the numbers can be deceiving. With oodles of low-end torque, the 1.4 turbo feels far more powerful than it really is. Climbing the foothills around San Diego was no problem for the Trax, but power does taper off at freeway speeds. As I’ve stated before, this engine behaves a lot like a turbocharged diesel. Best of all, the Trax’s engine still runs on regular gasoline despite its turbocharger.
SEE ALSO: 2015 Chevrolet Trax, First Look Video
Standard on all U.S.-spec Trax models will be a six-speed automatic transmission sending power to either the front or all four wheels. The six-speed manual available on base models in other markets, including Canada, will not be offered in the US. The good news is the automatic is as smooth as the engine it is mated to.
Equipped with front-wheel drive, the 2,805-lb. Trax is rated at 26 MPG city and 34 MPG highway. During a few hours of mostly city driving, I was right on those estimates averaging a respectable 28.5 MPG. The heavier 3,208-lb. AWD Trax is rated to average 24 MPG in the city and 31MPG on the highway.
The Trax looks smaller from the outside than it really is thanks to its tall roof and short length. With the roof set so high, there is plenty of headroom in both the front and rear seats with 38.8 inches in both cases. With an acceptable 35.7 inches of rear legroom, adults do fit in the back of the Trax, but the seats aren’t the most comfortable. In fact, none of the seats in the Trax are particularly comfortable. After a few hours behind the wheel of the Trax, I found my legs beginning to get sore.
The trunk is on the small side, offering only 18.7 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats, but I found it to be surprisingly usable. Fold down the rear seats and total storage space grows to 48.4 cubic feet and if that’s not enough, the front passenger seat folds flat with a hard plastic backing to store especially long items like a surfboard or a bicycle. If you still need more storage, the Trax comes standard with 15 compartments as every possible empty space had been carved into a cubbie.
The interior is mostly covered in hard plastics and that prevents it from taking on any sort of premium feel. All the primary controls are laid out in a logical fashion and sightlines, aside from a thick A-pillar, are great thanks to the high roofline. For the 2015 model year, Chevrolet added sound deadening to the Trax including a thicker windshield, thicker side windows and more padding in the dash that insulate you from road noise nicely compared to the model sold in Canada.
Class Leading Technology
Chevrolet’s MyLink infotainment system and a rearview camera are both part of the Trax standard equipment list. Better still, any trim level of the Trax can be equipped with what’s quickly becoming my favorite new car feature: Onstar’s 4GLTE WiFi streaming service.
And that brings us to pricing, which is arguably the most important aspect of this vehicle. Base LS front-wheel drive models start at $20,995 after destination charges, undercutting the Buick Encore by $3,000 and the larger Chevrolet Equinox by $3,500. That leaves the Trax as the most affordable crossover in the GM lineup. Even the loaded LTZ all-wheel drive model only costs $27,405.
The 2015 Chevrolet Trax is very competitive with the current crop of subcompact crossovers. I might even go so far as to say it’s the best… for now. It won’t be long until Fiat launches the new 500X, Honda hands the world its HR-V and Mazda makes waves with the SkyActiv CX-3, not to mention the new Jeep Renegade. Anyone interested in buying a Trax might be best served to wait until the spring when a few of these new competitors are on the market to see just how well the Trax really stacks up to the competition.