2013 Chevrolet Trax road test
Chevy's globe-trotting mini-SUV hits the sweet spot for Canadians
Ottawa, Ont. — Here's a question: are car buying Canadians upsizing or downsizing? We're often told that more mature buyers want smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles jam-packed with big-car features, while, at the same time, more and more Canadians are buying compact crossovers and SUVs instead of cars for their added practicality. Either way, Chevrolet's Trax is ready to meet people in the middle, ready to compromise, like any overly polite Canadian would.
Despite Chevrolet's American-as-apple-pie image, the Trax is about as far from American as a Chevy can get. This pint-sized soft-roader was engineered overseas, made its global debut in Paris last year, is assembled in Mexico and, like the Chevrolet Orlando, cannot be purchased in the United States. Add to that its compact footprint and affordable price tag, and it's perfect for Canada. (Those south of the border can, however, purchase the Buick Encore, its fancy-pants fraternal twin.)
How small is small?
At first glimpse, the Trax comes across as being a traditional-looking SUV, which is something of an oddity given its rivals consist of the froggy Nissan Juke, the corpulent Mini Countryman, and the shark-nosed Mitsubishi RVR. Chunky plastic fender flares, silver-finish bumpers that mimic skid plates, roof rails and nearly eight inches of ground clearance will make you look like scaling Mt. Kilimanjaro could be next on your to-do list, but it's really a softie underneath (just like you).
These macho SUV cues are shrink-wrapped around General Motors' Gamma II platform, which underpins the subcompact Chevrolet Sonic, but the Trax is notably longer and wider for a roomier cabin that can seat four tall adults, and a 530L cargo bay that's larger than pricier compact SUVs such as the BMW X1. The rear seats fold for even more cargo room (1,371 L), but don't slide or recline.
Enough in the city
There's only one engine on offer to Trax buyers: it's the same 1.4-litre turbocharged inline-four that's quickly sweeping across GM's product portfolio. The 138-hp motor is smooth, and its 148 lb.-ft. of torque, developed from just 1,850 rpm, is enough to allow it to step away from stop lights with swiftness. A six-speed manual is standard on the base model, but all others, including all-wheel-drive cars get a six-speed automatic.
Said all-wheel-drive system is simple but clever. It's only in use when traction is needed, and uses electromagnets to engage and disengage the rear driving wheels to save fuel. It's always on between stop and five km/h for slip-free starts, but above that it freely kicks in for traction and stability or disengages to save fuel. With the boost in traction comes a fully independent rear suspension (FWD cars have a simple torsion beam), and rear disc brakes.