2013 Chevrolet Trax road test
Less at home on the highway
The Trax, like many of GM's small cars, hits the sweet spot of downsizing. It's small and agile, but feels substantial and planted, with accurate and weighty steering and a suspension that resists body lean remarkably well. By and large, the ride quality is good — thumps and bumps don't jar its stiff frame too much, though we recommend avoiding the 18-inch wheels as they give the ride a jittery feel even on smooth roads. The standard 16-inch wheels on pillowy 70-profile tires rides much cushier.
Out in the open, the Trax is a little less happy. Its tall-sided body is susceptible to crosswinds, and wind noise can be an issue at higher speeds. Acceleration at highway speeds is laboured, and requires either a good boot of the gas pedal or using the rocker switch on the gear lever to downshift a gear or two. As the revs rise, the turbo four's quiet demeanor swells into discordant noise. It's a good thing that a powerful Bose sound system is available on most models.
Despite fitting an efficiency-optimized powertrain, the Trax has difficulty living up to its projected fuel-economy figures. Our mostly rural driving route netted 8.7 L/100 km in a FWD automatic model; a second jaunt from Toronto to Ottawa and back netted no better than 9.8 L/100 km in an LTZ with AWD. Both are far from the 5.7 L/100 km Transport Canada suggests.
Small but mature
The interior of the Trax is largely the same as what you'll find in the Sonic, although the half-digital, half-analogue instrument cluster is a little more mature looking. It turns out that Europeans are just as beverage-crazy as Americans: the centre console has four massive cupholders, and there are countless storage cubbies, two glove boxes, and dual door pockets. The raised seating position in conjunction with a tilt and telescoping steering column and a large greenhouse make for good visibility in the city. Two-tone plastics, while hard, improve cabin ambience, and the driver and passenger sit in surprisingly comfortable and supportive buckets with aquamarine stitching.
Standard on 2LT and LTZ and optional on the 1LT is the MyLink system, which features a large seven-inch touchscreen interface that's USB and Bluetooth ready. It uses apps that run off your smartphone, the latest of which is a navigation system called BrinGo that functions similarly to Google Maps. While the app costs less than a portable nav (about $50) you'll need a data connection as it pulls information — including live traffic and weather updates — from the internet. While some of the fonts are on the small side, the system itself is at least a generation ahead of anything available in similarly priced rivals.
The appeal is there
So, the Trax is the right size, has the right amount of space, and the right look. The right price largely depends on what you're looking for. On one hand, the base FWD LS model is but $1,000 more than a mid-level Sonic LT five-door hatchback, yet offers notably more space and comparable equipment, and will easily accommodate four adults. You could easily get away with using the Trax as a small family car; not so much the Sonic. In this regard, it's the successor to the retro Chevy HHR, and the Pontiac Vibe — or the Cruze Hatchback we're still waiting on.
On the flip side of the coin, the Trax also makes a pretty strong case against its bizarro mini-SUV rivals, thanks to good levels of equipment, and its conventional looks (laugh, but it's an asset). But its small size does not translate into a small price tag. With AWD — and the associated equipment involved in the 1LT base package — prices start at $25,155, putting it directly in line with the Hyundai Tucson and Mitsubishi RVR. And while it's thousands less than a Honda CR-V or Ford Escape AWD, Toyota has dropped the price of its all-new RAV4 to within a few hundred dollars of the Trax. As tempting as it is to pile up the Trax with options, it's best avoided — one LTZ AWD tester with a sunroof, back-up camera, and power heated leatherette seats breached the $30,000 mark.
Finer points aside, the Trax is destined to be a success in Canada. Chevy may be marketing it towards young, trendy urban dwellers, but the fact of the matter is that the Trax has universal appeal to Canadians — regardless of where they live, and whether they're upsizing or downsizing.