The last few years, we’ve noticed a little crossover model called the Captiva, proudly wearing the Chevrolet bow-tie but never showing up in an ad or auto show. We later learned the Captiva was a rebadged Saturn Vue and never was intended for more than fleet usage. No, Chevrolet had smaller things in mind — the Trax — built in South Korea by General Motors’ Daewoo division.
New for 2015, the Trax is a 4-door crossover available with 2-wheel or all-wheel drive. Based-priced at about $20,000, it competes with the Kia Soul, Nissan Juke and Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, among others.
Chevy refers to the Trax as “city-smart,” and that designation reveals its purpose. Small enough to squeeze into a tight parking space or navigate a narrow, crowded street, it’s also tall enough for easy access and egress. And the optional all-wheel drive, along with 6.2 inches of ground clearance, makes it a reliable all-weather companion as well.
Fuel economy is competitive — as much as 34 mpg on the highway in the front-wheel-drive configuration, and 31 mpg with AWD.
The Chevy came up short of the creature comforts and refinement of the Buick Encore, which we test-drove a few weeks earlier. The cloth upholstery and hard, black plastic interior panels gave the car a work-truck personality. But its sticker price, $22,495, was about $12,000 below that of the full-dress Encore. People who choose the Chevy over the Buick will be glad to overlook the absence of opulence. But those who insist on a higher level of style and equipment may find themselves pricing the Trax into a contest it can’t win — with midsize SUVs like the Subaru Forester and Toyota RAV4.
Chevrolet is targeting a young audience, judging by the impressively long list of connectivity features that come with this otherwise bare-bones crossover: 7-inch diagonal color touch-screen; OnStar; Internet hotspot; streaming audio for music; and Bluetooth. It also had a rear-view camera, driver information center, remote keyless entry and tire-pressure monitoring system.
Unlike the Daewoos the Korean company tried to market in the United States 15 years ago, the Trax isn’t underpowered, but neither is it quick off the line. The transmission upshifts in a leisurely fashion at times, too. But the car is fairly quiet and rides fairly smoothly. We didn’t take our Trax on any long trips, but it certainly was comfortable on medium-length drives in western and central Connecticut.
Leg room in front is ample. Knee room is iffy in back, but there’s plenty of head room.
Rated a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Trax received 5-star ratings for front passenger protection in government crash tests.
The Trax only landed in Chevy showrooms in December, so sales data are sketchy. But the similar Encore has been selling exceptionally well and is currently the best-selling small crossover, according to GM.
Steven Macoy (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.
Engine: 1.4-liter turbocharged inline Four, 138 horsepower, 148 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: shiftable 6-speed automatic
Ground clearance: 6.2 in.
Weight: 3,208 lb.
Suspension: MacPherson strut front, torsion beam rear
Wheels: 16×6.5-in. steel
Tires: P205/70R16 all-season
Seating capacity: 5
Luggage capacity: 18.7 cu. ft.
Maximum cargo capacity: 48.4 cu. ft.
Fuel capacity: 14 gal.
Fuel economy: 24 mpg city, 31 mpg highway
Fuel type: regular unleaded gasoline