About two years ago, then-GM North America President Mark Reuss, who is now running global product development, participated in the comment section of a story regarding the Chevrolet Equinox and why there was nothing slotting below it in Chevrolet’s U.S. lineup. He mentioned that the Equinox is a golden goose of sorts, and a smaller two-row crossover in the lineup would hurt the popular midsizer. But the automotive market remains a very fluid, ever-changing enigma, and little crossovers are becoming increasingly important in the U.S. market. To wit, estimates pin the small crossover market to swell to a volume of 177,000 units sold in the United States alone by 2016. But to really capitalize, it’s important to enter the segment early. Hence the latest business decision to turn shoulder on the Equinox, and integrate the Trax into Chevy’s native land lineup starting the 2015 model year. Finally.
Earlier today, we had a go with an orange AWD model during a rather rainy day in Upstate New York, and we’re able to share our impressions with you. Mostly, it’s good:
– Like its platform-mate, the Buick Encore, the Chevrolet Trax is deceptively spacious, with seemingly enough headroom to hold any human frame comfortably under 6’5″, but for the most part, that’s where the similarities end, for better or worse.
– The 2014 Trax utilizes the hip, minimalist instrument panel and center console designs as currently seen in the little Sonic and even smaller Spark. It’s love/hate here, because while the motorcycle-inspired IP with a brilliant blue bordering around the tachometer is enjoyable, the center console and its lack of even the most basic of buttons can be aggravating. A simple browse through XM radio channels requires more effort and attention than it rightfully should, and the Trax is not equipped with a voice command to tune to a selected radio station. That said, drivers can adjust volume and scan radio presets with steering wheel controls.
– The 1.4L turbo, found already in the Chevrolet Cruze, Sonic and Buick Encore, provides a sufficient amount of power with decent fuel economy numbers. But take note that it’s pretty damn loud and coarse at wide open throttle, though the basic paces of moving about the city streets — and this is a city car — shouldn’t be much of an issue for anybody. The engine noise is louder than that of the Encore, due to the Trax’s omission of a lot of sound deadening material and Bose Active Noise Cancellation.
– Driving the 2014 Trax is actually pretty charming. Its suspension absorbs road imperfections rather well, and its electric steering has a very predictable, linear feel to it. Thirdly, the all-wheel-drive option in the Trax represents Chevy’s smallest and most affordable AWD vehicle. As a utilitarian city car, the Trax shines, and it’s easy to see HHR and Pontiac Vibe refugees finding themselves at least testing one of these little guys.
– Interior materials aren’t much to write about. This is a pretty basic car, and its target audience has limited resources. In the sense of practicality, however, the Trax shines. It has eight different ways that the seats can be configured, and it has nearly 50 cubic feet of cargo space with the second row folded down and flat. Think of all that Ikea furniture that could fit in this subcompact. Or dorm room furnishings, for that matter.
– Safety-wise, the Trax is a class leader in total air bags, and one needs only to look at the Buick Encore to estimate how its going to do in NHTSA crash ratings.
All in all, customers should find the Trax to be a welcome addition to Chevrolet’s small car lineup in America, when it launches as a 2015 model early next year.