The Chevrolet Trailblazer is all-new for the 2021 model year. Its introduction represents the first time Chevy has used the Trailblazer name in the U.S. market since 2008. But unlike its predecessor, this vehicle has nothing in common with the body-on-frame SUV sold over a decade ago. It also has nothing in common with the TrailBlazer (note the capital “B” vs. the lowercase “b” in this model) marketed by GM in select international markets. Instead, the all-new, 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer is a crossover of subcompact proportions. The space has quickly become the fastest-growing and most-contested segment, both in the U.S. and abroad. In June, we spent a week with the all-new Trailblazer. Here are our initial driving impressions after the first 150 miles.
We wrote this piece after our first few days and 150 miles with the car. We then proceeded to put another 400 miles on the car via a road trip. Will go in-depth on each of the items discussed here in the weeks ahead, so stay tuned for that.
The model we’re driving is the range-topping RS trim coated in Satin Steel Gray Metallic. It’s powered by the turbocharged 1.3L L3T three-cylinder engine rated at 155 horsepower (115 kW) at 5600 rpm and 174 pound-feet (236 Nm) of torque at 1600 rpm. That’s a noteworthy upgrade over the turbocharged 1.2L LIH I-3 that serves as the base engine and makes 137 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque.
Our tester also has all-wheel-drive, which automatically equips it with the new GM nine-speed automatic transmission, replacing the CVT used in front-drive models with the 1.2L motor. Inside, our 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer RS features a Jet Black interior with Red Accents throughout. The seats are cloth with leatherette inserts.
The base vehicle price of the 2021 Trailblazer RS with AWD is $26,900. Our model had three additional packages that added $2,685 to the vehicle’s base price, bringing the total MSRP to $30,580.
Our tester was also equipped with the following packages:
- Technology Package – $1,720:
- Wireless Apple CarPlay / Wireless Android Auto
- Chevrolet Infotainment System 3 Plus
- Wireless smartphone charging
- Adaptive Cruise Control
- Memory Card Receptacle
- LED Headlamps
- HD Radio
- 4.2-inch multi-color driver information center display
- Bose Premium 7-speaker system
- HD Rear Vision Camera
- Convenience Package – $620:
- Single-zone automatic air conditioning
- Auto-dimming inside rear-view mirror
- Covered, sliding driver and front passenger visors with illuminated vanity mirrors
- 120-volt power outlet
- SiriusXM radio (with trial)
- Rear USB-A and USB-C charge-only ports
- Driver Confidence Package – $345:
- Rear park assist
- Rear cross-traffic alert
- Lane change alert with side blind zone alert
The only package our tester doesn’t have is the Sun and Liftgate Package ($1,770), which includes a power, dual-pane, panoramic sunroof and a power, programmable hands-free liftgate with LED logo projection. If we were getting this vehicle for ourselves, we would definitely spring for this optional package to enjoy a fully loaded unit.
The styling theme of the 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer is that of a mini-Blazer. Not the body-on-frame SUV of the past, but the all-new Blazer midsize crossover that debuted for the 2019 model year. The new Blazer is a very attractive vehicle in its own right, and applying its design language to the Trailblazer – which is two segments smaller – results in another good-looking crossover.
Up front sits a new interpretation of Chevy’s signature dual-port grille with a multi-layered appearance. An accent bar integrated within the headlamps tricks the eye into thinking that this small crossover has a wider stance than it really does. A bold hood leads up to black, upright A-pillars, which in turn harmonize with taut bodyside lines and a sleek roofline. A two-tone roof – standard on the Trailblazer RS – is a unique touch; it joins with the blacked-out A-pillar and unique C-pillar treatment to give the roof a “floating” appearance. The rear end features large wraparound tail lamps.
The RS model, in particular, adds several unique elements that bring even more flair to this already-stylish vehicle. These include a glossy black mesh grille with a black Chevy bowtie and a unique, faux carbon fiber front splitter. Additionally, the headlamp clusters wrapping the optional LED headlamps have a slightly different shape on the RS model. A set of 18-inch high gloss black machined aluminum wheels fill out the wheel wells very nicely, and look great. Out back, the Trailblazer RS features a set of LED tail lamps with a model-specific signature. Dual round exhaust outlets and a faux carbon fiber rear valance round out the styling package.
Overall, the 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer is a very sharp-looking piece of kit, particularly in RS guise. And that is a big deal, especially in this segment, whose contenders tend to look like their styling is either incomplete (Ford EcoSport, Fiat 500X) or over-styled to the point of looking cartoonish (Toyota C-HR). To that end, the Trailblazer has a character of its own, and it’s quite an attractive one.
In our first three days of driving the new Trailblazer in the Miami area, we had a total of four people ask us about it (the Trailblazer name caught everyone off-guard). Even in the heat of the COVID-19 pandemic, this small yet mighty crossover served as an apt conversation starter.
We should also note that the Satin Steel Gray Metallic is quite an interesting color. In most cases, the hue takes on a steel-gray persona; but warmer-lit conditions when the sun is out, the color takes on a brown hue.
Bottom line: the 2021 Trailblazer looks superb, and that’s a good thing.
And that brings us to the interior. The cabin of the 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer RS is quite comfortable, with a driver-oriented layout, a natural driving position and healthy visibility. All the controls are laid out exactly where one would expect them to be. There’s a real center console with an armrest – which has been an area of discontent surrounding the Trailblazer’s semi-predecessor, the Trax. We say “semi” because the Trailblazer doesn’t replace the Trax, but rather joins to expand Chevrolet’s crossover lineup. Both models will co-exist, at least for the time being.
The touch points – the parts and areas of the interior that the driver actually touches – have a solid, high-quality feel to them, including the items the driver interacts with the most. These include the door pull handles, the engine start button, the leather-wrapped, flat-bottom steering wheel (a particular favorite of ours) and the shifter/gear selector. The door and center console armrests are formed from a polyurethane-type material, and they are just soft enough not to feel hard.
On the front doors, the inlays immediately above the door armrests are soft and have nice red stitching. There’s also a piano black inlay above that area. The rest of the front door panels – above and below the armrest and the aforementioned inlay – is wrapped in a hard plastic. The rear doors don’t get the soft inlay, the stitching, or the piano black accents. It’s a hard door all around, though the armrest is made of the same soft-ish polyurethane material (like for the two front door).
The forward-facing part of the dash is covered in a soft rubber-like material with a sporty-looking texture. It looks good and feels even better. The upper dash is made of a hard plastic, yet looks pleasant to the eye. Not once did any of these “hard” materials bother us during our initial time with this vehicle: they look good to the eye and we can’t imagine a scenario where a normal person would actually need to touch these areas.
We also appreciated all the different storage areas in the cabin, including the bins within the lower door panels and the three storage areas around the center console. Particularly useful was the dedicated upright phone holder that bifurcates the cupholders. After all, a cupholder is for cups, right?
We also appreciated the small “shelf” in front of the front passenger. It has a rubberized floor and can be used to store the passenger’s cell phone and/or wallet. There’s a faux carbon fiber accent below it that looks in place.
Elsewhere in the cockpit, red piping and stitching combine with tasteful chrome accents throughout the cabin.
The seats are comfortable. The red stitching, piping and other red accents sprinkled throughout the cabin of the RS model add a tasteful touch. Space is plentiful, which is a great for a small vehicle such as this one.
Bottom line: the 2021 Trailblazer has a spacious and comfortable interior that it easy to see out of and a solid place to spend time.
Another area where the 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer excels is cargo space. Capacity behind the second row is plentiful (25.3 cubic feet), and the floor can be lowered roughly an inch to provide even more room for taller items.
Additionally, the side cargo dividers can be removed to create a wider loading space.
The second row seats fold flat in a 60/40 fashion to provide even more room for longer items (54.4 cubic feet of cargo capacity with the second row folded). The front passenger seat also folds flat, allowing one to fit an item up to 8.5 feet long within the vehicle, which is very impressive for a car this size.
There’s also a reversible cargo floor, with a regular carpet texture on one side and a more rugged texture on the other.
Models not equipped with the power liftgate feature require a bit more effort to slam that boot fully closed. When that’s not done, the hatch door has a tendency to latch, but not completely, resulting in a “trunk open” message in the instrument panel.
Bottom line: not only does the 2021 Trailblazer have a healthy amount of cargo capacity, but it also has the flexibility to punch well above its
weight size when it comes to cargo-carrying capacity.
Technology is another 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer RS strong suit. The optional eight-inch central infotainment screen (a seven-inch screen is standard) is a marvel. It’s easy to use, is bright, and very quick/responsive. The optional Technology Package upgrades the backup camera to a more high-res HD unit. Working in conjunction with the screen, the image is clear, sharp and very responsive.
Meanwhile, the instrumentation is quite attractive and easy on the eyes, with RS-specific touches within the speedo and tach. The 4.2-inch multi-color driver information center – the screen located between the speedometer and tach – is identical to the unit used in many Chevy models. It gets the job done in a no-fuss sort of fashion, with intuitive steering wheel controls.
The (optional) Wireless Apple CarPlay implementation combines with wireless charging for a cable-free experience, meaning less clutter in the cabin. Those who prefer to use cables can still do so, as all 2021 Trailblazer models feature one type-A and one type-C USB port, along with an auxiliary input jack. A set of charge-only USB-A and USB-C ports on the rear of the center console (for second row passengers) are optional.
The similarly-optional 7-speaker Bose sound system (a 6-speaker system with enhanced performance and amplifier is standard on RS) sounds great, and feels just right playing anything from the latest Hip-Hop tunes to a podcast.
The Trailblazer also excels at the hands-free phone feature: not only could we hear exactly what was being said over the speakers, but the folks on the end of the call told us that the sound quality was superb, even when driving at highway speeds. In fact, one caller couldn’t believe we were actually driving 75 mph and talking to him on the car’s system.
The camera-based Adaptive Cruise Control, also an option, works well on the highway. However, its behavior can be a bit erratic at times, which is the case for all GM models with this feature. Luckily, one can simply switch to the “regular” cruise control, if so desired. The other active safety features, such as Blind Zone Alert and Rear Park Assist, work as one would expect.
We also appreciated the remote start (standard on the RS trim) with automatic air control in the scorching Miami heat. Meanwhile, the onboard 4G LTE-based Wi-Fi helps keep all occupants connected.
Bottom line: the 2021 Trailblazer RS not only has the technology, but also implements it in all the right ways.
Now to the part many of you have been waiting for: how does the 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer drive? In two words, very well.
As mentioned earlier, the turbocharged 1.3L L3T three-cylinder engine is rated at 155 horsepower at 5600 rpm and 174 pound-feet of torque at a very low 1600 rpm. Any notion that the Trailblazer with the optional turbo 1.3L engine is somehow underpowered is, quite frankly, bollocks. During our first three days with this vehicle, we found the power to be more than adequate. Keep in mind that yours truly drives a C7 Corvette as his daily driver.
Though the Trailblazer is no high-performance machine, the boosted three-banger more than gets the job done in propelling this vehicle. In fact, it can be quite a fun companion at times. The nine-speed automatic gearbox is a gem, delivering quick shifts during acceleration. The small crossover has no issues gaining speed and keeping up with (and passing) traffic in city driving conditions. The same can be said about accelerating on highway on-ramps, even those short ones that require faster acceleration.
Mashing the throttle while in front-wheel-drive mode can even spin the front tires. Turning on AWD does away with that. We’d even go so far as to say that, had we not been following the new Trailblazer from development years ago, we would have never even guessed that there’s a three-cylinder under the hood. The engine feels like a healthy four-pot, and not a three-cylinder.
The sound is uneventful. At idle, it’s barely noticeable. When flogged, it sounds like a typical small engine under strain. Regular driving delivers low NVH levels.
Around town, the 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer RS is a perfect companion. It’s light on its feet and very maneuverable. The ride is quiet and compliant, and vibration and harshness levels are minimal.
That said, the Trailblazer has a healthy amount of body roll when cornering at speed. But that shouldn’t necessarily be a deal breaker. After all, this is a utility vehicle, not a sports car. Meanwhile, brake pedal feel is one of the best we’ve experienced in a while in a GM crossover: gone is the (almost) universally-hated long pedal travel. Instead, the pedal has a short travel distance that helps the driver feel more in control of the braking experience.
All of those good qualities are dialed up a notch by the Trailblazer’s well-sorted demeanor on the highway, where the crossover just purrs. The vehicle feels solid, competent, and sure-footed, even at high speeds and while driving among a herd of semi trucks. The nine-speed auto gives the boosted three-banger a low cruising engine speed of just around 2,000 rpm at 80 mph.
Much like in the city, noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels are kept to a minimum on the highway. In fact, we can’t emphasize enough just how quiet, calm, composed and sure-footed this small crossover at high speeds. The Trailblazer just begs to be driven. Long road trips are its strong suit.
And for those who are wondering: yes, the engine auto stop-start system can be turned off via a button on the center console. The system resets to “on” at every ignition cycle.
Bottom line: the 2021 Trailblazer is a solid driving companion that’s quiet and composed.
The EPA rates the 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer with the turbo 1.3L engine, 9-speed automatic transmission and AWD at 26 MPG city, 30 MPG highway and 28 MPG combined. We averaged 23 miles per gallon during the first 150 miles.
However, those first 150 miles included very taxing driving conditions, consisting of abnormal driving (like hammering on the accelerator for instrumented testing), getting a feel for the vehicle’s limits, and a healthy amount of idling – all of which sap fuel economy. After that initial bout of tests, we got closer to 26 MPG.
During the first three days and 150 miles, the 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer RS proved to be a solid companion. It looks good, is comfortable, quiet and sure-footed, both in the city and on the highway. Very healthy levels of technology complement its attractive looks and solid driving experience.
More importantly, at no point during the initial three days did we feel like we got an inferior product by opting for the most affordable Chevrolet crossover on the market today. Far from a penalty box that constantly reminds its drivers and occupants about its entry-level position in the marketplace, the new Trailblazer feels like a more premium product.
To that end, the 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer has a premium price tag. Even though it has a lower starting price than the Trax, get carried away with the trim level and optional packages, and you’re looking at a subcompact crossover that stickers at over $30,000. But given just how well this vehicle does what’s requested of it, we’d say that’s money well spent.
After these initial three days, we will spend another four days with the new Tb. We’ll have a lot more details and driving impressions about the 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer over the next few weeks, so be sure to subscribe to GM Authority for more Chevrolet Trailblazer news, Chevrolet news, and around-the-clock GM news coverage.
- All photos copyright GM Authority / Motrolix.