Glen Woodcock

The Little Energizer Bunny of CUVs

Chevrolet makes Trax for compact crossover segment

The Little Energizer Bunny of CUVs

Car Review

Overall rating:

8/10

Editor's Ratings:

  • Price: 8/10

  • Performance: 7/10

  • Comfort (front): 8/10

  • Look: 8/10

Chevrolet makes Trax for compact crossover segment

"Paint it pink and it might very well be the little Energizer Bunny of CUVs."

OTTAWA - The 2013 Chevrolet Trax was in tough at the recent Canadian Car of the Year (CCOTY) competition staged by the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada.

It was entered in the category Best New SUV/CUV Under $35,000 where it was up against the likes of Hyundai Santa Fe, Ford Escape and Honda CR-V. And it finished behind all of them.

MORE: 2013 Chevrolet Trax trims and other specs

So it would be easy to dismiss the Trax as the category’s 90-pound weakling. And that would be wrong, because the contest was anything but a battle of equals. As tested, the Trax was $24,430 - thousands less than most of its bigger and better equipped rivals.

Drive them all back-to-back, as we judges do at CCOTY, and the compact Trax suffers by comparison. But take it out on its own for an extended run and it is perfectly acceptable.

Recently, I got to test the Trax over several hundred km of snowy, slushy, rutted roads in the Gatineau hills of Quebec. And when the going got tough, Trax kept on going. Paint it pink and it might very well be the little Energizer Bunny of CUVs.

Even with all-season tires, Trax handled the conditions well. And perhaps it was just as well that our AWD test vehicles didn’t come shod with winter radials because then we might have been tempted to push it too hard on the icy hills, drifted-in curves and unplowed back roads.

And in this part of Quebec, the trees tightly packed and close to the road. Put it into the weeds here and they have hard, thick trunks.

Power comes from GM’s ubiquitous 1.4-litre turbocharged engine. With automatic, it can send Trax from 0-100 km/h in 10.3 seconds.

The interior is surprisingly spacious for a vehicle that, although taller, has roughly the same footprint as the Pontiac Vibe. But what’s with the four cupholders for driver and front passenger?

Rear seat legroom is good, but cramming three adults in back there will be a little uncomfortable - especially for the unlucky soul who gets to sit in the middle. Better to flip the centre armrest down and let two ride in comfort.

With the rear seats upright, cargo space is 530 litres and can be expanded by folding them forward. The front passenger seat folds flat too, for longer items, and the non-power liftgate requires only the lightest touch to make it close.

Trax is available in four trim levels, with either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. The base LS, priced from $18,495, is the only model with a standard six-speed manual transmission and optional air conditioning. All others get standard A/C and a six-speed automatic.

Top-of-the-line model is the LTZ, which comes loaded with 18-inch wheels, heated front seats, MyLink touch radio, power driver’s seat and auto-dimming rear view mirror for $29,330.

Chevrolet expects the most popular model to be the 1LT with MSRPs of $23,205 for FWD and $25,155 for AWD, which is optional across the line-up. Other standard equipment includes 10 airbags, anti-lock brakes, traction control, tilt and telescopic steering, hill hold assist, power windows/locks/mirrors, electric power steering and Bluetooth.

With an overall length of 4,280 mm, Trax is a little bigger than Nissan Juke, Suzuki SX-4 and Kia Soul, but is 120 mm shorter than Hyundai Tucson, which Vincent Boillot, GM Canada’s product manager - crossovers, sees as the “bulls-eye target,” and says that comparably equipped Trax is $1,760 cheaper.

And don’t kid yourself that price isn’t a big motivator for consumers in the compact crossover marketplace.

All Trax models sold in Canada will be built in Mexico.

Fact file

2013 Chevrolet Trax

Trim levels available: LS; 1LT; 2LT; LTZ

MSRP range: $18,495 - $29,330

Freight/PDI: $1,500

Notable options: 6-speed automatic transmission, air conditioning; AWD, Bose premium sound system with 7 speakers and XM satellite radio; sunroof.

Configuration: Front engine/ front and all-wheel drive

Available engines: 1.4L turbo 4-cyl. (138 hp/ 148 lb.-ft.)

Available transmissions: 6-spd manual, 6-spd automatic

Fuel (capacity): regular (52L)

Fuel economy ratings (L/100km): 7.8 city; 5.7 hwy (FWD man.)

Warranty: 3 years/ 60,000 km (basic); 5 years/ 160,000 km (powertrain)

Competitors: Hyundai Tucson; Kia Soul; Nissan Juke; Suzuki SX-4

Strengths: price; fuel economy; size/manoeuvrability

Weaknesses: a tad underpowered; plasticky interior; no CD player!