Chevrolet’s global entry in the booming subcompact crossover market began production in April 2013. By 2015, the Trax had made its first full year of sales in the United States, where it became the third bestseller in its segment.
Over here, the second generation Trax for the 2017 model year was launched at the 2016 Manila International Motor Show by The Covenant Car Company Inc. (TCCI), the exclusive importer and distributor of Chevrolet vehicles and parts in the Philippines.
TCCI offers two 2017 Trax models: the basic Trax 1.4 LS A/T for P1,123,888, and the Trax 1.4 LT A/T for P1,358,888, both front wheel drive. Although the Trax Premium (formerly, the LTZ badge) is not available locally, TCCI included many of the Premium’s desirable features in the LT model.
Just the same, the 2017 Trax faces tough competition from subcompact crossovers like the Ford EcoSport, Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3, Kia Soul and Nissan Juke.
How does the new Trax score versus these entrenched rivals? Below are some observations.
The 2017 Trax is handsome in a conservative, utilitarian way, less polarizing than the Nissan Juke or Kia Soul, and less stylish than the Mazda CX-3.
The latest version of Chevy’s signature dual port grille, projector-type headlamps with LED daytime running lights (DRLs) underneath, slightly revised LED taillights, front and rear skidplates, fog lamps, 18-inch aluminum alloy rims, a new hood, new front fenders, and a new rear bumper distinguish the 2017 Trax from its predecessor.
Despite the 18-inch wheels, Chevrolet does not reveal the Trax’s ground clearance. A lost opportunity? Ford Philippines emphasizes the EcoSport’s 200-mm ground clearance in its ads to claim 500 mm wading depth in this flash-flood-prone country.
Chevrolet refreshed the dual cockpit design with a new, flowing dashboard, a three-spoke multifunction leather steering wheel, chrome accents, contrasting stitching, a gauge cluster featuring analog speedometer and tachometer dials, a new 3.5-inch digital driver information center, and an improved 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system.
However, the dash pad and door panels are lined in textured rubbery plastic, and there is no center storage console. The previous generation’s dashtop-mounted lidded storage bin, secondary glovebox and armrest for the front passenger seat are also gone.
In the Trax LT, the MyLink infotainment system that supports seamless mobile phone integration, voice commands and steering wheel controls plus FM/AM radio with MP3, WMA, wireless interface and hands-free Bluetooth is standard equipment, comparing favorably with rivals.
Seats and cargo space
The Trax’s upright front seats are supportive and offer good outward visibility of the road ahead. As for headroom, even six-footers can sit in front without their heads touching the ceiling.
The roof pillars do not block sight lines since they are not too wide. Anyway, a reverse camera is standard equipment in the Trax LT.
On the other hand, there is less headroom and legroom in the back, and the 60/40 split folding rear bench is less adequately padded compared to the front seats.
When the rear seat is folded down, cargo space increases from 19 to 48 cubic feet, which is more than that of the Mazda CX-3 and Nissan Juke.
Even the front passenger seat folds down flat to accommodate longer cargo. Multiple seating configurations prove the versatile roominess of the Trax, somewhat similar to the Honda Jazz’s.
Performance and ride quality
The 2017 Trax’s exterior styling was refined, and its interior was upgraded, but its engine, suspension and tuning are unchanged.
Chevrolet’s 1.4-liter, 4-cylinder DOHC Ecotec turbocharged gasoline engine mated to a smooth-shifting 6-speed automatic transmission still powers the Trax.
Producing 140 hp and 200 Newton-meters max torque which is available at a low 1,850 rpm, the engine is peppy in low-speed acceleration, as in city and urban traffic.
But the 1.4-liter turbo four pot strains as speeds increase. The Trax lacks power for uphill driving and highway overtaking, especially with a full carload.
The lackluster acceleration is counterbalanced by outstanding maneuverability, the Trax’s strongest point.
Due to a tight turning radius, the Trax can turn on a dime and quickly reverse course. Its small footprint and short wheelbase enable it to easily get in and out of tight parking spaces.
However, the short wheelbase, 18-inch wheels of the LT, and rear torsion beam suspension can cause a jarring ride over rough pavement. The bigger the wheels, the rougher the ride. But generally, the ride quality is smooth, comfortable and composed in the relatively quiet cabin.
Sharp electric power steering, limited body roll when tackling corners, and responsive handling on winding roads enhance the nimble feeling despite the underpowered engine.
These features make the Trax perfect for the daily drive to and from work, trips to the grocery and dropping kids off at school. In other words, excellent for city and urban driving.
Does that description sound like the Trax is the ideal crossover for women? In the US, 60 percent of Trax buyers are female, making it Chevrolet’s No. 1 chick car.
Justifying the price
With its price tag, the LT model costs more than the Ford EcoSport Titanium 1.0-liter turbocharged A/T (P1.008 million), Mazda CX-3 SkyActiv A/T hatchback (P1.28 million), Kia Soul 1.6 CRDi LX A/T (P1.07 million) and Nissan Juke 1.6 CVT’s P980,000.
The 2017 Honda HR-V 1.8-liter CVT is priced about the same level at P1.359 million, but it has only four airbags.
The active and passive safety equipment and convenience features of the Trax LT outnumber the competition’s and justify the suggested retail price.
The Trax LT has six airbags, ABS with electronic brakeforce distribution, cornering brake control, traction control system, rear wheel boost, rollover mitigation, panic brake assist, straight line stability, engine drag control, hill start assist and hill descent control aside from proximity keyless entry, electronic cruise control, push start/stop button, tire pressure monitoring system, reverse camera, 230-volt socket, electric rear door liftgate and heated folding side mirrors with turn signal lamp.
The Trax may not be sporty or fun to drive on the expressway, but it is solidly built, easy and safe to drive, extremely maneuverable, runs smoothly and provides a quiet, comfortable ride.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.