Mountain Wheels: Tiny Chevy Trax will still get through the worst of conditions
Special to the Daily
2015 Chevrolet Trax LTZ AWD
MSRP: $26,5300; as tested, $27,405
Powertrain: 138-HP 1.4-liter turbo four-cylinder, six-speed automatic transmission
EPA figures: 27 combined mpg (24 city, 31 highway)
Oddball trends don’t seem to be a big part of the normalized automotive continuum, but the minor move toward a new range of tiny SUVs has created some interesting options. All of which seem like they could probably park inside the back of an Escalade.
The wee-est of the wee is a Korean import that’s branded as the Chevy Trax in the United States, a miniscule machine that is GM’s least expensive all-wheel-drive offering, and just happens to share the same platform as the Chevy Aveo and the Sonic.
And while cheap gas madness has certainly made a few people lethargic about the realities of fuel efficiency and the seemingly affordable world of much larger SUVs (wait ’til I tell you about my time in the Escalade, which stickered at $89,000), I bet a few of you would love an inexpensive but reliable all-season option — one that’s not as big as a house.
Trax is just that. With a 100-inch wheelbase and just 168 inches of overall length, it might remind you a lot of the older Suzuki SX4 — a little stocky in its stance, but still attractive and surprisingly solid in really, really bad weather. Better yet, a very bare-bones version of the car starts at just under $21,000; not a bad price, considering that it’s very much the same underpinnings as the glossy but identical Buick Encore, which runs closer to $30,000 with all of its leather and such.
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The Trax packs just 138 horsepower from a miniscule turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine, but given that the little CUV is only 3,208 pounds in its AWD format, it’s enough to get it around, and still get you up the hill.
An AWD version of the Trax can get about 31 mpg on the highway, while the front-wheel drive version sneaks up to 34 mpg. All of that is assisted by a six-speed automatic that can, should you desire, be electronically shifted with a thumb toggle.
Of particular note are the 18-inch wheels and a set of decent all-seasons that allowed me to get through sheet ice, foot-deep snow and relatively deep slush, with stability and smoothness — even with that very tiny footprint on the road. You will notice the truncated wheelbase if you do some serious steering inputs, but it’s still far from tippy.
I will not go so far as to say that the Trax offers some strange vortex effect and is gigantic on the inside; it’s not, but it’s also not ridiculously small, even in the rear seat. Total cargo room is 48.4 cubic feet, so it’ll get you and a small crew around quite comfortably.
The Trax’s design is in keeping with Chevy’s overall game plan and includes a square, flattened nose, tall dual headlamps and lots of Chevy-style chrome outlining. If the Trax were more than 65 inches high, it would look awesomely mean — though the Shrek-style side mirrors goof things up a bit.
Inside, my LTZ-level model had an interesting two-tone plastic-fantastic Korean pop look, and at $27,405 included some nice, firmly bolstered and heated leatherette seats.
That two-tone mixture of colors in the cabin helps break up the plastic feel, and oddly showy carbon-fiber-style plates over the A/C controls and on the wheel jazz things up considerably.
The smaller size means you’re limited to a couple of cupholders and a cubby under the single, flop-back driver’s side armrest — but GM also boasts about the Trax’s grand total of 15 storage compartments in the cabin (there are three on the dash alone), and the whole effect gets a little busy at times.
Mine had the odd non-navigation information screen — blindingly thorough Sirius XM song title info, but your navigation needs will have to be called up through OnStar. Like other members of the new wave of GM vehicles, Trax’s OnStar can also become a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot for up to seven devices. Two per person, I guess, in a vehicle this size.
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