The Chevrolet Trax is set to rival Nissan’s Juke and the Kia Sportage. Combining good value for money and rugged off-road looks, I went to Zadar in Croatia to find out what the Trax is like before it reaches our shores.
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Whether you love or dislike them, ‘sports utility vehicles’ have changed the way we live, shop, holiday and get from A to B. Chevrolet is set to strengthen its presence in the UK with the introduction of its mid-sized Trax SUV. With Nissan’s Juke and others in its line of fire, the Trax is a value-driven proposition for those seeking a driving style of a medium-sized car with the versatility and practicality of an SUV.
Seventy-eight years ago, Chevrolet’s pioneering Carryall Suburban opened a new avenue in the domain of personal mobility. Prior to that, you either hauled large groups of people or cargo, as no vehicle existed to efficiently combine both capabilities.
Drizzled in GM’s DNA, the Trax shares a platform and much of its technology with the Vauxhall Mokka and Buick’s Encore in the USA. Cosmetically, both of those appear pretty much the same. To its credit, the Trax does not.
Much time was given to the restyling of the exterior, reflecting the image Chevrolet wants to create – a bullish, chunky, 4×4 appearance. With that power-dome Chevrolet bonnet and signature split grille housing the famous golden bow tie, the rugged treatment continues to the wheel arches which add to its bulldog stance and enhances its ‘Americana’ mojo.
Chevrolet’s global vehicle performance manager for the Trax, Jason Fischer, told me in Zadar that the intention was to offer something different to those SUVs currently available. A sloping roofline and roof rails lead towards a strong C-pillar design, off-road cladding around the bottom of the car and silver skid-plates front and rear successfully complete the look. Overall, it works rather well and while its styling may not suit all tastes, it can’t be denied that the Trax is indeed, noticeably different.
The Trax is based on the same, albeit slightly elongated chassis as the Vauxhall Corsa and Chevrolet Aveo, which means it drives well for an SUV. Its seating position is higher, of course, but the steering wheel and gearshift are well placed to achieve a comfortable and relaxed driving position.
Only two engines were presented for assessment in Zadar. The smaller, 1.4-litre turbo petrol which provides 103kW/200Nm, coped adequately with the challenging Croatian topography under normal driving conditions, but felt a tad sluggish along the new, glass-smooth motorway routes which were limited to 130k/ph.
GM’s trusty 1.7-litre, 96kW turbo-diesel engine has a decent 300Nm of torque which, with the six-speed manual transmission, is a much smoother, better drive as it’s more responsive and – while chatty at start up and does take some getting used to, is sufficiently refined on the move.
A third engine, a 1.6-litre 85kW/155Nm normally-aspirated petrol engine will also be on offer in the UK, but was not available on the launch, nor – unfortunately – was the automatic version of the 1.7l diesel.
On the road, the Trax rides well and when we encountered some bumpy old secondary roads, the ride remained composed, planted and well-balanced. Fine-tuning by Chevrolet engineers for UK conditions will need only to be subtle. Slight body roll under cornering can normally be expected in an SUV and we recommend no changes be made in that area. However, there is room for improvement to the Trax’s steering as it feels detached on turn-in and slightly dull to the dead-ahead.
One of the test routes encompassed a spell of mild off-roading on gravel and while most front-wheel drive cars would have made light work of the course, the automatic on-demand 4×4 system undoubtedly helped the Trax clamber up and down some gentle, rocky slopes. However, the off-road ability of the Trax is limited by the low-slung plastic front sill which reduced the car’s approach angle. The rear departure angle is good, though.
Two trim levels of LS and LT will be available in the UK – possibly leaving room for the introduction of a new top-spec LTZ a year or so from launch. All Trax models in Zadar were of the top LT specification.
When launched, the very generous LS specification will offer 16” alloys, air conditioning, rear parking sensors, auto lights and wipers, cruise control, push-button start, Bluetooth, remote central locking and CD/radio with MP3, USB and aux-in. LT trim will add Chevrolet’s innovative MyLink infotainment system, rear parking camera, 18” alloy wheels, hill-descent control and makes all-wheel drive a selectable option.
Inside, the Trax shines in terms of space and practicality. The centre console is fuss-free in its simplicity, as are the driver’s instruments, the main unit of which is similar in aesthetic design to that available in the Aveo, but looks more mature and at home in the Trax. Row two leg and head room is good. Eight different seating configurations are available – including the ability to fold the front passenger seat flat for a whopping 1,371 litres of space. That’s more than the 830 litres available in the Nissan Juke. However, with row two set, the Trax has only 356 litres of space, compared to the Juke’s 550 litres.
Chevrolet’s MyLink connects your smart-phone entertainment with the Trax’s own systems. Use its steering-wheel mounted buttons and seven-inch touch screen to pick and play music over six speakers. Videos may be watched when parked. MyLink also manages the rear-mounted camera, Bluetooth and hands-free phone calls.
Satellite navigation will not be an available option on UK Trax models because Chevrolet have developed a downloadable app called BringGo for both iPhone and Android systems which offers satellite navigation and live traffic updates through the smartphone setting on MyLink through the BringGo app. It is a very clever system and I used it in urban and (very) rural Croatia throughout the two days and 300 miles without a hiccup. The BringGo app will be available to Trax buyers on a month’s trial for approximately £0.30p, or straight to a three-year, one-off subscription of around £55.00.
The Trax has a five-star Euro NCAP rating with six airbags, ABS, brake-force distribution and Hill-Start Assist standard across the range. Reliability should be strong, as the Trax uses engines proven in the Aveo and across a number of General Motors cars.
The Trax offers a spacious, quality interior, delivers great value for money and is pretty good to drive. Apart from one or two manageable issues – namely fine-tuning the steering and slight tweaking of the suspension and chassis dynamics for UK conditions – the Trax should prove another winner in the Chevrolet stable, slotting comfortably between the Orlando and the Captiva in the local line-up.
Chevrolet Trax prices will start from £15,495 for the 1.6 petrol LS,
rising to £20,495 for the 1.7 diesel 4×4 LT.