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2015 Chevrolet Trax: First Drive Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Josh Sadlier December 2014

The 2015 Chevrolet Trax has an air of inevitability about it. These days, if a small car is successful (or even if it isn't), it's only a matter of time before a high-riding crossover version debuts. In the Trax's case, the small car that came first is the Chevrolet Sonic, a well-respected little sedan/hatchback that's been doing brisk business since its debut a few years back. The new 2015 Trax borrows its platform, powertrain and numerous interior bits from the Sonic, but it throws in an elevated driving position, available all-wheel drive and more versatility than any Sonic can muster.

With the Trax set to hit Chevy dealerships nationwide before the end of 2014, we ventured to San Diego in early December for the official media launch. We sought out the answers to a couple pressing questions. Is the Trax worth the extra coin in comparison to the Sonic? Will it hold up against its rivals in this fast-growing segment? We spent a few hours on the road with various Trax models, and we emerged with answers on both counts.

Better Than the Sonic?

Without a doubt, the Trax enjoys distinct benefits relative to its Sonic platform-mate, as it should at a starting price of $20,995 (versus $16,920 for the base Sonic LS hatchback). First and foremost, there's cargo capacity: The Trax offers a maximum of 48 cu ft. with the rear seatbacks folded down, dwarfing the Sonic hatchback's 30 cu ft. Moreover, Chevrolet has covered the back of the Trax's fold-flat front passenger seat with durable hard plastic, letting you load long items such as surfboards or skis without worrying about damaging your upholstery. On the other hand, even the Trax's rear cargo area -- i.e., the area behind the rear seatbacks -- isn't wide enough to accommodate, say, a golf bag with clubs, but it's a cinch to fold down one of those seatbacks and make room.

As noted, the Trax also features an elevated driving position and available all-wheel drive. The former is currently in high demand but naturally unavailable in the low-slung Sonic, while the latter makes the Trax an all-season star for snow-belt shoppers. Rear passenger space improves as well, with more legroom for tall folks and impressive headroom all around. One carryover aspect is the Trax's lack of a front center armrest; there's a flip-down armrest attached to the driver seat, but the front passenger is out of luck.

Under the hood, the Sonic's optional 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine is standard on the Trax, rated at the same 138 horsepower and a healthy 148 lb-ft of torque. The mandatory 6-speed automatic transmission isn't always perfectly smooth or swift, but it calls up adequately sprightly acceleration on demand, with the turbo's low-end punch providing an advantage over naturally aspirated alternatives. Fuel economy in the Trax is rated at 34 mpg on the highway with front-wheel drive, which isn't far behind the Sonic's 37 mpg with the turbo/automatic tandem.

Better Than the Competition?

For many shoppers, it makes good sense to pay the Trax's premium over the Sonic. However, can the Trax hold its own against other subcompact crossovers? In large part, that will depend on a few notable models that are about to hit the market, including the Honda HR-V, the Jeep Renegade/FIAT 500X cousins and the Mazda CX-3. In other words, class standards haven't been fully defined, so we can't yet say how the Trax measures up.

Considered on its own merits, though, the Trax drives pretty well, with sharp steering and an agile feel that should endear it to most drivers. The ride is supple enough, even with the optional 18-inch wheels, and the cabin stays respectably quiet except for some booming engine noise north of 4,000 rpm. In terms of technology, 4G mobile Wi-Fi is standard, as is a nifty infotainment system with a colorful 7-in touchscreen and smartphone integration. Otherwise, interior materials and design seem rather uninspired, but we can't fault the ergonomics, as the main controls and gauges are well-placed and user-friendly.

Time will tell whether the Trax has what it takes to be a segment leader, but it at least appears to have the fundamentals in place.

AutoTrader Says

The 2015 Chevrolet Trax may not be a groundbreaking product, but it successfully leverages the Sonic's existing strengths and adds some real crossover functionality. If that sounds like the sort of combination you're looking for, the 2015 Trax should be a solid choice.

To gain access to this information, AutoTrader.com attended an event sponsored by the vehicle's manufacturer.

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Used 2015 Chevrolet Trax AWD LS
Used 2015 Chevrolet Trax
$15,750
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Used 2015 Chevrolet Trax AWD LTZ
Used 2015 Chevrolet Trax
$15,998
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Used 2015 Chevrolet Trax AWD LT
Used 2015 Chevrolet Trax
$12,995
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Used 2015 Chevrolet Trax AWD LTZ
Used 2015 Chevrolet Trax
$16,400
This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2015 Chevrolet Trax: First Drive Review - Autotrader