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2017 Chevrolet Trax: First Drive Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Mark Elias October 2016

Imagine that you're looking for your first car following a recent move to the city. Or that you and your significant other are now empty-nesters looking to downsize, at least as far as your car is concerned. But above all, you still have things to haul around, whether it's your personal stuff or the people who are important to you. What to do? What to do, indeed?

With the 2017 Chevrolet Trax, Chevy hopes they have the answer. And with worldwide sales of their small-footprint crossover vehicle now at over 400,000 units, they just might know what they're talking about.

Worldly Features

Designed for markets around the world, the Chevrolet Trax is a 4- and possibly 5-passenger crossover that's just as much at home in Beijing as it is in Chicago, New York, Tampa, Des Moines or Mexico City. In fact, General Motor's cross-town rival Ford isn't the only brand building vehicles south of the border. The Trax models destined for North America begin life on an assembly line in San Louis Potosi, Mexico.

The Trax has been available to the rest of the world since late 2012 but only in the U.S. since 2015. New for the 2017 model, the Trax receives Chevrolet's new proportional dual-port grille with stylized halogen reflector headlamps. Halogen projector lamps appear on the LT and Premier trim levels. At the rear, there's a new fascia with sculpted taillights, and once again, the LT and Premier models receive an LED upgrade. Keyless entry and ignition are now available options.

For 2017, the Chevrolet Trax will be offered in LS and midgrade LT trims, as well as a top-shelf Premier model that now replaces the LTZ trim level. A varying degree of included features allows buyers to tailor the Trax specifically to their wants and needs.

The base LS model comes complete with air conditioning, power windows, 16-inch steel wheels and Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity.

Midlevel LT models enjoy alloy wheels, chrome exterior trim pieces, roof rails, heated outside mirrors, privacy glass and an under-seat storage tray. An available Sun and Sound package, complete with Bose 7-speaker audio system and a sunroof, can be included at this level as well.

The top-line Premier edition includes all the above features, plus 18-in alloy wheels and the ability to order the sunroof separately.

From a technology standpoint, all models are equipped with standard OnStar 4G LTE connectivity and a Wi-Fi hot spot. The system is complete with connectivity for up to seven devices including smartphones, tablets and laptops, and it includes a free 3-month/3-gigabyte trial usage period. Apple's Siri Eyes Free connectivity is also available for users of the iPhone 5, 6 and 7. There are also two USB ports and a 3.5 millimeter audio jack on board to power other devices.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility are included with the standard Chevrolet MyLink 7-in display radio system, which also brings SiriusXM Satellite radio on the LT and Premier versions (via subscription). An available 120-volt power outlet can also be ordered. Previously, such features were only available on Chevrolet's higher-end models.

Cross-shoppers will likely compare the Trax to the Mazda CX-3, the Nissan Juke, FIAT's 500X, the Jeep Renegade and the Honda HR-V.

Dressing Up on the Inside

The interior of the Chevy Trax features a new sense of refinement throughout that includes a variation of the low-and-away design first seen in its Malibu sibling. Buttons and controls are now optimized for "3-finger usage" -- which, according to GM interior stylist Steve Kim, refers to items you would reach for and operate with no more than a 3-finger touch. After experiencing it, we understood what he meant.

Controls are down to a minimal number -- just the right amount of what you need, rather than all those extras you think you need. A new instrument cluster features a revised gauge display with analog speedometer and tachometer readouts. A driver info window sits within the same binnacle and offers more concise information than before.

Seating ranges from fully manual to semi-automatic, depending on trim levels. Available in fabric, fabric with leatherette trim or full leatherette (vinyl), we found them comfortable for the extended rush hours in the Chicagoland area where we tested the vehicles. We were pleasantly surprised by the tilt-telescopic steering wheel, which even appeared on the entry-level LS model.

The second row offered a 60/40-split folding rear seat, which, when combined with the fold-forward front passenger seat, could accommodate items up to 8 feet long. It seemed sized right for a day of impulse shopping at the local bulk membership store. Total cargo capacity checked in at 18.7 cu ft. behind the rear seat, and grew to 48.4 cu ft. when that second row was folded forward.

We Have Standards, You Know?

Power for the Trax is supplied by a standard EcoTec 1.4-liter inline turbocharged 4-cylinder engine also seen in the Chevrolet Cruze and Sonic. Here, it produces a peak 138 horsepower at 4,900 revolutions per minute and 148 lb-ft of torque at 1,800 rpm. That power goes to a Hydra-Matic 6-speed automatic transmission, which then converts it to front-wheel-drive or optional all-wheel-drive propulsion that should come in handy for those living in the Snowbelt. GM says to expect mileage of 25 miles per gallon in the city and 33 mpg on the highway with front-wheel drive or 24 mpg city/30 mpg hwy with all-wheel drive.

The Trax rides on the same MacPherson strut system found on the previous model, with coil-over springs, a stabilizer bar in front and a torsion-beam rear suspension with twin tube shock absorbers. Steering is via a now-ubiquitous electrically assisted power rack-and-pinion system that offers good road feel and heft from the nicely beefed-up steering wheel.

Safety

The 2017 Chevrolet Trax includes a standard rearview camera and 10 standard air bags. But Chevy doesn't stop there: The Trax now offers a blind spot monitoring system, rear cross-traffic alert, forward-collision warning, rear park assist and lane-departure warning, which are available according to specific trim levels.

Behind the Wheel

Breaking features down into power, maneuverability and ride quality, it appears the Trax has something for everyone. While motivation from the 1.4 EcoTec engine is not exactly the vehicle's strong suit, we realize that most owners won't be buying this small crossover to cut lap times on the Autobahn. Instead, buyers will get a competent power plant with about-average fuel economy.

Maneuverability is really where Trax shines. It can quickly reverse course thanks to an amazingly tight turning radius, and its tiny footprint allows almost two Trax vehicles to occupy the same parallel-parking space that a full-size SUV would normally inhabit. The ride quality can get a bit choppy, probably due to the vehicle's short wheelbase and the rear torsion-beam suspension, not to mention the challenging conditions of the surface streets around downtown Chicago. Still, we were impressed by the relative quiet found in this compact crossover's interior.

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

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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.
2017 Chevrolet Trax: First Drive Review - Autotrader