The 2018 Chevrolet Trax merges the dimensions and pricing of a compact car with the tall ride height and all-weather ability of an SUV. Perfect for first time buyers or empty-nesters looking to downsize, the Trax is equipped with a sub-$22,000 price tag, a peppy turbocharged 4-cylinder engine and good fuel economy. The versatile interior can be configured for two people plus a pile of toys, gear or the latest yard sale score, or it can comfortably hold four people (five in a pinch) with a little bit of cargo space for a few of their things. When placed against the competition, the Trax has more passenger volume than a Mazda CX-3 or Toyota C-HR, better gas mileage than the Jeep Renegade and a lower base price than a comparably equipped Fiat 500X. Overall, Chevy’s smallest world-car is an appealing prospect that shouldn’t be overlooked.
What’s New for 2018?
For 2018, the Trax gains an improved MyLink 7-inch touchscreen radio. The Premier trim gains a power sunroof, forward-collision alert and lane-departure warning as standard equipment, and the LT trim gains a new Redline Edition package that adds 18-in black wheels with a red accent stripe, Jet Black cloth and leatherette seating and black exterior accents on the mirrors, badges and grille.
What We Like
Reasonably priced; compact size; roomy interior; impressive list of optional features; good fuel economy; Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible
What We Don’t
Not a lot of power under the hood; optional driver assists not as sophisticated as the competition, ride can get choppy at times; so-so resale value
A 1.4-liter turbocharged inline 4-cylinder engine good for 138 horsepower and 148 lb-ft of resides under the 2018 Chevrolet Trax’s hood. A 6-speed automatic transmission is standard on all models. In front-wheel-drive form, the Trax earns an estimated 25 miles per gallon city and 33 mpg highway, while all-wheel drive versions see a slight reduction to 24 mpg city/30 mpg hwy.
Standard Features & Options
Chevrolet offers the Trax in three trims: LS, LT and Premier. All-wheel drive is optional on all three trims.
The Trax LS ($21,995 FWD; $23,495 AWD) includes 10 airbags, a rearview camera, a 7-in touchscreen MyLink radio, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, 4G LTE Wi-Fi, 2 USB ports, power windows and door locks, remote keyless entry, 16-in styled steel wheels, a fold-flat front passenger seat, 60/40-split bench rear seat, a tilt-telescopic steering column, air conditioning and power mirrors.
The Trax LT ($23,895 FWD; $25,395 AWD) adds 16-in aluminum wheels, LED daytime running lamps, LED taillights, roof rack side rails, heated outside mirrors, rear privacy glass, a front passenger underseat storage drawer, cruise control, SiriusXM satellite radio, 110-volt outlet and remote start.
The Trax Premier ($28,295 FWD; $29,795 AWD) includes the Driver Confidence package that includes side blind zone alert, rear cross-traffic alert and rear park assist. Also standard is forward-collision alert and lane-departure warning. The Premier gains 18-in wheels, fog lights, leatherette seating, heated front seats, a 6-way power driver’s seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, keyless open and start, a power sunroof and a 7-speaker Bose audio system.
Notable option groups include the LT Convenience package that brings keyless open and start, a 6-way power driver’s seat, two additional spare keys, cloth and leatherette seating and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. The Sun and Sound package adds the Bose audio system and power sunroof, while the Redline Edition package brings 18-in black wheels plus custom blackout exterior and interior trim. The Driver Confidence package is a mere $495 extra and is only optional on the LT trim.
The 2018 Trax comes standard with anti-lock brakes, electronic traction and stability control, a rearview camera and 10 airbags, including knee airbags for the driver and front-seat passenger. Optional driver assists include lane-departure warning, blind spot monitoring, a rear cross traffic system, as well as forward-collision warning, but not automatic emergency braking.
In government crash tests, NHTSA gives the Trax an overall rating of five stars, with top marks in all but the rollover test, which earned 4 stars. The independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives the Trax its best rating of Good in all but the passenger-side small overlap crash test, which scored an Acceptable rating. Even with its optional driver assist, the Trax only scored a Basic rating in the collision avoidance and mitigation tests.
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 get a competent power plant with about-average fuel economy.
Maneuverability is really where the 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’re impressed by the relative quiet found in this compact crossover’s interior.
The interior of the Chevy Trax features a sense of refinement throughout that includes a variation of the low-and-away design first seen in its Malibu sibling. Buttons and controls are 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. The handsome instrument cluster features a large gauge display with an analog speedometer and tachometer readouts and a driver info window sits within the same binnacle.
The Trax’s second row offers a 60/40-split folding rear seat, which, when combined with the fold-forward front passenger seat, can accommodate items up to eight feet long. It seems sized right for a day of impulse shopping at the local bulk membership store. Total cargo capacity checks in at 18.7 cu ft. behind the rear seat, and grows to 48.4 cu ft. with the second row folded forward.
Other Cars to Consider
2018 Honda HR-V — The HR-V offers more interior room, better fuel economy and standard driver safety assists, plus the option of a manual transmission. It also holds its value better than the Trax.
2018 Mazda CX-3 — The CX-3 is far more stylish than the Trax, and its ride and handling are decidedly sportier. However, the Trax offers more interior room, more ground clearance and features like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
2018 Jeep Renegade — The Renegade offers a bit more interior room, a choice of manual or automatic transmissions and two engine options. The Renegade also features more available equipment, like removable dual roof panels and the off-road capable Trailhawk advanced AWD system.
2018 Ford EcoSport — The EcoSport has a lower starting price, a large interior, a choice of 3- or 4-cylinder turbocharged engines and more optional upgrades, but it lacks important safety features like forward-collision warning and lane-keeping assist.
Used Honda CR-V — With a 2014-2016 Honda CR-V, you’ll get more room, more comfort, better value and better fuel economy.
The best value here is the LT trim with the Driver Confidence package. It delivers most of what you need in a compact crossover and still keeps the price in range of $25,000. Toss in all-wheel drive if you live someplace that sees snow on a regular basis and you’ll still be well under $26,500. As the Premier trim doesn’t bring any real upgrades in the areas of power or advanced driver assists, we don’t see the need.