The compact crossover market is the largest growing segment in the business, and every automaker is producing their own new variant. Subaru has the XV Crosstrek, Mazda just released the CX-3, and even luxury makers like BMW and Infiniti are joining the fight with the X1 and QX30 respectively. So in the face of such massive competition, does Chevy have what it takes to win buyers? The new Chevy Trax is built on the Sonic platform, a great little hatch in its own right, so at least they have great bones to work from. Sadly, while GM has all the right pieces it needs to make a solid competitor, the 2016 Chevrolet Trax falls short.
Starting with the outside, the new Trax is underwhelming. The design is very simple and boring, with very little to draw the eye. It looks like a machine that was built for a rental fleet lot; nice enough, but hardly worth a second glance.
Inside things get a bit better with a design that looks modern and interesting. The gauge cluster uses the same motorcycle-inspired design as the Sonic, including the large round display coupled to the square LCD readout. The seats are a dual-material setup with cloth centers and leatherette edges. It makes the cabin seem more upscale than it is. The rest of the cabin is fairly plain and boring with the exception of the center stack, which houses the large 7-inch screen for the MyLink infotainment system. The Trax, like almost every new GM product, also comes standard with 4G wifi built in, so you can make sure the kiddies have access to Netflix if you don’t feel like actually trying to entertain them yourself.
One large bonus I do have to give to the Trax is storage places. I found no less than 13 different cubbies to stash stuff, and according to Chevrolet, I still missed two. As someone who greatly appreciates the ability to keep organized on long road trips, I absolutely love the varied and intelligently designed storage spaces.
Sadly, that is where the love affair ends and the gripes begin. The interior looks good enough, and it demonstrates some smart ideas, but the execution and quality leave a lot to be desired. Most of the dash feels cheap, the various panel gaps between storage doors and their surroundings are big enough to lose change through, and the cabin creaked and groaned over every major bump in the road. It was very much a “look but don’t touch” cabin.
Powering the Trax is the same 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that is available in the Sonic. It produces 138 horsepower and 148 lb-ft of torque. While that power feels sporty in the Sonic, the extra few hundred pounds carried by the Trax means the engine performance falls merely into the “adequate” range. In fact, almost every major competitor holds a horsepower advantage over the Trax. Some cars like the new Honda HR-V (141 hp) barely best the little Chevy, but others like the Nissan Juke (188 hp) produce way more power.
Thankfully the six-speed automatic that is shuffling that power down to the wheels is an agreeable unit. It won’t excite you with its speed or telepathic nature, but it works well enough make sure you don’t notice it as an annoyance either.
And then we get to my largest sticking point about the Trax, and that is the price tag. Option for option, the Trax is fairly evenly matched with its various competitors when it comes to the window sticker. The Jeep Compass, Mazda CX-3, Nissan Juke and Mitsubishi Outlander Sport all start within $500 of the Trax, and when you start adding in the options, the Trax usually sits on the wrong side of the dollar-per-upgrade formula. And then there is the interior quality issues that further drag down what I think the machine is worth.
I don’t necessarily think the Trax is a bad car, but its certainly not as good as it could be. In short, the Chevrolet Trax is a compact crossover with a lot of smart ideas and interesting design choices, but thanks to a underwhelming driving experience, subpar materials, and a price tag that’s a touch too high, this feels more like an Old GM mistake than on of the many New GM hits. Unless you score an incredible deal, this machine is one you should just skip in favor of a competitor.