Is a facelift enough to keep Chevy’s subcompact crossover as hot as its segment?
– Chicago, Illinois
When the books were closed on 2015 only two entries in the subcompact crossover/SUV segment outsold the Chevrolet Trax: in-family rival Buick Encore, and the Subaru Crosstrek. More than 63,000 Trax were moved, and life looked good for the guys behind the bowtie.
Fast forward three-quarters of a year, and the tiny utility vehicle space has heated up considerably. According to our friends at GoodCarBadCar.net, Trax sales are up nearly 17 percent year over year, but it currently lags the Jeep Renegade and Honda HR-V, in addition to the Subaru and Buick. Toyota has a CH-R waiting in the wings, too. Cue the mid-cycle refresh, or as Chevy calls it, a “significant mid-cycle enhancement.”
- Stuff that’s new for 2017 is mostly stuff I’d want, if I wanted a Trax. The new instrument cluster is cleaner and easier to read, and now-available Apple CarPlay and Android Auto do the same for the touchscreen-based infotainment system. Keyless-open doors and a push-button start fit the theme of easy-operation.
- This wouldn’t be a facelift without a new front and rear fascia and an updated interior, too. By and large I think the change in appearance, inside and out, represents an improvement.
- I believe most folks will find this to be a cheerful and functional small car. Especially with the rear seats folded, there’s a massive amount of space for hauling stuff around. And the small-but-tall body shape (admittedly one shared with lots of stuff in this class) is great for city driving. My day in Chicago was spent traversing the city, and the Trax offered both great visibility and easy parking/maneuvering ability on the route.
- On that same tip, the steering calibration seems just right for city driving. Light and quick, the steering shouldn’t be an issue while dicing with Sprinters and hipster bikes to get into the turn lane, or to grab the good spot in the Jewel-Osco parking lot.
- The only powertrain offered is the 1.4-liter turbo four and a six-speed automatic transmission. Chevy probably had us stick to city driving because that’s where the mild torque-pop from this little engine feels most effective. But on a few rare stretches of open road, over 40 miles per hour, you can feel the 138 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque struggle not to feel slow.
- Estimates of 25 miles per gallon in city driving and 33 on the highway (or 24/30 for the AWD car I drove) are not super competitive. Honda’s HR-V does better (28/35 for the front-driver), and so does the always-all-wheel Subaru Crosstrek (26/34 city/highway). The hot-selling Jeep Renegade is less frugal, but its 2.4-liter engine has way more power and torque.
- If you’re spending the money for an AWD Trax over a front-driver (with snow tires if you live where the weather is an issue), or for one of the higher trim levels, I’d say you’re missing the point. The reasonable size and ability of the CUV makes sense in the low $20k range (like the FWD Trax LT at $23,795), but my as-tested price of $29,490 would make me look elsewhere. Remember that the promising Golf Alltrack starts at about $26,000.
- I’d rather look at the 2017 Trax than the outgoing car, but let’s be honest, it’s still a weird-looking thing. Some angles show it as sort of a shrunken version of a generic crossover, but from the front and back I find it clownish. I’m not sure a whole wing of the SEMA show could come up with an attractive aftermarket body for this puckish tall hatchback.
- Buick Encore
- Fiat 500X
- Honda HR-V
- Jeep Renegade
- Mazda CX-3
- Mini Countryman
- Mitsubishi Outlander Sport
- Nissan Juke
- Subaru Crosstrek
Photos: Seyth Miersma / Motor1.com