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CROSS THE TRAX
Published on Saturday 25 May 2013 14:09
Ten Second Review
The Chevrolet Trax aims to give the Nissan Juke and the Skoda Yeti something to think about in the compact Crossover market. There's a choice of three engines, auto and manual transmissions and a front or four wheel drive chassis.
The compact crossover market used to be a fairly undemanding place. All a manufacturer needed to do was build something that looked somewhat expensive, give it the option of four-wheel drive, build in some overly showy seat-folding mechanism and sales were pretty much guaranteed. That's no longer the case. There are now some seriously talented contenders. The Nissan Juke and the Skoda Yeti have raised the bar in terms of engineering integrity and the Dacia Duster has knocked every other potential entrant for six with its value proposition.
Chevrolet has taken some time to enter this sector, but its Trax model aims to offer a compelling compromise between quality and value. It's built on much the same chassis as Vauxhall's Mokka but brings with it some very Chevrolet qualities. It has its work cut out, but it's got some intriguing attributes.
The Trax has clearly been designed to appeal to as wide a cross-section of the compact crossover demographic as possible. The front-wheel drive versions target those who just want a beefy-looking urban scoot that can do the school run and shopping with the bonus of an elevated driving position. Go for an all-wheel drive model and you're not really going to be buying yourself an awful lot of off-road ability but there's plenty of all-weather traction on offer and, as you might expect in this class, the 4WD mechanicals don't require any special levers or buttons to activate. Drive the Trax on a normal tarmac surface and it'll direct all drive to the front wheels for optimum efficiency but when the road surface is slippery, as much as 50 per cent of the drive is automatically diverted to the rear axle. Don't worry too much about heavy all-wheel drive mechanicals either. This set up adds just 65kg to the all-up weight of a front-wheel drive variant.
There are three engines to select from, with a pair of petrol powerplants kicking off proceedings. They're the wrong way round though. The bigger capacity engine is actually the cheaper one. The 115PS, 1.6-litre naturally-aspirated unit is an honest enough thing but after trying it, you might well want to keep saving for the 140PS 1.4-litre Turbo. The difference between the two? The 1.6 makes 155Nm of torque at a fairly revvy 4,000rpm, whereas at just 1850rpm, the 1.4T is already making 200Nm. In other words, performance is both stronger and easier to access without any penalty in fuel consumption. I think that's what's called a no-brainer.
The 1.7 CDTI turbodiesel is stronger still, with a hefty 300Nm of torque, and can be ordered with either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic gearbox. The 1.4 Turbo is brisk, registering 60mph from rest in 9.6 seconds, which is half a second quicker than the all-wheel drive diesel and exactly the same time as the front-wheel drive diesel model. Still want that four-wheel drive?
Design and Build
There's been no expense spared on the Trax's chassis. It's a state of the art General Motors Gamma II chassis, which is one of the latest generation of modular platforms set to underpin almost all of the small cars from Vauxhall and Chevrolet. You get a 2,555mm wheelbase here, which means that the car is manoeuvrable but space inside needs to be utilised smartly. There are two rows of seats and no fewer than eight different seating configurations, which includes the ability to fold the front passenger seat flat to free up 1,371-litres of space. That's more than the 830-litres offered in the Nissan Juke but less than the bigger Skoda Yeti, which can boast 1580-litres.
With the rear seat in place, the Trax has a modest 356-litres of space, compared to the Juke's 550-litres and the Yeti's 416-litres. It does work smarter than most though, with a total of nineteen interior storage areas which includes four cup-holders in the centre console. The dash is where this car looks most different to the Vauxhall Mokka, with the Trax getting a single dial for the rev counter with a big digital readout for the speedo, fuel gauge, trip meter and sat nav functions, where fitted.
Chevrolet claims the styling represents a 'fist in the wind' look, the bluff front end featuring a very high grille and bonnet. There's a lot of shape in the flanks with high-hipped rear wheel arch bulges. The neat overhangs hint at some off-road ability but the ride height isn't that generous. That wedge-shaped profile contributes to a respectable drag coefficient of 0.36, which is good for this class of vehicle.
Market and Model
Prices sit in the £15,500 to £20,000 bracket and this being Chevrolet, you can count on a good slug of gear being included as standard. Even the entry-level LS gets daytime running lights, automatic lighting control, tyre pressure monitoring, cruise control, air conditioning, 16-inch alloy wheels, an MP3-compatible CD stereo with AUX-in, Bluetooth and wheel-mounted stereo and phone controls. Safety gear includes stability control, front, side and curtain airbags, hill start assist and ISOFIX child seat fixings in the back.
Go for the LT - as most people will - and you'll get 18-inch wheels, electric windows in the back, heated door mirrors, and MyLink smart phone connectivity with 7" touch screen, incorporating a rear parking camera. There's a trip computer, leatherette seat bolsters and some extra metallic finishes to the exterior detailing.
Cost of Ownership
Emissions are well capped. The 1.6-litre petrol engine is rated at 153g/km, while the all-wheel drive 1.4-litre turbo does even better at 149g/km. The diesel comes in three flavours, front wheel drive manual (120g/km), front wheel drive auto (139g/km) and four-wheel drive manual (129g/km).
It's a similar story with fuel economy, with none of the Trax models proving particularly thirsty. The 1.6-litre petrol engine will manage 43.4mpg on the combined cycle with the 1.4-litre Turbo doing even better despite its power advantage, getting 44.1. The thirstiest diesel model is predictably the automatic but a 53.3mpg figure isn't going to send too many to the wall. The front-wheel drive manual car manages 62.7mpg but the all-wheel drive version doesn't fare quite so well, eking 57.6 miles form a gallon of derv.
There's no doubt that Chevrolet has bitten off a lot with its Trax. What's more, it's certainly not the most obvious choice in the compact Crossover segment in the face of cars like the Skoda Yeti, the MINI Countryman, the Nissan Juke and its own stablemate, Vauxhall's Mokka. These rivals have obvious virtues, but this Trax's appeal lies in offering a blend of talents that's really very accomplished. But it'll take an informed buyer to appreciate that and, in most cases, quite a lot of expensive promotion.
That may not be instantly forthcoming. You're in the clued-in minority, having read this far. And if you like what you've read and can get yourself the right upfront price, it might be worth making Trax towards this Chevy. If so, I'd suggest you look at the diesel variant first.