Text and photos by Chris Van Hoven
The subcompact crossover SUV segment fills an odd niche in the automotive market. It doesn’t carry the all-out family values of a seven-seater midsized diesel SUV like a Toyota Fortuner or Mitsubishi Montero Sport, nor does it boast of the near-unbeatable practicality of B-segment SUVs like the Honda BR-V and Toyota Rush.
Instead it tries to find a place somewhere in the middle, offering better drivability than a lumbering large SUV, while providing more premium features and a greater feeling of refinement than their SUV counterparts. The Chevrolet Trax usually isn’t top-of-mind when talking about offerings in this segment, partially because of a less-than-stellar offering back in 2016. Completely redesigned and updated for 2018, the Chevrolet Trax is worthy of a second look.
No matter how you look at it, the Chevrolet Trax gives the appearance of a well-designed crossover. A massive improvement over the previous model, its broad headlights, large foglamp housing and gaping grille give the impression of a wider front end, while massive (for the segment) 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels give the Trax some admirable proportions when looked at from the side. Small details such as the off-color skid plate add a touch of ruggedness, which is always a good design element for a crossover SUV.
The Trax’s interior is a huge improvement over its predecessor as well. Once you step inside, it becomes clear that Chevrolet went through a significant amount of effort to inject a premium feel into the Trax’s interior. The build quality is impressive, with tight panel gaps and a cohesive design from the door panels to the front dash. The leatherette seats are comfortable and cushy, though not as supportive as the competition. The instrument cluster shares some space with a small monochrome digital screen which relays all the necessary information and presents it in a legible way.
In terms of driver and passenger ergonomics, the Trax delivers in spades. The driver enjoys an upright seating position with a clear view of the road thanks to large windows on all sides. Rear passengers are treated to a generous amount of leg and head room for its class, with their own arm rest and a 230-volt outlet for charging gadgets. Cargo space at the rear isn’t segment leading, but it’s more than enough for a full load of groceries or bags for five passengers on an out of town trip.
The Trax is powered by a 1.4-liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine which produces 140 hp and 200 Nm of torque. Full torque is available from as early as 1,850 RPM and is maintained until 4,900 RPM, giving the Trax a relatively linear power distribution. This means that zipping around the city comes easily, with quick bursts of power available from standstill. Getting the Trax up to speed doesn’t pose any real difficulty, though it begins to strain a bit when overtaking at over 80 km/h. The shifts from the six-speed transmission are smooth and efficient, properly selecting the correct gear for the occasion, whether coasting or overtaking. As expected from a smaller displacement engine, fuel economy is good, averaging around nine kilometers per liter on combined highway and city driving.
When it comes to driving excitement, the Trax is surprisingly nimble and maneuverable. Body roll is kept in check through each corner, and the brakes provide a progressive feel. It’s not as fun to drive as a Mazda CX-3, but it does provide enough excitement to keep things from getting too dull behind the wheel.
The Chevrolet Trax comes with all the features you’d expect from a top-of-the-line entry in the segment. Its MyLink infotainment system is Android and Apple-friendly, and also comes with cruise control, push button start/stop, reverse camera, tire pressure monitoring, and an electric rear door liftgate. Safety is also covered nicely with six airbags, stability control, hill descent control, hill start assist, cornering brake control, and parking assist sensors.
At P1,535,888, the Chevrolet Trax LT is on the pricier side compared to its competitors, and this is probably the biggest head-scratcher in a relatively well-packaged offering. It’s a mere P64,000 away from an all-wheel-drive Mazda CX3, and more than P55,000 more expensive than Honda’s HR-V EL variant. The Chevrolet Trax is a well-rounded entry into the segment that is hampered by its price. If Chevrolet manages to somehow keep its price competitive, then it could very well be one of the best contenders in its class.