Friday, 17 May 2013

Chevrolet Trax - A Review

Those three little letters, SUV, are not, as you may think a modern invention. Not according to Chevrolet anyway. According to the Detroit giant, they invented the Sports Utility Vehicle back in 1935, when the first Suburban rolled off the production line. They still make the Suburban, and now it finally has a brother in the shape of the Trax, which will aim to make some noise in a segment that’s a lot busier today than back in 1935, if it even existed then.

The Trax is compact and can go off road, but the most likely buyers are families. They have plenty of choice too, across a wide price range – you can get a Dacia Duster for less than £9,000, while the Porsche Cayenne’s top of the range model tops £100,000.

Double take

The design of the Trax will be familiar if you’ve ever seen the Vauxhall Mokka, which puts it in the subcompact subclass if such things are important to you.

So there’s a familiar look to the Trax, but it’s only cosmetic, Chevrolet says every aspect of this model is new.

The fact that they’ve made an entirely new model that looks like a predecessor must be seen as a vote of confidence in the styling. What has changed, seems to be successful – the grille is twice the height of the old one and the Chevvy badge is bigger and bolder too. One concern is the extremely low front bumper. You can’t help but wonder how that’s going to work if the Trax does happen to stray off road.

Limited range

There is not a great deal of choice in what’s under the hood. There are just two petrol options and one diesel. The latter would make the most sense economically and ecologically, but you may need to invest in some ear protectors if you go down that route, as the diesel has some noise issues.

It’s a nifty little mover, with a 0-62mph time of just over nine seconds. The promised 63mpg is good too. That’s achieved with front wheel drive with the manual gear box. There’s been a good deal of controversy about the reliability of these MPG figures lately, but they should have some value as comparative rather than absolute values and the Trax is comparatively good for its class.

A petrol turbo model is probably the best drive in the range. There’s a good even thrust with none of the lag you sometimes get with air-assisted engines. You will sacrifice a little acceleration and you certainly won’t get the fuel economy figures mentioned above with this model.

Sporty yes, but useful?

The S for Sports in that SUV then is relatively well covered. What about the U? The vast majority of SUVs are shopping carriages rather than speed machines.

There’s a good deal of room inside and no-one – in the front or rear – will feel squeezed. In fact, you could probably get five grown-ups in the back with little problem. Headroom in particular is good. The boot is impressively large. You start with 356-litres of space before you take the back seats down, and when you do you have 1,370-litres to play with. A very nice touch on the utility front, is a proper plug socket just like the ones at home so you can charge up the phones, tablets and kids games consoles which are an inevitable part of a long family journey these days.

Too early to say

Sadly, not so much thought has gone into the driver’s cabin, which looks a little cheap and nasty. However, the infotainment system is good and basing the instrument panel on one from a motorbike shows some imagination at least.

Owning a Trax shouldn’t break the bank. The people who design car leasing deals are looking at one thing above all – a good resale price – and it’s too early to say if the Trax will hold its value well enough to make Chevrolet Trax car lease deals the best ownership option. Do your research, but whether you buy or rent, you have the makings of a good, practical family vehicle with the Trax. 

John O'Jacobs has written a variety of articles on autos and SUVs and has been the owner of some and leaser of others when working with a car leasing company. He is a lover of SUVs but does prefer a car for real driving conditions. He is also a lover of gadgets and football.