In our line of work, there will always be cars that more often than not, surprise us in some way. Unassuming upon first glance, most of these cars will normal lives traversing between the busy metropolis and quiet suburbia. Take them out on the open road or a twisty mountain pass though, and you'll be in for a surprise.
Take for example the Chevrolet Trax. First introduced in the local market in mid-2015, it’s the bow-tie brand’s stab at the B-segment crossover and is the only turbocharged fighter in the arena. What it lacked in styling it made up for with a potent powertrain, complete with a host of standard features and amenities.
Fast forward to present day and it's safe to say that the 2017 Trax has veered away from its less than favorable design. Gone is the wedge-shaped front and in its place is a sleeker, more mature front fascia. Not only that, the interior was also given a once over and now looks and feels more upmarket. But are these revisions enough to sway buyers into getting a turbo crossover? We take a closer look.
Like what I said earlier, the updated Trax gets a much needed makeover. No longer does it have the large imposing face up front. Instead, it gets sleek projector halogens that are complemented by the eye-catching LED daytime running lights (DRLs). The signature dual-port grill was given an update as well and seamlessly blends with newly-designed front end.
The stacked taillights, flared wheel arches and muscular curves remain unchanged though - there was nothing wrong with them to begin with. The new 18-inch alloy wheels now have a five-spoke split design, giving the Trax a more mature look. Granted, the Trax still looks a bit dated when viewed from certain angles, but it now looks better and more appealing to say the least.
That can also be said about the 2017 Trax's interior. While the pre-updated Trax had an ergonomic design, it looked rather bland and too plasticky. Now it has a more upscale design and still maintains its ergonomic features. A new leather trim piece on the dashboard with orange contrast stitching gives the Trax a more premium feel amidst the acres of hard plastic.
There are also faux metal trim pieces and glossy plastic trim that spruce up the cabin further. Also receiving a redesign is the instrument panel. As much as the motorcycle-inspired design was cool to look at, it was not as intuitive to glance at while you drive. That said, I'm glad that Chevrolet opted for a more traditional dual gauge cluster for the 2017 Trax.
A mix of leatherette and cloth blankets the seats and feature a unique motif that is pleasing to the eyes. The seats themselves are comfortable, with the driver's side benefitting from four-way adjust and adjustable lumbar support. The passenger side, however, only has two-way adjustability but is still comfortable nonetheless. Touch points such as the power window controls, steering wheel and infotainment buttons and climate control dials have a quality feel to them which was nice.
A new Chevy MyLink infotainment system comes as standard on the LT and features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Just plug in your phone via the USB socket and the display acts as an interface for your mobile device. Beyond that, the touchscreen infotainment display also supports USB, Aux, Bluetooth and AM/FM radio.
While both the exterior and interior have been given a redesign, under the hood, all remains the same. A 1.4-liter EcoTec four-cylinder turbocharged engine drives the front wheels and is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. It produces a healthy 140 PS at 4900 - 6000 rpm along with 200 Nm of torque available between 1850 - 4900 rpm. With those kind of figures the Trax poises itself to be a quick, high-riding pocket rocket.
Paired with a lightweight, sure-footed chassis, the Trax does not muck about and is fast on its feet. Put the power down and the turbo spools up, sending all available torque to the front wheels. There is a hint of turbo lag from the EcoTec but that is to be expected since the engine makes use of a single-scroll turbine. Nonetheless, the Trax has enough power to outpace lightweight cars or bigger-engined crossovers.
Despite its tiny displacement, the Trax's engine is smooth in both highway and city driving. It doesn't feel strained when under load and is quite zippy. All this meant that the engine was able to return reasonable fuel consumption figures. Out on the open road, the Trax will be able to average between 14.0 – 15.0 km/l. Take it around the city and it is capable of returning between 9.5 – 10.0 km/l. Not bad for a turbocharged inline-four.
Handling is also one of the Trax's strong suits. Thanks to the Gamma II platform (which is also seeing use in the Sail and Spark), the Trax darts around corners and tight bends with ease. The electronic power steering is weighted nicely and points the Trax exactly where you want it to go. The steering wheel could have been thicker but the leather wrapping does a nice job of providing grip. Also impressive were its brakes which are well-balanced and have great stopping power.
Ride comfort on the top-spec LT was average as the crossover tends to become bouncy on uneven road surfaces. The dampers themselves are doing a good job at absorbing bumps but the low-profile Continental tires (215/55) could be affecting the Trax's ride quality.
The six-speed transmission is smooth and delivers linear power delivery in full automatic mode. Throw it into manual mode and it picks up the revs and allows for a more spirited drive. However, one can only make use of the manual gear select via the +/- button switch on the gear shift.
There is generous legroom and headroom at the back but if you're seating three people, there is only so much elbow-room so it could get a bit cramped. The backrests can be too upright for some but one can slouch and slide their feet under the seats for a comfortable seating position. Luggage space at the back is adequate but not great so plan carefully on what to bring.
At PhP 1,358,888, the 2017 Trax 1.4 LT has quite the price tag. Some may argue that it has that sticker price since it has a turbocharged engine. But most are forgetting that the top-of-the-range LT also has an array of safety features as standard. Apart from anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control, the Trax also comes with the following: cornering brake control, roll over mitigation, panic brake assist, straight line stability, hill-start assist, engine drag control, six airbags and a tire pressure monitoring system.
What else does the top-spec Trax LT have? Electronic cruise control with speed limiter, engine start/stop button, automatic headlights, reverse camera, hill-descent control and a 230V power socket for the rear passengers. For such a small vehicle, the Trax LT comes with big car features.
For those that don't mind paying a steep price for a fully loaded B-segment crossover, the Chevrolet Trax presents itself as a well-equipped, quick on its heels crossover.