Test Drive: 2015 Chevrolet Trax

If the Chevrolet Trax was a spaceship in a beloved science fiction program/movie, it would be Serenity.

It wouldn’t be the Millennium Falcon – it doesn’t have the speed. It also wouldn’t be the agile-as-all-heck X-Wing, nor the enormous yet elegant Enterprise.

But it would flash its shiny backside at Alliance Cruisers, and it would make all who sail within feel an unnatural affection for its cute, pug-like face.

Unlike Firefly, the Trax is actually mainstream popular.

The real reason the Trax is best described (in sci-fi parlance at least) as a Firefly-class transport is its plethora of storage compartments and cubby holes. Like Serenity, which was a favourite of Mal’s for its many hiding spots – he was a smuggler after all – the Trax is a playpen of holes, drawers, cup holders, crevices and crannies.

There are dozens and dozens of them. Two deep crevices on either side of the centre stack hold telephones, wallets, tissue packets and the like. There are three (3!) levels of trays in the door trims, a drawer under the passenger seat, a false floor in the cargo area, a covered bin in the side of the cargo area, an uncovered tray in the other side, a mini glove box with USB and Aux inputs inside on top of the regular glove box, a centre-stack-top pop-up tray, another tray at the bottom of the centre stack and a flip-out coin holder to the left of the steering wheel.

The only storage area missing is the hidden compartment behind the MyLink screen found in the Impala and Malibu.

The cargo area is a respectable 530 L with the back seats in place and 1,371 L with them folded flat. You can also independently flip the seat bottoms in the back forward, giving you a nice tall loading area in the back for plants/picture frames/stolen Alliance gold.

The parallels between a Trax and the Firefly-class spaceship Serenity don’t end there (I’ll stop soon, I promise). Serenity was scoffed at by people who didn’t know better but was loved by those who did because it was cheap to repair and had a good reputation for durability.

Unlike Firefly, the Trax is actually mainstream popular. In fact, only the Kia Soul is outselling it in the tall hatchback/crossover class. Trax has sold 7,452 units to 8,708 Souls, 6,020 Subaru XV Crosstreks, and 5,963 Mitsubishi RVRs.

The little 138 hp/148 lb-ft 1.4L turbo four cylinder is less punchy on paper than both the Soul and RVR, whose 2.0L units produce 164 hp/148 lb-ft and 148 hp/145 lb-ft respectively.

But paper isn’t everything. The Trax’s torque comes on at 1,850 rpm, over 2,000 sooner than the RVR’s thrust. That difference is noticeable and the Trax feels peppier around town than the RVR. The Soul is unsurprisingly faster and more responsive. The Trax’s six-speed transmission is smooth enough but the manual mode – with buttons on the shifter for changing gears – is worse than useless. Honestly, it has no reason to exist.

Despite giving up 0.6 L of displacement to the RVR and Soul, the Trax’s fuel economy is a wash. Trax gets 10.0/7.8 L/100 km in the new five-cycle system while RVR gets 9.8/8.0 and the Soul 10.1/7.8. I ended the week on 7.6 L/100 km.

The Trax is relatively light at 1,476 kg, 9 kg less than the RVR but a whopping 189 kg heavier than the Soul. That weight isn’t felt in the handling department; the Trax is agile and enjoyable to drive. The steering is surprisingly well-weighted and has a decent amount of firmness on centre for this class. A long highway drive saw very little busyness, and a gravel country road was a blast. It’s narrow and tall, so there is a little bit of body roll to put a damper on my hijinks. But turn-in was agile and the Trax rode the imperfections well – there was even a little bit of sliding in the mud. At least there was until my wife shot me “the look”.

“I’m a leaf on the wind!”

The gap in weight to the Soul is recognizable in terms of sound deadening. The Trax is pretty quiet. Not too quiet, though – otherwise the Buick Encore would have no reason to exist. Oh, wait….

This Trax LTZ is reasonably featured with 18-inch alloys, blind-spot monitoring, Bluetooth, Sirius XM, a sunroof, heated leather seats, fog lights, a fold-down armrest and a 115v household power outlet.

The interior styling is interesting with rounded vents outboard on the dashboard evoking a bit of the jet-engine motif from American cars in the 50s and 60s. The large MyLink screen is slick and modern – but this is what I call “MyLink Lite” or “Kiddie’s First MyLink”. This is the non-navigation version and works well with smartphone connectivity.

The motorcycle-style instrument panel is actually really cool but the enormous tachometer is a bit laughable in a small capacity automatic. The trip computer has no instantaneous fuel readout and only measures one trip at a time, but the display is clear and easy to read.

The twister on the indicator stalk controls most of the functions but I was left confused by the button marked “menu”. It literally did nothing. Nothing at all. Engine off, engine on, car moving, car stopped, car in reverse, the “Menu” button had no effect on anything visible to the driver. Somewhere in GM-land somebody probably got emailed the day’s lunch specials every time I pressed it. Sorry, mate. [Update: It turns out the menu button toggles the cursor between the top and bottom menus, and then the rotator changes the options in each menu based on your presses of the rectangle button]

Rear seat room is good for two but useless for three. The third-seat belt buckle was hidden at first, and I actually gashed my finger open trying to pull it out from its hiding spot. A tip for new players: pull the seat bottoms forward and the buckle is immediately available. I could have saved my finger.

The brown leather was jarring to me at first but grew on me. Luckily it’s not the only option available. The leather steering wheel is thick and fits well in the hand and the fake brushed aluminum trim is pleasing to look at and touch.

Fit and finish was good up front, but the cargo cover in the back is flimsy and awkward. Twice it came out of its locating pegs while opening the tailgate and felt like it was about to break when I put it back. I had the same experience during a very short quick spin in another Trax back in 2013.

That MyLink system I mentioned earlier was slick-looking but far from slick in operation.

Scrolling through channels was awkward and cumbersome thanks to the lack of a knob or button. You could use the steering wheel controls to scroll presets but not channels and I could never figure out how to set the presets. The volume control was also touchscreen only for the passenger, but there was thankfully a steering wheel control for that. The HVAC dials were far easier to use.

The system allows users to download BringGo, a $50 app for your phone that enables smartphone-powered navigation on the touchscreen, but we didn’t test that.

Sound quality was decent thanks in part to the Bose stereo system. Chevrolet knows their market.

Styling wise I think the Trax is cute. It looks like a larger, more capable and actually useful version of those rubbish little handbag dogs the rich pseudo-celebrities love so much. The roofline slopes down at the back enough to be stylistically interesting without hurting rearward visibility and the snubby nose is endearing. This one had handy roof racks, which are not only useful for the outdoor set but also added to the styling charm.

Bonus points for Chevrolet: the automatic lights came on full in everything that wasn’t full sunlight. I applaud them for that clever bit of programming.

The Trax is just launching in the USA, so we'll see how it does in a market where bigger is better. We're rooting for it because this is a great example of what GM is capable of at its best. It’s a cute, fun and engaging little crossover with a host of genuinely useful hidden features.

Trax is more than just a cheap and cheerful transport ship. It’s a surprisingly lovable rig that sucks you into its charm and makes you cry when its show is canceled.

2015 Chevrolet Trax AWD LTZ
2015 Chevrolet Trax AWD LTZ
Base Price $30,425
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,650
Price as Tested $33,275
Optional Equipment Sunroof - $1,100.
Optional Equipment
10 0
Scoring breakdowns 7.4
7 Exterior Styling
7 Performance
8 Interior
8 Comfort
7 Fuel Economy