By on February 12, 2015

 

The plan was simple. Fly into New York City at some ungodly hour, a time when only drunks and degenerates are still awake. Drive to Massachusetts. The wedding, my buddy Jay’s, with whom I grew up in Boy Scouts, started that evening. Drive back to New York. Fly back to LA at 9pm. Land at some ungodly terrible hour, thereby earning my jet-set stripes: from the Best Coast to the Beast Coast, sneering at flyover country the entire way. How trendy!


People were freaking out about the impending blizzard that I was flying into: twenty feet of snow, roads clogged with snowdrifts, cars abandoned in the street, New Yorkers huddled around barrels for warmth. Cats and dogs living together, you know. But it was not to be. By the time our flight landed, the mercury had risen to a positively balmy 35 degrees—any impending doom snow had conveniently turned itself to rain. The sort of thing East Coasters just shrug off underneath our Burlington Coat Factory peacoats. It was 5am. The world was aglow in amber, and the air was crisp yet warm, and I was landing with probably two hours of sleep—but there was to be no sleep til Brooklyn, so I climbed into the bright orange Trax LTZ AWD and set off.

Chevy Trax trucks 2

The Trax is a quiet little thing, for the most part. The engine doesn’t speak unless spoken to, and its 1.4-liter turbocharged four-banger musters 138 slightly frazzled horses. But there’s precious little sound deadening from below. And in the waning hours before the snowplows, every invisible chunk of ice explodes in the wheelwells like a landmine, ka-pinging across the cabin…

There’s an expansive view out of the windshield, coupled with an absurdly upright seating position where your legs will form perfect 90-degree angles, just the way your Catholic schoolteachers intended. But the headlights, for some reason, are painfully dim. And small side mirrors are strangely shaped, and 18-wheelers to disappear in the Trax’s blind spots—somewhere out there is one such truck, headed to Massachusetts, who helped remake Duel within the span of an on-ramp.

The Trax’s steering is full of feedback, building resistance evenly, a pleasant surprise. So too is the ride, nicely controlled and cushy. You can shift your own gears, but you wouldn’t want to. The Hydra-Matic 6T40 automatic moves slowly through six gears, via a dorky button on the side of the shifter: all the power and control, in your thumb! GM loves that, for some reason, in the Trax’s only transmission. Rowing your own is so passé.

For smartphone obsessives, there is one USB port tucked away in the upper glovebox. There’s no good place to put your phone where you can see it. This is a problem, because Chevy’s MyLink runs navigation from a smartphone app. It’s called BringGo. And it costs 99 cents, which might not seem much, but still smacks of nitpicky hidden fees: “I already paid for the car, now I gotta pay for this?

This press photo of the Chevy Trax shows all of the fun places where you can misplace spare change, iPhone cables, and half-empty tubes of ChapStick.

This press photo of the Chevy Trax shows all of the fun places where you can misplace spare change, iPhone cables, and half-empty tubes of ChapStick.

The lack of phone visibility is a strike against the supposedly car-hating #millennials to whom GM must grovel. The rest of the interior is straightforward, yet strangely forced: no armrest, sure, but two weird cubbyholes on either side of the center vents, which look like vents themselves, but are instead destined to store loose change and loose rectangles of Trident gum and not much else. Sonic-ish motorcycle-aping gauges make a welcome appearance. The steering wheel is wrapped in smooth leather, but the seats are faux leather, grippy cloth evidently too plebian for eager-to-impress, moneyed types buying Chevrolet’s cheapest CUV. The Bose sound system, however, is bitchin’—sharp and punchy, especially for 90s hip-hop.

Chevy Trax donuts 3

By 8am I was in Carroll Gardens, getting a coffee and a #saturdaymorningbagelrun sandwich with whitefish and smoked salmon, which shall all go on the record, Your Honor. (It was an “everything” bagel. No more questions.) For this urban-hopping business, the Trax is quite good. It’s easy to park and has a great turning radius, both boons to the snowed-in New Yorker who has a full 24-hour weekend solely reserved for standing in line to get brunch—the two-hour wait for the still-hungover Manhattan- or Brooklynite, compounded into various Bennies and unlimited mimosas, an epicurean wonder that lasts until 2pm and a good three meals.

#saturdaymorningbagelrun

A photo posted by Jeff (@jeffjablansky) on

I didn’t have time for this. I still had three good hours of driving, in shaky weather, to get through. So around 10am I jumped back into the Trax and headed up I-95 through Connecticut, where the snow was still falling. But the storm gathered a second wind by Massachusetts, and the fresh powder was racing the snowplows on the freeways—and, truth be told, the Trax doesn’t inspire very much confidence when the snow starts falling…

A photo posted by Blake Z. Rong (@bzrong) on

The front wheels tug at every little bit of slush, following like an excited bloodhound, and the steering wheel pulls accordingly. The AWD system is fairly rudimentary, sending half the torque to the rear wheels only when needed. (At $1,500, it’s Chevrolet’s cheapest AWD option.) LTZ also adds heated seats. So even if one were to buy a Trax as a winter beater, as I suspect an adolescent New Englander will in ten years to deliver pizzas to used-car lots, one minor detail prevents it from being weather-ready: the wipers don’t flip up. I readily noticed this when pulling into a parking lot of Harrington Farm, in the foothills of Wa-Wa-Wachusett Mountain, packed full of Subarus with their blades turned skyward like anti-aircraft guns. How more New England does that get?

Alright dogg let's get MARRIED! Let's get married to a LADY!

Alright dogg let’s get MARRIED! Let’s get married to a LADY!

“We ah gathahed heah today,” said the officiant, “heaht to heaht, foah the union of Jess and Jay—” Jay, it must be noted, had become an Eagle Scout with me, who once owned a Pontiac GTO and a Subaru Legacy Spec B, in that order. I’m never going to own anything front-wheel drive, he swore over margaritas the week before. That to me sounded like a good goal to have—to have and to hold, in sickness and in health.

The cutting of the ice cream cake. Because ice cream cake is awesome.

Ice cream cake is awesome.

The next day, I drove back to New York. I filled up on the way back and found 24 miles per gallon, most of which was bounding down freeways. (The AWD Trax is rated at 24/31 mpg, city/highway.) That’s what happens, I suppose, when Connecticut drivers will curb-stomp you below 75mph while the AWD system adds 400 pounds to a car resembling a squishy shoebox.

That Sunday night, I flew on a redeye to Los Angeles. (“JFK->LAX: #TodaysOffice,” and all that.) The next day, the real blizzard hit.

Before I left, I eyeballed the sticker on my LTZ, AWD Trax: $27,995.

Twenty-eight thousand Tricky Dick Fun Buxx for a plasticky, uncharismatic Sonic that resembles a children’s toy and deserves to be $5,000 cheaper, at most—that’s what it comes down to. That’s what you get for over $300 per month. It just so happens that immediately after my time with the Trax, two other young, #hip, #activelifestyle #millennials spent time with it. Jablansky drove a red one. Patrick George of Jalopnik drove an orange one. The exact same one as me, down to the window sticker, but Texas-plated. “You can do better,” George noted, before concluding: ” I’m sure the Trax will sell in respectable numbers, possibly even great ones. But I can’t say it’s a great choice to make.”

Jablansky spoke in similar terms. “Gutless,” he said, “and way overpriced. The Trax is dumpy, like a summer camp girlfriend: she’s durable but kind of flimsy. But Becca didn’t have AWD.”

Chevy Trax donuts 2

We all know the refrain, from our mouths to God’s ears: “there are no bad cars anymore.” No, there are no bad cars: twenty, thirty years ago, the only people brave enough to drive a Korean-built car through a snowstorm would be serial killers, presumably on the way to their next victims. But believe me, there is plenty of mediocrity, sheer and yawning mediocrity, and plenty of mediocre cars that leave no impression in its users, nothing particularly negative and certainly nothing positive. Mediocrity is the enemy of the car enthusiast, but it is also the bane of the daily driver. It is insidious to spend the second most amount of money anyone will shell out in a lifetime, on a car that doesn’t do anything particularly well.

Competent but never confidence inspiring, the Trax reflects the notion that sometimes, mediocrity is more expensive than you ever expected.

Chevy Trax trucks 3

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34 Comments on “2015 Chevrolet Trax: Reviewed!...”


  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    28 grand for mediocre, and 24 mpg – no thanks.

    But thank you for the Duel reference – that says a lot about the mirrors!

  • avatar
    Zackman

    “Drive back to New York. Fly back to LA at 9pm. Land at some ungodly terrible hour, thereby earning my jet-set stripes: from the Best Coast to the Beast Coast, sneering at flyover country the entire way. How trendy!”

    Yeah, sure. All of us who live in “flyover country” laugh at those who suffer on the coasts with their impossibly high costs of living while we sit and enjoy our virtual mansions by comparison to what you guys live in on normal incomes!

    Just teasing, of course, as there are certain advantages no matter where one lives.

    Oh, yeah – the Trax: It may find a market because I see lots of Sonics on the road around here, so someone buys them, it just won’t be me.

  • avatar
    NN

    Wonderfully entertaining write-up on mediocrity. If you’re not in auto journalism full-time, you could be. About the car, well, they’ll probably sell a lot. Interesting to me how the Encore has become such a hit. I just returned from China where I saw a ton on the roads there, and they’re relatively popular here, too. I thought the proportions were ungainly when I first saw it, but it’s grown on me a bit (not great looking, but not too bad). The packaging seems right for a lot of people, and with the general consumer being an order of magnitude more conservative than an enthusiast, this mediocre car will find an audience, especially once the GM discounts appear and one can get this for low $20’s.

  • avatar
    pololo

    Blake, I enjoyed your review, especially because of the great photos. So many reviews on TTAC feature just one lead image. Car reviews should illustrate the vehicle, complementing the text.

    Furthermore, your review was focussed around telling a story- one of traveling to a wedding, which provides interesting structure. The review isn’t simply a tale of a car, but a tale of how the car fits into the life of a user. Most reviews just detail everything the reviewer noticed, but your review was able to insert these observations into a timeline, with a beginning, conflict, resolution, and conclusion.

    More reader submissions and reviews should follow your formatting.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    #readingthismademefeelold

    Too bad on the not so great AWD. I really feel like Suzuki had it figured out with the SX4 and being able to turn the AWD on and off with a locking mode.

    • 0 avatar
      davefromcalgary

      I wanted an SX4 when I bought my Alero….new vs used and all that. They are great little cars though, IMO.

      About the TRAX AWD though, wondering about the tires. OEM nasty grade all-seasons could make even the most composed AWD system feel like crap, given that he said slush was affecting the feel of the vehicle. A proper winter ready tire would cut right through it and I’ll bet make the car feel better.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        True, I’ve got all season tires on my Highlander (AWD) because they were already installed when I was used car shopping. They’re quiet but I can get all four spinning in the snow – traction control is surprisingly passive until things really get hairy.

        When they need to be replaced I’ll be looking for the best combo of aggressive and quiet I can find. Fortunately my F150 needs new tires soon and I’ll be auditioning something “all-terrain” on it to see if I can find a tire that is still aggressive but quiet enough for a family truckster.

    • 0 avatar
      319583076

      I think this thing wears 215/55-18 tires, that’s not gonna help a tiny CUV grip in slush and snow, either.

    • 0 avatar
      El duce

      My (don’t laugh at me) 2013 Lancer se has such an awd system. I can leave it in 2wd or put it in awd. It also has a locking mode.

  • avatar
    JMII

    “one minor detail prevents it from being weather-ready: the wipers don’t flip up.”

    Check the manual for wiper service mode. After turning off the car it may be possible to hold the wiper lever/switch which will force them not to tuck away and hide. After a trip to Long Island last week a long time NYer informed me of this trick for cars that auto-hide their wipers under the hood. Being from FL I couldn’t understand why everyone was changing their wiper blades on the same day in the hotel parking lot… then it dawned on me: the darn things are going to be FROZEN to the windshield in this Day After Tomorrow weather hell the locals simply refer to as “winter”.

  • avatar
    TW5

    “But believe me, there is plenty of mediocrity, sheer and yawning mediocrity, and plenty of mediocre cars that leave no impression in its users, nothing particularly negative and certainly nothing positive.”

    So you’re saying the Trax is destined for sales paydirt.

  • avatar
    Detroit-Iron

    No toasted bagels!

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    It’s no wonder the CR-V still sells so well, no comparison to this thing. Buy a Sonic hatch instead and save yourself quite a few bucks.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    At 27k it might be worth waiting for the Jeep Renegade (hey, it’s Trail Rated!) or it’s platform mate the Fiat 500x

  • avatar
    stevelovescars

    I seriously don’t understand the pricing on these mini SUVs and who buys them. $28k is also sticker on a Ford Fusion SE AWD, which has got to be much quieter, more comfortable, and roomier than this little suppository.

    These tiny things don’t have much space inside and, as the review mentioned, really not any great improvement in foul weather performance. Also, the next sized up SUVs don’t actually cost more and apparently do just fine in terms of fuel economy compared to this. A Chevy Equinox or Mazda CX-5 are a lot more usable, more comfortable, better looking, and not really any harder to handle or park. Maybe I’m getting old and stodgy, but I don’t really get it.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    “Competent but never confidence inspiring, the Trax reflects the notion that sometimes, mediocrity is more expensive than you ever expected”

    Booyah!

  • avatar
    kefkafloyd

    “Twenty-eight thousand Tricky Dick Fun Buxx”

    Aroo! The entire fun of driving is gone! What a McGovern I’ve been! Why did I have to buy that crooked Chevy Trax?!

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Oh you sir, you have impressed me. I give you my Agnew stamp of approval.

      youtube.com/watch?v=VtZB_sWqjoo

      • 0 avatar
        kefkafloyd

        I do a pretty decent rip of Billy West’s Nixon. It’s all in the jowls. You gotta let your bottom jaw go a little loose and waggle your head in such a way that they have a little bit of cheek-wobble. I always make sure to include a few Nixon-isms in my repertoire. “Oh, what a McGovern I’ve been!” is a favorite.

  • avatar
    jrasero23

    I see why GM did this since the Encore is flourishing in China and kind of underrated in the states BUT $28k for a Chevy!? A loaded Buick Encore starts at $28,875 and AWD at $30,375, so why would you get a Chevy? Okay Okay I hate Buick’s tacky side vents and I think Buick still represents grandma and grandpa cars like no other brand but the Encore is one comfortable crossover that could be easily look 100 times more appealing with some sheet metal remodeling.

  • avatar

    We have this car here in Brazil. Personally, I don’t think it looks too bad. Could’ve been good to give it more svelte lines, but I guess people don’t want cars that look delicate. On comparos here, it usually places last against the two main competitors, Renault Duster and Ford EcoSport, partly because of price, but partly because it is very mediocre. As such, it should do well. A true GM car then, mediocre, appealing to the lowest common denominator.

  • avatar
    ZCD2.7T

    All things considered, I’d rather have a Kia Soul with a good set of snow tires.

    • 0 avatar
      AnotherMillenial

      Agree whole-heartedly. The Soul with winter tires or a Renegade are a big fat “You’re doing it wrong” to General Motors.

      Really liked the review, very well-written. The verdict summed up my thoughts on the car. It’s just a massive WHY, even if you don’t care about cars, why this one though? It helps GM on paper to meet sales numbers and “compete” but it doesn’t help the buying public at all.

  • avatar
    Liger

    It seems odd that you barely mention the weakest aspect of this vehicle, the acceleration. From what I have read on car and driver (and other professional car websites) the 0-60 time is 10 seconds, which is super slow. The Buick is the same if not slower due to all the “extras’ that add weight. Also, on other websites, I have read that since it’s based on the Sonic, the engine bay cannot support anything larger than the 1.4 turbo; so it’s always going to be under powered.


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