The new Trax covers all those bases handily.
Although our American friends won’t see the Trax, they will experience it as the Buick Encore — albeit at a higher trim level (and cost) than the Chevrolet.
The Trax is an all-new vehicle, loosely based on the Chevrolet Sonic. It is a compact crossover, smaller than the popular Honda CR-V but larger than the Nissan Juke. In GM’s lineup, it slots under the Chevrolet Equinox. This is the first GM compact SUV/crossover since the demise of the Chevrolet/Geo Tracker, a SUV that was discontinued in 2004. Curiously, the Trax is sold as a Tracker in Russia and Brazil.
It comes with an attractive starting price — $18,495 for a base model with front-wheel drive. The mid-level Trax LT is available with a front or all-wheel-drive powertrain.
We drove a 2013 Trax 2LT AWD.
The powertrain is the biggest surprise. While longer, wider and taller than the Sonic, it retains the same 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder. The 138 horsepower and 148 lb.-ft. of torque produced by this little mill feels more than adequate to handle the bigger Trax.
When I first drove my tester, I thought it had a larger, more powerful, engine under the hood. That’s because, despite the addition of a turbocharger, there is no sense of turbo lag from the engine. A six-speed automatic is the only transmission available with the AWD.
The efforts of GM engineers deserve mention for their innovative solution to initial wheel slippage. Most vehicles with AWD on-demand typically start off in two-wheel drive — only reverting to four-wheel-drive if and when it detects slippage.
With the Trax, the engineering team turned conventional wisdom on its ear, making the Trax start from a stop already in all-wheel-drive. The vehicle then disengages the AWD if the system does not detect slippage by the time it reaches three to five km/h. Doing so eliminates wheel spin on slippery surfaces. A small but important bonus — the all-wheel-drive is also active in reverse.
The cabin is a comfortable space to spend time in. Occupants sit fairly upright, but headroom in more than generous. There are enough cupholders and cubbyholes for even the most devout packrat. The front occupants have access to six cup and bottle holders, small pockets that seem tailor-made for a cellphone, two glove boxes as well as a covered bin on the top of the dash.
The seven-inch screen for the MyLink infotainment system was sharp, slick and easy to use. It incorporates a back-up camera but no navigation on my car. The camera should be almost mandatory as the back window is small and high up on the hatchback, creating a significant blind spot directly behind the vehicle.
Toonie-sized convex mirrors are built-in to both outside mirrors, which helps decrease blind spots.
The dash is a minimalist’s dream, with a colourful tachometer to the left and a digital speedometer dominating the single binnacle ahead of the driver. Secondary displays include operator-selectable screens for fuel economy, transmission gear selection, compass and outside temperature.
My only complaint was the rotary dial on the steering-wheel that handles some of the audio functions. While the rubber-covered dial was easy to scroll with the bare hand, its small size made operation with gloves difficult.
The interior trim was a disappointment, and so easy to rectify. Some of the contrasting interior trim looks like coloured plastic. It would not have cost any more to give it a brushed satin or aluminum look, which would have looked richer in the cabin.
Although the driver’s seat was equipped with a fold-down arm-rest on the right side, some people will be sure to miss the centre arm-rest storage box.
Headroom and legroom for the back seats are above average. The seat bottoms have to be flipped up to accommodate the seatbacks folding almost flat. The back seat has the typical 60/40 split.
The Trax’s compact exterior dimensions becomes evident in the cargo department. The length from the rear hatch to the back of the front seats is only 1.39 metres, but with the front passenger seat folded, a 2.4-metre object will fit inside the Trax.
The vehicle’s tall, boxy shape gives it decent cargo volume: 532 litres with the back seats up and an impressive 1,371 with the back seat down.
Small crossovers are popular in Canada, and GM Canada is hoping the Mexican-built Trax will sell in sufficient numbers without the benefit of American sales.
© Copyright 2013