Not to be left out of the growing small crossover market, Chevrolet has added the versatile 2015 four-door hatchback Trax to its line.
The $20,120-$26,530 Trax comes in base LS, mid-range LT and top-line LTZ trim levels and with either standard front-wheel-drive (FWD) or a $1,500 all-wheel-drive (AWD) setup.
The AWD option is the most affordable AWD in Chevy's portfolio, although the AWD Trax isn't a serious off-road crossover. It lacks the ground clearance to tackle rugged off-road terrain.-
The Trax has been called both a subcompact and compact crossover, so take your pick.
I tested the Trax LT with FWD. It listed at $22,445, but a $670 LT Plus option package upped the price of my test vehicle to $23,115--without the $875 destination charge but with a $175 LT Plus package savings. Total bottom line: $23,815.
The LT Plus package contains a power driver's seat, cruise control, deluxe cloth/leatherette seat trim, leather-wrapped steering wheel and rear park assist.
The seat trim partially helps offset the rather dull interior, which has some cheap materials, but also some niceties.
Trax styling is generally streamlined and has some flair, but is rather nondescript. You don't buy one to draw stares.
The Trax LT has a good amount of standard equipment. It includes air conditioning, remote keyless entry and remote vehicle start, Stabilitrak Stability control system with traction control, rear vision camera, power outside mirrors and power windows and tilt/telescopic wheel with audio controls.
Connectivity features include Chevrolet's MyLink radio, a 7-inch diagonal color touch-screen and AM/FM stereo with bluetooth streaming audio for music.
There's good room up front, despite a rather narrow cabin. Rear-seat room is decent for two 6-footers, but a tall passenger behind a tall driver doesn't have a surplus of legroom.
The cargo hold is small for its class, but cargo space can be greatly increased by folding the 60/40 split rear bench seat (both top and bottom) forward. Even the front passenger seat folds to allow an object up to eight feet long to fit with the rear split seat folded.
Upright seating and a low beltline give front occupants excellent forward visibility, although a driver can't see where the front of the Trax ends and thus must be careful pulling into a parking space because of a low front end. Front seats are large and comfortable, rear ones are rather short on thigh support for adults.
There are 15 storage areas, including a two-tier glove box -- with a USB port and auxiliary jack in the upper glove box for plug-in media.
The motorcycle-inspired gauge controls are nifty, and large climate controls are appreciated. But the front console cupholders are set low and far back.
Safety features include twin air bags.
All Trax are powered by a 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with dual overhead camshafts and variable valve timing. Estimated fuel economy of my test Trax was 26 miles per gallon in the city and 34 on highways.
The engine works with a six-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift feature controlled by a small toggle switch awkwardly placed on the side of the shifter.
The engine provides decent performance, but not much more. It's loud and sounds strained when pushed, as when merging into fast freeway traffic or passing on highways. Otherwise, the Trax is pretty quiet when cruising.
Chevy rightly calls the Trax a "city-smart" car. I wouldn't call it a comfortable long-distance cruiser.
Acceleration is fastest with the 2,805-pound FWD version.The AWD Trax is slower because it weights 3,208 pounds.
The electric power steering is nicely geared, and the Trax handles well for a tall vehicle, even when streaking through curves. The suspension is supple, but a rather short (100.6-inch) wheelbase allows stiff bumps to jolt passengers.
The 4-wheel anti-lock brakes with a brake-assist feature have a linear pedal action and provide good stopping power.
The heavy hood calls for a prop rod to keep it open, although it's easy to reach fluid filler areas if the engine is low on oil and such.
The Trax seems a viable choice for the budget-minded who want versatility and at least some flair.