What’s the best way to describe the new 2014 Chevrolet Trax. Ah…er…well…[Not a valid template]
To date, there have been five re-writes of this particular feature. A ten-hour flight from our test drive in Seoul, South Korea to Dubai was spent with brains wracked trying to find the perfect ‘angle’. Advice has been sought from colleagues, friends and family on the subject, but there’s no getting away from the salient point: prices for the new 2014 Chevrolet Trax start from $18,000. For a model I can best describe as ‘nice’, it’s difficult to find a greater selling point than that.
Let me explain. crankandpiston was recently invited to check out General Motors’ Korean base of operations (formerly that of Daewoo) in Incheon, where as well as an introduction to GM’s increased market share and improved sales figures in Korea over the past three years, we were also given some seat time in the brand new Trax. The compact SUV marks Chevrolet’s first steps into this rapidly growing segment, home turf of Nissan’s popular Juke (a former member of our long-term fleet). It’s a tough hunting ground, one in which cost of ownership and occupant safety systems take priority over styling and aesthetics. ‘Pomp’ and ‘flash’ therefore rarely get a look in, and are usually overlooked by potential owners. And that could prove tricky for us as we try and get enthusiastic about the Trax.
Don’t forget though James, prices start from $18,000…
Let’s start with the looks. Official keywords to describe the design include ‘balanced’, ‘strong’, ‘enthusiastic’, ‘active’ and ‘genuine’, only two of which I understand within context. Throw in terms like ‘cool’ and ‘funky’ though and you start hitting the right notes. Take the front. The Snow Flake White Pearl Tricoat of our test model may wash out some of the more prominent bodylines – and my slightly nervous trigger finger and an overcast day in Seoul don’t help – but there is a lot to like. Chevy’s familiar dual grille is a strong character-booster, the lower lip of the front air intake and curvaceous headlights working nicely to convey elegance. There are even some sharp, aggressively carved bonnet lines for good measure.
Said aggression though disappears towards the rear. It’s a nice design (there’s that word again) but not one you’d call overly racy, a cheeky tail-lip spoiler and some sweeping taillights aside. It’s a similar story along the side too, with no distinctive bodylines to speak of and 16-inch wheels that look too small for the model.
Then again, $18,000. Practicality over jazz.
That’s certainly the attitude inside, the dashboard and interior of our test Trax a cacophony of grey and black. But a plasticky panel or two aside, the layout is beautifully straightforward which makes navigating the infotainment system a doddle. There’s also three-way adjustable seating, which coupled with reach and rake options for the steering column make finding the optimum driving position easy, though seats that hold the figure a little more snugly wouldn’t go amiss. Optional luxuries like Bluetooth and satnav haven’t made it onto our LT test model, but an extra $3 for an A-Z is hardly the biggest grievance given that there’s buckets of headroom and a nice (ahem) soft ride.
The 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine under the bonnet produces 140hp and 129lb ft of torque, equating to a 0-100kph time and a top speed that are apparently not worth mentioning in the official press information. The four-cylinder may be ‘one of the most powerful units in this displacement class’ but you’d be forgiven for not realising. Off the line and approaching the higher revs, the engine is a little whiny, the soundtrack and accompanying wind noise in the cabin a good incentive to stop you pushing the unit too hard, which from a cost of ownership/maintenance perspective is bang on the money. The six-speed gearbox is surprisingly good, the changes smooth rather than rapid but capable of taking a battering when you choose to hold those gears. The all-wheel drive configuration of our test model – which ramps the price up to $20,400 – also allows smooth transition of power from the engine to the road.
Handling? Unfortunately our highway-focused test route across Seoul gave us little opportunity to test the Trax’s handling to the limit, and the steering did feel a little over-assisted. Heft through the wheel though was plentiful, and a surprisingly low centre of gravity meant understeer and bodyroll – issues you come to expect with most SUVs – hardly registered on the map. Just enough travel through the pedal also meant that the brakes were on the button too.
In short then, the Trax may not be the most exciting model on the market, nor the best handling, best equipped or even the best looking. But the starting price is $18,000.
Not sure if I mentioned that already.
|Inline-four / 1796cc
|140hp @ 6200 rpm
|129lb ft @ 3800rpm
|Hydra-Matic Six-Speed Automatic
|Compound crank rear axle
|Four-wheel antilock / cast iron drum
|16 x 6.5-in. aluminum
– Performance figures confirmed post-review