Imagine the perfect 21st-century city vehicle. It would be small enough to fit into that tight parking spot, yet roomy enough to carry your friends, their guitars and a couple of amps. It would also have a raised drive height to let you see around traffic, and its modest fuel consumption would leave plenty of money in your bank account. And while the price tag would be affordable, said car wouldn’t skimp on must-have technology like Bluetooth or smartphone integration features. Enter the 2015 Chevrolet Trax, one of the most recent additions to the emerging subcompact crossover SUV class.
The Trax slots in below the Equinox in Chevy’s crossover lineup. Its overall dimensions are larger than the Chevrolet Sonic, with which it shares its basic platform architecture, but smaller than the compact Cruze sedan. The Trax has a noticeably higher stance than the Sonic along with available all-wheel drive, and chunky styling helps it look more like a truck than a car. Its tall body not only provides a wealth of headroom, but it also allows for a taller seating position front and rear, and thus generous legroom. So in spite of its small footprint, the Trax has enough space for four people and their luggage, or even five in a pinch if the backseat occupants are kids.
Maximum cargo capacity falls short of many competitors, though, so if you regularly haul larger items or pets, you’ll be better served by a similarly priced hatchback or slightly larger crossover SUV. The bigger letdown in the cabin is the quality of the interior plastics. They’re none too extraordinary and give the cabin a low-end ambience even with its cutting-edge standard electronics features, foremost of which is Chevrolet’s MyLink interface, which integrates with owners’ smartphones, allowing access to various apps, including a navigation app.
Dynamically, the 2015 Chevy Trax isn’t quite as fun as its size might suggest, though it’s certainly more adept at darting into and out of undersized driveways and garages than larger SUVs. Its 4-cylinder engine has just enough pep for city driving, but it runs out of steam quickly when you’re accelerating at highway speeds. The drive is cozy and controlled on models with 16-inch wheels and tires, but we’ve noticed that LTZ models equipped with the 18-inch wheels drive more firmly and jostle occupants more than we’d like.
If you’re looking for a competitively priced small crossover that doesn’t skimp on technology or safety features, the 2015 Chevrolet Trax is certainly one to consider. Keep in mind, though, that you have plenty of options of consider in this price range. If you don’t need a lot of rear seat space or cargo capacity, the 2015 Nissan Juke stands out for its quick acceleration and sporty handling. Another appealing option is the stylish new Jeep Renegade, which is likely to be much more capable off the beaten path. If a spacious interior with quality materials and user-friendly design is your priority, the Kia Soul and Subaru XV Crosstrek belong on your list. Although the Trax doesn’t have any major advantages over the competition (other than its generous list of tech features), it gets the job done in most areas and is therefore worth a test-drive if you’re shopping in this class.
With its petite dimensions, the 2015 Chevrolet Trax is easier to park and more maneuverable overall than larger crossovers. Models with 16-inch wheels offer a smooth, controlled ride, but if you choose an LTZ model with 18-inch wheels, the drive gets noticeably firmer, bordering on harsh. That busy drive also conspires with the Trax’s short wheelbase and vague steering feel to generate a lack of straight-line stability on the highway. You’ll likely find yourself making frequent, albeit minor, steering corrections. Driven enthusiastically around turns, the Trax is competent, though not what we’d call engaging.
Engine performance is also no better than adequate. Although the Trax’s small, turbocharged engine offers enough pep for city driving, it’s low on punch once you’re on the highway, so merging and passing maneuvers require planning and patience. On the upside, the 6-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly and quickly enough to get the most out of the engine’s limited power.
The 2015 Chevrolet Trax is a five-passenger, subcompact crossover SUV offered in LS, LT and LTZ trim levels. Each is available with either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive.
Standard equipment on the LS includes 16-inch steel wheels, automatic headlights, keyless entry, full power accessories, air-conditioning, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a 60/40-split-folding rear seat, a fold-flat front passenger seat and a rear cargo cover. Standard electronics features include the Chevrolet MyLink interface with a 7-inch touchscreen and integrated smartphone apps, a rearview camera, Bluetooth phone and sound connectivity, GM’s OnStar telematics, a built-in WiFi hotspot, Siri Eyes Free voice control for iPhones, USB and auxiliary inputs and an AM/FM sound system with six speakers.
The LT adds alloy wheels, roof rails, rear privacy glass, cruise control, remote ignition, heated outside mirrors, upgraded cloth upholstery, storage under the front passenger seat, a 110-volt power outlet, satellite radio and the OnStar RemoteLink app.
The LTZ gets 18-inch alloy wheels, rear parking sensors, a six-way power-adjustable driver seat, auto-dimming rearview mirror, leatherette premium vinyl upholstery, heated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and a Bose sound system.
Options are minimal. The LT is offered with a Plus package that includes rear parking sensors, a power driver seat, cloth/leatherette upholstery and a leather-wrapped steering wheel, as well as a Sun and Sound package with the Bose sound system and a sunroof. The sunroof is available separately for the LTZ.
In spite of its tiny size, the 2015 Chevy Trax has plenty of useful interior space. Although the buckets themselves are narrow, front-seat headroom and legroom are plentiful, and the rear seat has enough space for a pair of adults provided nobody is over 6 feet tall. Three kids will fit back there, too, but the Trax is too skinny to accommodate three adults in back.
The rear luggage area has a modest 18.7 cubic feet of cargo space, which is a bit more than the average sedan’s trunk (assuming you pack up to the roof.) The rear seats fold down to expand that to 48.4 cubic feet but require you to lift up the seat bottoms first to get a flat load floor. That’s quite a bit more cargo capacity than a Juke and on par with the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, but less total volume than vehicles like the Renegade, Soul and XV Crosstrek.
The bigger issue inside the Trax is the substandard quality of the interior materials. Hard plastic covers just about every surface, and the handful of soft-touch surfaces aren’t very substantial or extraordinary to behold. Chevy also hasn’t included a center console, which hurts interior storage, and the motorcycle-inspired instrument cluster from the Sonic looks cheap here.
The Trax’s standard MyLink interface features a 7-inch touchscreen on the dash that links with your smartphone to provide access to apps, pictures and even videos. Available apps for 2015 include Pandora, TuneIn and Stitcher Internet radio, and BringGo navigation. Available for a flat fee, BringGo works with select iPhones and Android smartphones to provide full navigation functionality, including traffic data and POI searches. It runs on your phone (and relies on your phone’s data connection), but you can control and view it on the Trax’s touchscreen. Compared to traditional factory navigation systems, BringGo is cheaper to buy and easier to update, but as with similar systems, it’s not compatible with all phones. In addition, the MyLink touchscreen sometimes fails to register touch inputs, which can be frustrating.
The 2015 Chevrolet Trax comes standard with antilock brakes, traction and stability control, front-seat side airbags, front and rear side curtain airbags, and knee airbags for the driver and front passenger. Front-wheel-drive models have front disc brakes and rear drum brakes, while all-wheel-drive versions have four-wheel disc brakes. At the SUVS test track, an LTZ AWD came to a halt from 60 miles per hour in 120 feet, which is a slightly better-than-average distance for this class.
A rearview camera is standard on all versions, and the LTZ model adds rear parking sensors. Every Chevrolet Trax comes with a six-month OnStar emergency communications subscription, which includes automatic crash notification and roadside assistance.
In government crash tests, the 2015 Trax received a top five-star rating overall, with five stars for total frontal impact safety and five stars for total side crash safety. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Trax its highest possible rating of "Good" in its small-overlap frontal offset, moderate-overlap frontal offset, side impact and roof strength tests. The Trax’s seat/head restraint design was also rated "Good" for whiplash protection in rear impacts.
Every 2015 Chevrolet Trax comes with a turbocharged 1.4-liter 4-cylinder engine mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission. The engine produces 138 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque. In SUVS testing, a Trax LTZ with all-wheel drive accelerated from zero to 60 miles per hour in 10 seconds flat. This is about a second slower than similarly sized and purposed small crossovers.
The EPA’s estimated fuel economy figures are 29 miles per gallon combined (26 city/34 highway) with front-wheel drive and 27 miles per gallon combined (24 city/31 highway) with all-wheel drive. These are respectable figures for this class of vehicle, but similar to our experience with the Chevrolet Sonic and Cruze, which share this turbocharged 1.4L engine, we’ve found it difficult to achieve the EPA’s ratings in real-world driving.
Easy to maneuver in the city; respectable passenger space for its size; plenty of storage slots; lots of standard equipment for the money.
The all-new 2015 Chevrolet Trax is worth consideration if you’re looking for an affordable suburban runabout that’s easy to drive, easy to park and has up-to-date technology features. It’s not quick, though, and its interior materials are far from best in class.