Chevrolet Trax review – 1.7 VCDi edition

19 August 2013

Chevrolet Trax front view

Chevrolet Trax
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Good: spacious, rugged, surprisingly frugal
Bad: thumping ride, noisy, a bit too pricey
Price: from £15,495
An off-roader with a general shape closer to a breezeblock than a teardrop might not seem the most natural visitor to the pages of GreenMotor.co.uk. However, prototypes of Chevrolet’s new Trax must have spent many hours in the wind tunnel because the finished car’s drag factor, of 0.35 to 0.36 depending on model, isn’t too shameful.

And to salve the conscience still further, Chevrolet has fitted fuel-saving stop-start technology to every manual-transmission Trax, helping the range to dip as low as 120g/km in its official CO2 tests, achieving a combined-cycle score of 62.7mpg.

Chevrolet Trax front side view

Those figures are plucked from the spec sheet of the 1.7 VCDi Trax, a diesel-powered car that despite its rugged, go-anywhere stance is driven only by its front wheels. Proper four-wheel drive with an electronic hill-descent mode is also an option, worsening the CO2 output only marginally, to 129g/km, and the fuel economy to 57.6mpg. Neither seems like a bad figure, given the size of the car and the performance on offer.

And that performance is surprisingly potent. The 1,686cc diesel engine employs a variable-geometry turbocharger to produce a peak of 128bhp coupled with 300Nm of torque, sufficient to haul the 2WD version to 62mph in a brisk 9.6 seconds, or the 4x4 edition to the same speed in 10.5 seconds.

Chevrolet Trax rear view

When I first fired up the front-wheel-drive Trax diesel I’d borrowed for my test drive, it had achieved 44.2mpg over the previous 232 miles, at the hands of probably lead-footed motoring journalists. My own driving suggests a little sympathy should improve that figure to 50-something economy.

Despite a bit too much thuggishness about the front end, I quite like the look of the Trax. There’s some subtlety in the flanks, with an appealing organic quality to the exaggerated wheelarches. A light-catching surface and dark plastic cladding at the bottom of the doors work together to trim visual bulk from the side, giving the impression of a smaller and more delicate car riding higher than the slab-sided reality.

As a result, the interior of the Trax feels more spacious than you expect when you climb aboard. At 4,248mm long the Trax is a little shorter than a Nissan Qashqai but much closer to that car in length than the smaller Juke. However, the 2,555mm between the Trax’s two axles is a lot nearer to the Juke’s wheelbase than the Qashqai’s, revealing the supermini-sized platform that must shoulder the Chevrolet’s inflated body.

Chevrolet Trax cockpit

Space aside, there’s not much to love inside the Trax. The drab plastics won’t delight anyone, though the surfaces will probably tolerate a far bit of muddy abuse. The LED instrument panel has a strong whiff of bargain clock-radio about it, and the seats are bolstered in faux leather that is more faux than leather. There are lots of useful cubby holes, mind you, and I found the driving position surprisingly comfortable and all-round vision unusually good.

Other elements of harmonious progress were most noticeable by their absence, however. The diesel engine is loud, with a gruff howl about as welcome as next-door’s dog at 3am. And of roughly equal appeal was the Trax notion of ride comfort, in which progress up an averagely scabby road felt like clinging to a spin dryer overstuffed with sopping-wet towels.

Chevrolet Trax interior

At least equipment levels are more pleasingly full. Opting for the 1.7 diesel engine means LT trim, which is significantly more generous than the LS spec offered only with the base petrol engine.

LT brings 18-inch alloys, engine stop-start, auto lights, a handy tyre pressure monitor, cruise control with a speed limiter function, manual air conditioning, Bluetooth, USB and aux-in connectors. An excellent 7-inch colour touchscreen in the centre console also provides a rear camera view when reversing, incorporates speech recognition, and comes with controls mounted on the leather-trimmed wheel.

After sampling the diesel I took a petrol-powered Trax for a comparative spin. Powered by a 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder unit, it’s a little more powerful though much less torquey than the diesel – as you might expect – managing to feel more nimble despite being only one tenth of a second quicker to 62mph. It produces a more likeable noise too, but the penalty arrives at the pumps. The official score is 139g/km and 54.3mpg in front-wheel-driven format or 149g/km and 44.1mpg in all-wheel-drive. I struggled to better 30mpg in the 4x4.

Chevrolet Trax instrument pod

Finally, there’s the matter of price. The Trax attempts to slot between the stong-selling Qashqai and Juke in pricing as well as size. The 1.7-litre diesel model I tested starts at £18,495, which looks keen against a comparably appointed Qashqai but rather expensive by the Juke’s more modest yardstick.

If Chevrolet can persuade potential buyers that the Trax is big enough to compete with Nissan’s popular softroader, then the Trax may do reasonably well in the market. But if people perceive it as a more boxy alternative to the cheaper Nissan Juke, then much like its passengers, it’s in for a rough old ride.

Chevrolet Trax front view

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