Ur­ban Ad­ven­tures

The Trax has the best visibility of any car I’ve re­cently driven.

The Washington Post Sunday - - AUTOMOTIVE -

Ex­plore the city in the Chevrolet Trax.

Gone are the days when “SUV” meant “big” and “sub­com­pact” meant “hatch­back or sedan.” Au­tomak­ers are now rolling a line of crossovers and SUVs out into the munchkin end of the mar­ket.

With its 2015 Trax, Chevrolet has of­fered up a tiny SUV with ex­cep­tional visibility, good in­te­rior room and a sur­pris­ingly large cargo area.

The Trax is of­fered in base LS trim as well as LT and LTZ ver­sions. Each model uses the same 138-horse­power, tur­bocharged 1.4-liter four-cylin­der en­gine and six-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion. Each trim also has the op­tion of front- or all-wheel drive. Prices range from $20,995 for an LS with fron­twheel drive, up to $27,405 for an LTZ with all-wheel drive. All prices in­clude an $875 des­ti­na­tion charge.

Gen­eral Mo­tors says it’s aim­ing the Trax at what it calls “Ur­ban Ex­plor­ers” who like to seek out new ad­ven­tures in the city. I drove one in San Diego, wind­ing my way through neigh­bor­hoods and hills in an LS both with and with­out all-wheel drive, as well as in a front-wheel-drive LTZ.

Ex­te­rior & Styling

The Trax has con­ven­tional SUV styling and the split grille that’s shared by many of Chevrolet’s cars. It’s bul­bous, but in a good way. There are some dif­fer­ences among the trim lev­els, no­tably that the LS doesn’t have the roof rails that the other trims do. Fur­ther, the stan­dard wheels are 16-inch steel ones on front-wheel-drive LS mod­els, 16-inch alu­minum ones on all-wheel-drive LS mod­els and all LT mod­els, and 18-inch alu­minum wheels on all LTZ mod­els.

In­te­rior

The car’s in­te­rior space is also big­ger than you’d ex­pect just look­ing at it from the out­side. My co-driver was about the same size as me — about 6 feet tall and broad through the shoul­ders — and we never bumped el­bows dur­ing our drive. Make no mis­take: This is a small car — but while you’ll be cozy, you won’t be cramped. In the back­seat, the same cozy but not cramped in­te­rior space car­ries over. I had plenty of legroom and head­room with the driver’s seat set to a com­fort­able po­si­tion for me. My knees were a bit raised and there was a lack of thigh sup­port, but for the short, ur­ban trips that Chevrolet has in mind for this ve­hi­cle, it’d be fine.

The Trax has the best visibility of any car I’ve re­cently driven. Ob­vi­ously a lot of that is how the wind­shield and win­dows are shaped and an­gled. The Trax is more up­right in de­sign than a lot of swoopy cars out there, and that’s a ben­e­fit; its high seat­ing po­si­tion also aided visibility.

It won’t just be Trax driv­ers notic­ing things go­ing on around them: Pas­sen­gers will ben­e­fit, too, es­pe­cially wee ones. One of the Trax’s de­sign­ers told me a chal­lenge they were given was to make it so that a 5-year-old could see out the rear win­dow. I can’t vouch for their suc­cess — no 5-year-olds were pro­vided for our test drive — but al­laround visibility is ex­cel­lent.

Er­gonomics & Elec­tron­ics

Chevrolet uses its MyLink sys­tem for mul­ti­me­dia and nav­i­ga­tion in­te­gra­tion. In the era of ubiq­ui­tous smartphones, hav­ing a sys­tem that works with your phone’s nav­i­ga­tion makes a lot of sense. Why pay for a fully in­te­grated nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem if you can punch the des­ti­na­tion into your phone and have the map dis­play on your ve­hi­cle’s screen? And why pay ex­tra for that in­te­grated sys­tem? This also gets au­tomak­ers out of the busi­ness of try­ing to be one step ahead of smartphones, app de­vel­op­ers and Google. That’s smart. Yes, you do need to have Sir­ius XM satel­lite ra­dio and the BringGo app, but I’d still take that setup on con­ve­nience alone.

Fi­nally, on the elec­tron­ics front, there’s avail­able 4G LTE with a Wi-Fi hotspot.

Cargo & Stor­age

The Trax’s abil­ity to carry cargo is no­table. With the rear seats in place, there’s a sur­pris­ingly large cargo area. It’d eas­ily be enough for at least three adults’ lug­gage, and the liftover height isn’t ter­ri­bly high.

If that’s not enough room, the rear seats fold, and all Trax mod­els have a front pas­sen­ger seat that folds flat and is backed with plas­tic to al­low you to carry long items, such as surf­boards.

Mov­ing around to the front, it’s largely the same story: There’s lots of room for stuff. There’s no cen­ter con­sole, but there are nu­mer­ous door pock­ets and a stor­age area un­der the pas­sen­ger seat. Also, the Trax has top-of-dash stor­age for sun­glasses, as well as a com­part­ment above the glove box that has a USB port; it’s also large enough for a big­ger smart­phone plus a pair of gloves or some­thing.

Safety

The Trax has not yet been crash-tested by the In­sur­ance In­sti­tute for High­way Safety.

The Na­tional High­way Traf­fic Safety Ad­min­is­tra­tion gave the Trax a five-star rat­ing — the agency’s high­est — for frontal im­pacts and a four-star rat­ing for rollovers. The rat­ings are the same whether the ve­hi­cle has all- or fron­twheel drive. The Trax has not had a side crash test per­formed, and there’s no over­all crash-test rat­ing for the car.

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