Ottawa Citizen

Chevy Trax a fine ur­ban run­about

New cross­over features ex­cel­lent driv­ing po­si­tion, lots of cargo space

- JOHN LEBLANC

With a busi­ness based on sell­ing trucks and SUVs, just three model years ago, the only small cars in Chevro­let’s lineup were the de­crepit Cobalt com­pact sedan and coupe and its retro-styled HHR tall-wagon sib­ling. To­day though — with the in­tro­duc­tion of the Cobalt-re­plac­ing Cruze sedan, Volt hy­brid, Or­lando mini-mini­van, sub­com­pact Sonic sedan and hatch­back and Spark city car — you can’t walk across a Chevy dealer lot with­out bump­ing into a small, fuel-ef­fi­cient car of some kind.

Join­ing Chevy’s bur­geon­ing small-car bri­gade is the new-for-2013 Trax cross­over. As Post Driv­ing pre­viewed, the new Trax is es­sen­tially a longer, wider, taller ver­sion of the sub­com­pact Sonic, us­ing the same 138-horse­power, 1.4-litre tur­bocharged four-cylin­der and six-speed man­ual and au­to­matic trans­mis­sions. Smaller than more pop­u­lar com­pact crossovers, such as the Honda CRV, the Trax has no domestic brand ri­vals, count­ing only the Nis­san Juke, Hyundai Tuc­son and Suzuki SX4 as true com­pe­ti­tion.

Whereas Chevro­let Sonic pric­ing runs from $13,665 to $23,560, the more ca­pa­ble Trax starts at $18,495 and tops out at $29,330. While the Sonic is strictly a front-driver, for $25,155, the mid-level Trax LT can be had with part-time all-wheel-drive and manda­tory au­to­box.

I had few qualms with the Trax’s in­te­rior de­sign. A tilt and tele­scopic steer­ing wheel and sup­port­ive front seats de­liver an ex­cel­lent driv­ing po­si­tion. The Chevy’s cock­pit de­sign is sim­pler than its Buick En­core plat­form mate, with driv­ing in­stru­men­ta­tion bor­rowed from the Sonic that is clear and con­cise. Plus, the in­te­rior build qual­ity is right there with the im­ports.

De­spite most re­turn­ing Chevy buy­ers still adding to their CD col­lec­tions, the Trax of­fers the lat­est in­fo­tain­ment con­nec­tiv­ity. Steer­ing wheel au­dio/phone con­trols, hands-free phone con­nec­tion, USB and aux­il­iary jacks and Gen­eral Mo­tors’ OnS­tar ser­vice is all stan­dard fare. And to make the most of the Trax’s small foot­print, its right-front back­rest folds flat, the rear cargo shelf can be stowed ver­ti­cally be­hind the rear seats and Chevro­let says the Trax has more rear cargo room than a BMW X1.

The Chevy cross­over’s just-un­der-10-sec­ond zero-100-km/h time won’t put a scare into Corvette own­ers at a stop­light, but for its in­tended mis­sion as an ur­ban run­about, it’s per­fectly fine. And when not abused by mo­tor­ing jour­nal­ists, the blown four is as smooth here as it is in other small Chevys. Sur­pris­ingly, our day’s test route in­volved lit­tle ur­ban driv­ing; it was mainly bomb­ing around the back roads of Que­bec’s Gatineau Hills. As such, my 9.8 L/100 km av­er­age was nowhere near Trans­port Canada’s 5.7 city and 7.8 high­way Trax es­ti­mates.

If not as ag­ile or quick as the Juke, the Trax is re­mark­ably com­posed and re­fined for non-en­thu­si­ast driv­ing chores. Over rough, rut­ted gravel roads, the Chevy de­liv­ers a com­posed ride with­out get­ting sloppy in its body mo­tions.

Its elec­tri­cally as­sisted power steer­ing is sur­pris­ingly lin­ear in turns and of­fers plenty of off-cen­tre push­back. My day’s drive in Ot­tawa co­in­cided with the first se­ri­ous snowfall of the sea­son. And the Trax’s AWD sys­tem — which starts with all wheels en­gaged at take­off, then switches to front-wheel power only at higher speeds, then back again if slip­page oc­curs — han­dled un­plowed roads with aplomb.

As ca­pa­ble, us­able and com­pet­i­tive the new 2013 Trax is, its big­gest flaw may be the yel­low bow-tie badge on its front grille.

Chevro­let’s mar­ket­ing wizards say the ve­hi­cle’s tar­get cus­tomer is 25 to 38 years old, fe­male, sin­gle, no kids and liv­ing in the city. The re­al­ity is, that de­mo­graphic doesn’t want a car, can’t af­ford a new one or is goos­es­tep­ping to an im­port car dealer.

As wit­nessed by the new Trax, Chevro­let fi­nally has the small cars its needed for decades. The heavy lift­ing now is get­ting the small car buy­ers.

 ?? GEN­ERAL MO­TORS ?? The 2013 Chevro­let Trax is es­sen­tially a longer, wider, taller ver­sion of the sub­com­pact Sonic with the same 138-hp tur­bocharged four-cylin­der en­gine..
GEN­ERAL MO­TORS The 2013 Chevro­let Trax is es­sen­tially a longer, wider, taller ver­sion of the sub­com­pact Sonic with the same 138-hp tur­bocharged four-cylin­der en­gine..
 ?? GEN­ERAL MO­TORS ?? The 2013 Chevro­let Trax is re­mark­ably com­posed and re­fined for non-en­thu­si­ast driv­ing chores.
GEN­ERAL MO­TORS The 2013 Chevro­let Trax is re­mark­ably com­posed and re­fined for non-en­thu­si­ast driv­ing chores.

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