What it is: While labeled as a crossover, the Chevy Trax is effectively the innards of a small car that has had the body stretched into the shape of a small SUV. The Trax is all-new, and just recently available, but it's been available since last year as the Buick Encore ($25,000-$30,000) albeit with some nicer interior refinement. Consumers have been gobbling up the Encore at a rate of nearly 50,000 units/year which forced General Motor's hand to offer an even more affordable option. You have to give the people what they want!
My test models tend to skew towards 'loaded' on options, but Chevy sent me a Trax with zero options. Zilch. Nada. Flat-out base model. Fortunately, the Trax does offer some creature comforts like power windows, USB port, 10 airbags, remote keyless entry, 7" LCD touch-screen, and a back-up camera. Not too shabby.
Unfortunately, the interior certainly looked and felt like a $20,000 SUV. Un-inspired design and hard plastics round out the cabin. It's really not acceptable considering the other vehicles in this price class. The Nissan Juke has a superior interior, and the upcoming Jeep Renegade also looks way more inspired and modern instead of 'third world airport taxi' like the Trax.
One thing the Trax does have going for it is the 1.4 liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. It provides plenty of acceleration while delivering 26 city and 34 highway mileage. Great numbers, but rather hard to reproduce unless you drive like grandma. Turbocharged engines tend to guzzle gas when you put your foot into them, so expect numbers 15-20% lower than advertised.
Price: $20,995 base price, $25,905 for high-end LTZ trim. $20,995 as-tested.
Upsides: Cheap and effective transportation with good cargo room
Downsides: No heart, dreary inside
Wrap-up: It's actually quite amazing that Chevy was able to produce a car for sale like the Trax for only $20,995 with destination charge, but unfortunately for Chevy, there are better choices out there for less. The Nissan Juke is a blast to drive, the Kia Soul is way cheaper (albeit an actual car, but that line is getting blurred more and more. Kia Sportage still a better choice if you want to disqualify the Soul), and the upcoming Jeep Renegade looks to offer the best combo of all of them. More and more people want a Crossover/SUV driving experience of an elevated seating position and extra cargo room, and these small crossovers are the result of that demand. With several choices now, there is something for everyone though, and Chevy will have no problem selling plenty with the Trax's bargain-basement price.