2015 Chevrolet Trax Driving Impressions

We like the surprisingly nice Buick Encore subcompact crossover, and we generally like this lower-priced Chevy version, too. Just not quite as much. It shares the Encore’s only powertrain, a barely adequate turbocharged 1.4-liter four driving its front wheels through a six-speed automatic gearbox, with the affordable option of all-wheel drive. Lightly loaded around town, or on fairly flat highways, it feels peppy enough despite its unimpressive 9.5-second 0-60 mph acceleration performance, but toting your family and its gear uphill, you’ll wish for more. This willing little engine does fine in the Chevy Sonic subcompact on which the Trax is based, and even better in the tiny Chevy Spark, but given its crossover carrying capability, the Trax really needs at least the option of more power.

We drove a line-topping LTZ in mostly urban driving at the late-2014 media launch, then a mid-level LT for several days at home. We enjoyed their responsive steering, crisp handling, strong, reliable braking and pleasingly smooth, quiet ride (a bit stiffer than the luxury Encore) in all but the roughest road conditions. The Trax drives like a taller, slightly heavier Sonic, which is generally a good thing. There are no steering wheel shift paddles, but the six-speed automatic can be manually shifted with up/down toggle buttons on the shift handle. Our local and hard-test driving averaged just 24 mpg, but most drivers should see about 26 mpg in town and 30 or better in real-world highway driving.

Our test vehicle’s front bucket seats were comfortable and supportive and looked good in their premium cloth and leatherette trim, but the driver-side power adjustments did not include seatback angle (aka rake). Instead, you have to reach way back and down between the seat cushion and belt anchor to find and use the manual lever. We often wonder why, given a choice of one or the other, most automakers offer power fore-aft adjustment but manual rake, instead of the other way around. Front legroom is good thanks to ample front-seat travel, but rear leg- and knee room can be tight behind long-legged front-seat occupants. Somewhat disappointingly, the only soft-touch materials in even the LTZ cabin is on the armrests. Everything else is attractive, but hard, grained plastic.

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