Chevrolet came to the San Diego neighborhood of Liberty Station last week for the national media drive of the 2015 Trax crossover.
It was an appropriate location to showcase this small car in a contemporary but compact development of homes and condominiums that have limited garage and off-street parking space. The Trax is an ideal vehicle in this environment: small, nimble, economical and functional with seats for five.
It is a big shrimp in a rising tide of small crossovers going on sale soon, including the Honda HR-V, Jeep Renegade and Mazda CX-3. Trax is built from General Motor’s Global Small Crossover architecture, and it is a platform partner to the Buick Encore.
This small, five-door hatchback is technically a subcompact, but it’s larger inside than it appears. It has a raised ride height for command of the road visibility, nearly 40 inches of headroom, almost three feet of back seat legroom, a flat-folding back seat for big cargo capacity and the front passenger seat folds forward to help carrying long gear, like a longboard or skis, rather than lashing it to the roof rack (which is a standard feature).
The turning circle is dainty at 36.7 feet and at about 14 feet long it’ll fit nicely in any one-car garage, with room to spare.
Trax is on its way to dealers now and should be in good supply early next month. And it will be on display at the San Diego International Auto Show, Jan. 1-4.
It is sold in front- or all-wheel drive with three trim levels and a starting price of $20,995, including the $875 freight charge from South Korea; AWD would add $1,500.
I tested a midrange Trax LT and a nearly loaded LTZ with AWD ($28,305). For $23,815 as tested, the front-wheel drive LT is likely to be the popular choice. While the base model is fully functional, the LT-plus package ($670) pretties up the interior with an attractive cloth and leatherette seat fabric, six-way power adjustable driver’s seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel and rear parking assist warning.
Standard equipment is notable and includes 10 air bags (including front knee bags and rear seat-mounted thorax bags), MyLink infotainment with a seven-inch touchscreen, rearview camera, remote keyless entry, tilt and telescopic steering column, power windows-locks-mirrors, air conditioning, cruise control, four-wheel disc brakes and a 60/40 fold-flat rear seat.
Chevrolet is touting OnStar 4G LTE (a subscription service) with built-in Wi-Fi hotspot. And Trax will offer Siri Eyes Free connectivity for compatible iPhone users.
All models use a 138-horsepower Ecotec (turbocharged) 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic transmission. It has fuel economy ratings of 26 mpg city and 34 highway, on regular unleaded.
It’s not just an inner-city type of car. It cruises easily at Interstate speeds and has good stability. There is plenty of power in the front-drive configuration — capable of spinning the front tires before the Stabilitrak kicks in to balance traction. Acceleration in the AWD model is more measured and on long uphills there is only a slight loss of power until the transmission downshifts.
Four-wheel disc brakes — not typically a standard feature on a $21,000 car — have refined engagement and securing stopping.
By the numbers, Trax has 15 storage areas, including two glove boxes (one with a USB port and auxiliary jack), a dashboard-top box and another box to the left of the steering wheel. Cup holders are plentiful, including four between the front seats and in the rear door panels with more storage.
The front seats are full with decent thigh support for such a small car. The rear bench has a short bottom — adequate for kids — and a low center tunnel for better footroom.
Nice features include a good-looking fabric headliner, three-blink signal to change lanes, a fold-down driver’s armrest and covered, lighted vanity mirrors.
Trax is uncomplicated and easy to enjoy. It will appeal to thrifty millennials and then leapfrog a generation to empty nesters with an active lifestyle. And it also will make good transportation for the college-bound student. And whatever won’t fit in the cargo area should be left behind.
Mark Maynard is online at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find photo galleries and more news at Facebook.com/MaynardsGarage