2015 Chevrolet Trax LT—FWD

The terms that Chevrolet uses to describe the Trax are: “city-smart global SUV.”

If we break that down, then “city-smart” is a term for this being a car for the urban environment. Which means “small.”

“Global” means that vehicle, which is produced in a plant in Bupyeong, South Korea, is not only available for sale in the U.S., but 66 other markets, as well.

“SUV.” Well, this is a bit of a tough one.

There is a notion of what a sport utility vehicle that some of us have. For one thing, they tend to be big. For another thing, they tend to be body-on-frame. A Chevy Tahoe is an SUV. A Chevy Suburban is an SUV.

But the Chevy Trax?

Well, that’s how it is defined.

What I find interesting is that in the specs for the Trax, like for the Tahoe, there is a dimension cited that isn’t included in the numbers for cars: Minimum ground clearance.

For the Trax that number is 6.2 inches. (Tahoe: 7.9 inches.)

Yes, the Trax is higher than a comparably sized sedan, but you surely don’t need a running board on the side to climb in.

The Trax is kin to the Buick Encore, which has experienced solid success in the market over the past couple of years. The Trax will probably have the same sort of sales on the Chevy side of the organization as people are looking for something that’s comparatively small (we’re not talking about a variation on the Chevy Spark here) yet which has utility in the form of cargo capacity: on the order of 48.4-cubic feet.

The vehicle is comparatively wide for its size (i.e., the wheelbase is 100.6 in., and the front and rear tracks measure 60.6 in.), so that, along with MacPherson-strut front suspension and a compound crank setup in the rear, mean that when driving the car, it doesn’t feel as though this is something that would go careening should it get into the vortex of a semi on a freeway.

The fact that it has a 138-hp, 1.4-liter turbocharged DOHC I4 means that you can actually get on said freeway without fear of being run over.

And while on that subject, it should be noted that 66% of the body structure is high-strength steels and there are 10 standard airbags (including side curtain, knee, and rear-seat mounted thorax airbags), so small doesn’t mean not safe.

Infotainment is not overlooked in the Trax, as there is a standard Chevrolet MyLink system with a 7-in. diagonal color touch screen and standard OnStar 4G LTE with a WiFi hotspot. But what there isn’t for the audio system is a single knob.

It may be that interior designers may think that it is cool to have the same sort of interface that one deals with on a smart phone or tablet, so things like knobs seem oh-so inappropriate. However, there are some things that make ergonomic sense based on the context in which they are used, and you’re not using (or ought not to be using) your smart phone or tablet at 70 mph, so under those conditions a knob is more sensible.

Speaking of design, this is where I find the Trax to have something of an Achilles’s heel. Inside the car, it is roomy for such a diminutive vehicle and the materials, while not in the deluxe category, are certainly considered. It puts it well within the category of being basic transportation that doesn’t make you feel as though you don’t want any of your friends to see the inside of your car because it is so economical. That’s not the case at all.

But the problem is getting people into it because they have to get past the exterior body panels. Overall, these are highly undistinguished.

While I am not a fan of the Buick Encore, and while I understand that Buick is a step above Chevrolet by its ranking in the corporate hierarchy, while I know that that means that it can get additional chrome bits that are not within the purview of the Chevy, the exterior brings to mind a statement that Ford’s previous head of Design, J Mays, used to say, which was, in effect: It costs you as much to bend a piece of metal into a good design as it does to bend a bad one.

With the Trax, they did not bend it like Beckham. Overall the effect is rather bland. And that’s not what you want to have sitting in your driveway.

If the purpose of the Trax is, in part, to attract a younger demographic, then the folks at Chevy ought to be looking at companies like Kia. The Kia Rio is the sort of car that the Trax competes with, and it has much more visual style than the Trax, so clearly it is not an issue of bending sheet metal in South Korea (where the Rio hails from, as well). And while one might say that even in the five-door version the Rio is more sedan-like than the Trax, that would bring us to the Kia Soul, and when it comes to presence with that vs. the Trax. . . well, let’s just leave well enough alone.

Selected specs

Engine: 1.4-liter turbocharged DOHC I4

Material: Cast-iron block and cast-aluminum head

Horsepower: 138 @ 4,900 rpm

Torque: 148 lb-ft @ 1,850 rpm

Transmission: Hydra-Matic 6T40 six-speed automatic

Steering: Column-mounted electric power; rack and pinion

Wheelbase: 100.6 in.

Length: 168.5 in.

Width: 69.9 in.

Height: 65.9 in.

Passenger volume: 92.8 cubic feet

Cargo volume behind rear seat: 18.7 cubic feet

EPA: mpg city/highway/combined: 26/34/29 mpg