By Isaac Bouchard
The Trailblazer has quietly become one of best–selling nameplates in the subcompact segment. Like some other GM products (Chevrolet Trax, Buick Encore) it never received the press coverage competitors did, but consumers sure seem to like it. And there is plenty to like in this chunky looking Chevy. It has great stance and styling—especially in RS trim—that emphasizes everything that people seem to look for in a sporty utility.
That said, there isn’t a lot that is sporty about how the Trailblazer drives. The base engine is an anemic 1.2-liter, 3-cylinder (available only with front drive and a CVT-style tranny) and even the RS’ 1.3L turbo, which produces 155hp and 174lb-ft, is strong only around town. Its 9-speed gearbox does a great job, but it still takes the Chevy 9.4 seconds to get to 60mph and acceleration at highway passing speeds is lacking. But it is quiet and the plethora of ratios mean it never suffers from the groaning and moaning of a CVT. The Trailblazer’s steering responds well but doesn’t offer much feel, and the ride is calibrated for as much smoothness as a short wheelbase and upright body can give. This is very welcome over bad pavement and suits normal use well, but means there is little joy to be had zipping through corners. Brake feel and modulation is well calibrated though, and there is a harmony to the controls that imbues the Chevrolet with a sense of classiness that befits its price.
Price is probably the primary area where the Trailblazer seems to be overly ambitious. Its interior design is well executed, especially in the RS, with its flashes of red and cohesive aesthetic, which is dominated by trapezoidal shapes and pleasing details. However, material quality is well below the best in class Mazda CX-30, and there are plenty of crossovers in the next class up that are available for its price of $32,350. At least there are oodles of equipment included: 4G WiFi hotspot, remote start, panoramic roof, hands-free, power liftgate, LED lights, wireless Apple and Android phone integration, Bose sound with satellite and HD radio, a comprehensive suite of well-calibrated driver aids and a high def camera to go with the backup assist and rear cross-traffic alert system. The Trailblazer, though small, also has 50 percent more cargo room than the cramped Mazda and a much more habitable back seat. What it doesn’t have is a powerful engine like the CX-30’s 250hp turbo, or even the 1.6L turbo in the Hyundai Kona and Kia Seltos, all of which are much quicker than the Chevrolet. But if that kind of performance isn’t a big deal, the Trailblazer has a lot to recommend it.
EPA Ratings: 26/30/28mpg
0-60mph: 9.4sec (indep test)
Price as tested: $32,350
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Contact Isaac Bouchard for help saving time, money and hassle when buying or leasing one at [email protected]
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