By Tom Seymour
The small SUV is a pretty attractive market right now and Chevrolet has got in on the act with its new Trax model.
The SUV segment is now the third largest by volume and represents a pretty good opportunity for dealer profitability due to the high average deal price.
At present, about 40% of the SUV market is made up of compact models and one thing working for the Trax will be that buyers generally have more of a fluid brand preference for this sector.
Sales in the B-SUV segment increased from 130,214 cars in 2008 to around 264,000 in 2012 and while things are crowded, Chevrolet wants a piece of the action.
The brand will be leveraging Chevrolet’s American history with the SUV and while everyone in the automotive industry is still aware of its Korean links, mentioning Daewoo to a non-petrol head will prompt a gasp.
Design hasn’t been a massive selling point for Chevrolet in the past and the Trax isn’t going to win customers over purely on looks alone.
While practicality and price are important in this segment, buyers will probably be looking for something a bit more distinctive.
Despite the Trax including Chevrolet’s latest design language, it won’t particularly stand out on the road and it’s something the brand needs to look at if it wants to catch up with competitors like Kia or from model rivals like the Nissan Juke, Peugeot 2008 or Renault Captur.
Cabin space for the driver and front passenger is reasonable, head clearance in the back is fine, but rear leg room is a bit tight if you’re over six foot.
A flex and fold seating system means the rear seats can be packed away to offer a decent 1,370-litres of space.
The engine line-up is shared with its platform sister model, the Vauxhall Mokka, with a 1.4-litre turbo petrol, 1.6-litre petrol and a 1.7-litre diesel on offer.
The most popular model is likely to be the diesel, which can return 62.7mpg and is pretty punchy offering 128bhp and 300Nm of torque, but unfortunately lacks refinement.
Customers could be surprised with how loud the engine is at low and high speed driving, with a very noticeable diesel sputter fighting for your attention with the stereo.
The 1.4 petrol is much better and offers plenty of power for the size of the car with 140bhp on tap.
Customers looking for thrills from the way the Trax drives will be disappointed, but the trans-mission and steering are perfectly fine and while there’s a bit of body roll when taking corners, it’s unlikely to cause too much trouble when picking up the kids on the school run .
There are only two trims to choose from, LS and LT, which makes things simple in the showroom and for customers.
The Trax isn’t cheap on the top trim, but the equipment included is pretty comprehensive.
The interior is one of the Trax’s strengths with some durable plastics on show and a stand out feature with Chevrolet’s MyLink technology on a seven-inch screen.
The touch screen means many of the buttons you would usually find on a modern car’s dashboard are missing, instead opting to let customers interact with the car in a way they will probably be used to with tablets and smartphones.
MyLink lets drivers connect their smartphone to the entertainment system to stream their own music playlists, podcasts and gain access to apps.
Drivers can purchase a satellite navigation application for £50 a year which is pretty good value in comparison to the usual cost of up to £1,000 for a manufacturer fitted option.
It works well too and the system lets iPhone owners use the Siri voice commands through the car.
Practical elements also include a regular 230V socket that can be used for recharging laptops and other electronic devices without the need for an adapter.
There’s also a host of storage compartments which include an under-seat storage tray and two glove boxes, one of which contains outlets for USB and auxiliary devices that enable MP3 player connectivity.
While the Trax is more practical and spacious than the Juke, it’s let down by its diesel engine and lack of distinctive design.
Buyers looking for some neat technical features should be impressed with MyLink, but the price point will likely place the Trax in the middle of what is becoming a very competitive sector.