Chevrolet Trax retooled to serve as brand gateway

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The subcompact crossover segment has been one of the hottest in recent years — nearly doubling in size to more than 1 million sales since 2016 — and General Motors‘ biggest division is ready to double down in it, again.

Chevrolet was one of the first major brands to market a subcompact crossover, in 2016 with the Trax. Now, it is resurrecting the nameplate after a brief hiatus, with the Trax sitting out the 2023 model year.

The redesigned 2024 Trax — bigger, wider and lower; part hatchback and part sporty crossover — is being positioned as a clean break from its predecessors.

“This car shares nothing with the current one,” said Scott Bell, global vice president at Chevrolet. “This is only a Trax by name.”

The re-imagined baby ute will be slotted as the gateway to Chevrolet just below the Trailblazer in the smallest crossover segment, allowing shoppers multiple entry points to the brand.

The Trailblazer, introduced in 2020 with traditional SUV styling, has been a runaway hit for Chevrolet, though U.S. sales have suffered in 2022 as GM prioritizes more profitable larger light trucks amid key parts shortages. Through the third quarter, U.S. sales of the Trailblazer slid 43 percent to 41,932.

Chevrolet sees the crowded subcompact crossover segment — there are some 15 core entrants — growing 32 percent over the next five years. While some rivals (Ford) exit the segment and formidable brands (Toyota) enter, Chevrolet believes there is space for multiple entries under the same brand. Buick, Hyundai and Kia also each market two baby utes with different price points.

U.S. subcompact crossover sales

Hover over or touch chart for a detailed view. 2022 totals through 9 months.
SOURCE: Automotive News Research & Data Center

Pricing for the latest Trax will start at $21,495 and top out at $24,995 on two upper trims when it arrives in the spring. Both prices include shipping. Chevrolet anticipates $5,000 will separate the average transaction prices of the 2024 Trax and Trailblazer.

The brand will field just one car for the 2023 model year — the Malibu midsize. It is set to be discontinued by 2026. By adding another economical option below the Trailblazer that Malibu and other car customers can turn to when it’s time to trade, Chevrolet hopes the Trax helps keep customers in the brand, especially as new-vehicle prices soar.

The new Trax features a 1.2-liter turbocharged inline-three engine generating 137 hp and 162 pound-feet of torque mated with a six-speed transmission, putting it on par with the Trailblazer.

Unlike the Trailblazer, however, it will not offer all-wheel drive — an option on previous Trax models.

Steve Majoros, vice president of marketing for Chevrolet, said the omission of awd will not hinder sales or alter market share. Seventy percent of Trax buyers traditionally opt for front-wheel drive.

“If someone wants an all-wheel-drive, we’ve got the Trailblazer available,” Majoros said. “We successfully sold front-wheel-drive variants, and we think we can do the same thing here.”

The 2024 Trax will come with Chevy Safety Assist, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, with a standard 8-inch or optional 11-inch screen, depending on the variant purchased.

Five trims — LS, 1RS, LT, the sporty 2RS and Activ — will be offered, with options including LED headlamps; 17-, 18- or 19-inch wheels; four-wheel disc brakes; and active noise cancellation. Extra features on most trims include push-button start, automatic climate control and wireless phone charging. Chevrolet says cruise control is standard equipment on all models, with adaptive cruise control available on some trims, a first for the Trax.

Chevrolet is pitching the Trax as a roomier, wider version of the Trailblazer — one that can hold more cargo and people — at a lower price.

It is 4 inches lower and 2 inches wider than the outgoing 2022 Trax. The wheelbase is 6 inches longer, with an interior that is 11 inches longer and 2 inches wider. The bigger footprint provides an extra 3 inches of rear legroom and nearly 12 percent more cargo capacity, while providing what Chevrolet calls “more composed ride and handling characteristics.”

Much of the extra space can be attributed to a new platform shared with the Trailblazer, with a lot of “similar components” between the two, according to Chevrolet.

“When you see it next to the Trailblazer, it really does have quite a different character,” said Seth Valentine, engineering manager for the Trax. “We’ve been able to leverage a lot of the learnings and our exposure from a couple years of production with the Trailblazer, but this does have a lot of new content.”

Each trim will come with its own interior color accents. The LT trim, for example, features Sky Cool Gray accent black seats. The Activ trim will feature Evotex seats with yellow accents and black Chevrolet emblems throughout.

Ed Kim, president and chief analyst at AutoPacific, an automotive research firm, said Chevrolet will benefit from introducing an internal combustion engine vehicle despite much of the brand’s current marketing dollars directed toward electric vehicles. With EV prices unlikely to match those of today’s entry-level vehicles for another few years, Chevrolet can offer a vehicle for any potential customer — within the brand and outside.

“The smart automakers are the ones that look further out and really think about how a good entry-level product can pay dividends in the future,” Kim said. “For most people shopping these two entry Chevys, it’s going to come down more to personal taste. Are you more captivated by a traditional rugged SUV look, or are you captivated by this very sleek crossover look?”

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