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2021 Chevrolet Blazer crossover: generous on style, still stingy on safety?

By Ed Piotrowski and CarPreview staff

What changes will make the 2021 Chevrolet Blazer different?

We’ll hope for wider availability of important safety features but expect little more than new paint colors and higher asking prices as Chevy’s flashy midsize crossover pauses before a model-year-2022 refresh. 

Chevy ought to extend key driver assists, such as autonomous emergency braking, to 2021 Blazer buyers who can’t afford top-of-the-line models. And it should rethink charging extra for such features even on those top-line trims. We hope it doesn’t wait until the model-year ‘22 refresh to correct this deficiency.

A more democratic approach to safety would enhance the appeal of a proud Chevy nameplate resurrected for model-year 2019. The Blazer badge was for years attached to a series of rear-wheel-drive, pickup truck-based body-on-frame SUVs. Now it’s worn by this crossover built on a car-type unibody structure. Available with front- or all-wheel drive, today’s Blazer slots between Chevy’s Equinox and new-for-2021 Trailblazer compact-class crossovers, and its near full-size, eight-passenger Traverse.

Chevy positions it as sportier and more upscale than other midsize five-seat crossovers, such as the Ford Edge, Honda Passport, Hyundai Santa Fe, and Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport. It’s also pitched as a younger-skewing alternative to the GMC Acadia and Cadillac XT5, crossovers from Chevy’s corporate cousins with which it shares its basic engineering.

Indeed, purely for styling and driving dynamics, Blazer is more than a match for any direct competitor. But with prices starting around $34,000, it’s more expensive than most. And with stickers that top $50,000 for fully equipped models, it sidles up to luxury-oriented midsize-crossover flagships, such as the Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland and Nissan Murano Platinum. It even rubs elbows with the premium-class Lexus RX. In that sort of company, it’s not so compelling.

Should I wait for the 2021 Blazer or buy the 2020?

Chevrolet Blazer Premier

Little reason to wait. The ’21 isn’t apt to add anything of substance, so you’d be paying more for essentially a duplicate vehicle. And waiting to buy a ’21 would get you styling and features that might seem a little dated once the freshened 2022 Blazer arrives.

Blazer’s 2020 model lineup will likely carry over for ’21. Expect entry-level L, mainstream LT, sport-themed RS, and luxury-oriented Premier grades. Chevrolet should continue to subdivide the LT into 1LT, 2LT, and 3LT variants, the last distinguished in part by leather instead of cloth upholstery.

Don’t look for changes to powertrains. Naturally aspirated and turbocharged four-cylinder engines will return, along with a V-6. Front-wheel drive will again be standard across the board. All models except the L and 1LT would remain available with all-wheel drive (AWD) intended primarily as an on-pavement traction enhancer.

Will the styling be different?

Chevrolet Blazer RS

No alterations are probable before the model-year ‘22 refresh. Even then, changes won’t be dramatic. Chevrolet took some risks with this reborn Blazer’s styling. With boldness comes polarization, and some critics aimed barbs at its looks. We’re not among them.

Despite derivative elements — Hyundai-style narrow headlights, Lexus-esque “spindle” grille, Nissan-type “floating roof” rear pillars — we think Blazer achieves the street-smart aesthetic Chevy was after. Its sculpted body and ready-to-pounce proportions certainly are more assertive than those of the brand’s more family-oriented crossovers.

Distinctions between 2021 Blazer model grades should again be effective: minimal brightwork on the L and LT trims, a blackout treatment for the RS, and chrome accents for the Premier. Wheels will also be keyed to appearance themes, with 18-inch alloys standard on L and LT and 20s optional on V-6 LTs. The RS and Premier will again come with 20s and offer optional 21s.

Blazer’s interior will continue to borrow Camaro cues and be among the coolest in the class. It’ll also feel like one of the most spacious, thanks in large measure to a body wide enough to fit three adults in the back seat with minimal crowding. Rear legroom, though, is only par for the competitive set. The rear bench slides fore and aft to benefit passenger or cargo space but cargo volume is below average, at 30.5 cubic feet behind the rear seat, 64.2 with the backs folded.

Chevrolet Blazer Premier

Expect lower-tier models to continue with mostly analog instrumentation and a small digital display centered in the gauge cluster. RS and Premier should again swap the standard speedometer for a digital facsimile housed in a larger central screen. We prefer the simplicity of the former, but technophiles won’t have issues with the latter.

Also unchanged should be the dashboard’s central control stack. We especially appreciate the standard 8-inch infotainment touchscreen’s easy accessibility by driver or front passenger. Instead of mounting it atop the dashboard, Chevy smartly integrated the tabletlike display into a sort of cove in the instrument panel. The climate-system buttons are undersized but integrating the temperature control into the lower air-vent surrounds is a cool design touch.

Imbedded GPS navigation that does not require a cellular data signal should remain optional on the 3LT and standard on the RS and Premier. While all ’21 Blazers will continue to include support for Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto, Chevy needs to incorporate some software or hardware optimizations to improve responsiveness. Our Blazer RS review sample frequently required 30-60 seconds to recognize a connected smartphone and start its appropriate software interface.

More critically, Chevy really ought to upgrade cabin-materials quality to compliment Blazer’s roominess and design flourishes – and its price point. Otherwise, hard-to-the-touch plastic panels will continue to outnumber padded surfaces and most of the switchgear will retain a parts-bin feel.

Any mechanical changes?

Not for 2021, although a gas-electric powertrain – a conventional hybrid or a plug-in – might be added as part of the model-year 2022 revamp or shortly thereafter. The ’21 Blazer L and 1LT models will again use a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine of 193 horsepower and 188 pound-feet of torque. It’s basically a rental-fleet special; the tell is that it’s available only with front-wheel drive. While no 2.5-liter Blazers had been made available for testing in time for this report, don’t expect quick acceleration.

Blazer 2LT and 3LT trims should again come standard with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder of 230 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. That the minimum it takes for a Blazer to furnish suitable acceleration around town and good response in highway-speed passing and merging.

Better yet is the 3.6-liter V-6 standard on the RS and Premier and optional for the 2LT and 3LT. It’ll return with 308 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque and in our testing, makes the Blazer feel outright fast. As in the four-cylinder models, it links to a quick-shifting nine-speed automatic transmission. The transmission works particularly well with the V-6, keeping the engine in its optimal power range for virtually every driving demand. The V-6 sounds great, too, with a refined growl during acceleration yet near-silent operation at cruising speed.

Aggressive throttle away from a stop or coming out of a slow turn in a front-wheel-drive V-6 Blazer can trigger torque steer, an annoying pull to the side. AWD mitigates this by apportioning power to the tires with the most grip. With both the V-6 and the turbo four-cylinder, the system includes a terrain-selector knob on the center console that optimizes the powertrain for traction-challenging conditions like snow or gravel. Despite a class-average 7.4 inches ground clearance, however, an AWD Blazer isn’t intended for anything more demanding that a rutted path.

Chevrolet Blazer RS

The ’21 Blazer should continue to back up its sporty image with engaging road manners. Suspension tuning should remain identical across all model grades, though models with the 20- or 21-inch wheels will feel sharper thanks mostly to the greater contact area of their wider tires. On any Blazer, steering is natural-feeling and the crossover is quicker than most rivals to change direction upon command. Ride quality is a high point, surprisingly absorbent and unflustered even with the 21-inch wheels and tires.

Overall, any 2021 Blazer should again deliver a driving experience more akin to that of a tall station wagon than a typical midsize crossover.

Will fuel economy improve?

With no changes to powertrains or other mechanical features, the 2021 Blazer’s EPA ratings should mirror those of the 2020 model. That means it’ll again be among the more fuel-efficient five-seat midsize crossovers of similar power. 

Expect ’21 Blazers with front-wheel drive to rate 21/27/23 mpg city/highway/combined with the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and 19/26/21 with the V-6. With AWD, a V-6 Blazer should again rate 18/25/21. Our AWD RS review sample averaged 18.9 mpg in our suburban test loop.

EPA ratings for 2020 Blazers with the 2.0-liter turbo were not available in time for this review. Based on EPA ratings of other GM crossovers that use a similar version of this engine, figure ’21 Blazers with the turbo four will rate around 21/28/24 mpg with front-drive and 20/27/23 with AWD.

All engines will again be tuned to use regular-grade 87-octane gasoline but expect Chevy to recommend 91-octane premium for best performance with the 2.0-liter turbo.

Will there be new features?

New ones are unlikely. But distributing existing safety features more evenly would be a step forward. Chevrolet needs to match top competitors by making key driver assists available across the entire 2021 Blazer product line, even as options.

As of model-year 2020, adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning with automatic steering correction, and automatic high-beam headlights were available exclusively on the RS and Premier, and even then, only as part of option packages that cost $3,575 and $2,165, respectively.

Shoppers further down the Blazer price ladder deserve access to these vital safety systems, too. There’s even a good argument that the features ought to be standard on the RS and Premier.

Otherwise, don’t count on significant changes to standard equipment for the ’21 Blazer. The L, 1LT, and 2LT grades will again come standard with features such as a capless fuel filler, CarPlay and Android Auto, a USB Type-C charging and data port, GM’s OnStar telematics with built in 4G LTE WiFi hotspot, and keyless access with pushbutton engine start.

Intended mostly for rental fleets and not widely available for retail purchase, the L will remain unavailable with factory option packages. The 1LT and 2LT will again include a power driver’s seat and be available with several functional and dress-up options.

Look for the ’21 Blazer 3LT to again include as standard leather upholstery, heated front seats, blind-spot alert with rear cross-traffic detection, rear-obstacle detection, power liftgate with programmable height adjustment, and a power front-passenger seat.

Moving to the RS or Premier should again net exterior trim specific to each model, 20-inch wheels, hands-free power liftgate, and imbedded navigation.

Will 2021 prices be different?

Chevrolet Blazer Premier

If Chevy elects to make the full suite of safety features standard on all 2021 Blazer models, count on a near-commensurate base-price increase. Should the vehicle stand pat, prices probably wouldn’t drift upward more than a few hundred dollars. But that would still mean the ’21 Blazer is among the most expensive five-seat midsize crossover.

For reference, here are 2020 Blazer base prices, including the manufacturer’s $1,195 destination fee. Limited to front-wheel drive and the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, the fleet-friendly L started at $29,995. Also limited to front-drive and the 2.5-liter, but more likely purchased at retail, the 1LT started at $33,495.

For the more popular trims, the 2020 Blazer 2LT with the 2.0-liter turbo engine was priced from $33,995 with front-drive and from $35,995 with AWD. With the same engine, the 3LT started at $38,195 and $40,195, respectively. With the V-6, base prices for the 2LT were $34,495 with front-drive and $37,145 with AWD and for the 3LT were $38,695 and $40,195.

With the V-6 engine standard, the 2020 Blazer RS had a base price of $41,795 with front-drive and $44,695 with AWD. Base prices for the V-6 Premier were $43,895 and $46,795, respectively.

Most factory options should again come in packages and vary in price and content depending on trim-level selection. Some of these include the Convenience and Driver Confidence Package ($1,845 for the 1LT and 2LT) adds remote engine start, heated front seats, programmable power rear liftgate, blind-spot alert, rear cross-traffic detection, and rear-obstacle detection.

The 2LT/3LT Redline Edition ($1,895) adds 20-inch gloss-black wheels with red accents, black badges with red outlines, black grille, window surrounds, exterior mirror caps, and door handles.

The 3LT Sound and Technology Package ($1,400) includes an 8-inch infotainment screen, imbedded navigation, extra USB ports, surround-view camera, and a rear camera display embedded in the rearview mirror.

The Premier Driver Confidence II Package would add the 3LT Sound and Technology Package contents plus wireless smartphone charging, adaptive radar cruise control, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning with automatic steering correction, and automatic high-beam headlights.

The RS’s Enhanced Convenience and Driver Confidence II Package ($3,575) would include all contents of the 3LT Sound and Technology and Premier Driver Confidence II packages.

When does it come out?

Look for a 2021 Chevrolet Blazer release date in late summer or early fall 2020.

Best competitors

Ford Edge, Honda Passport, Hyundai Santa Fe, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Nissan Murano, Subaru Outback, Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to Carpreview.com two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for HowStuffWorks.com, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]