Top 12 Things to Know Before You Buy a 2015 Chevrolet Trax

1. What’s new for 2015?

General Motors is hoping shoppers will “make tracks” to their local Chevrolet dealer to check out this new-to-the-United-States small crossover. Trax joins the growing class of “subcompact” crossovers whose ranks include current and upcoming products, such as the Fiat 500X, Honda HR-V, Jeep Renegade, and Mazda CX-3.

The five-passenger, four-door wagon has been on sale in Canada and several other global markets since 2013. It slots below the brand’s popular Equinox in size and price. It borrows its drivetrains and much of its basic design from the luxury-oriented Buick Encore. Chevy aims to attract city dwellers who want a utility vehicle but think traditional compact crossovers are too bulky.

Like most other Chevrolets, Trax comes in base LS, volume-selling LT, and top-line LTZ trim levels. All use a turbocharged four-cylinder engine and offer the choice of front- or all-wheel drive (AWD).

2. How much does it cost and what sort of deal can I expect?

Not a lot, but don’t expect much negotiating room on a vehicle that’s proved popular since its December 2014 U.S. launch. Base-price range with front-wheel drive is $20,995-$25,905 including Chevy’s $875 destination fee. AWD adds $1,500. At $23,320-$24,820, the LT is a fine value (see “What options or trim level is best for me?” below for details.)

Dealers apparently aren’t too willing to come down much from suggest retail price on this new model. Transaction prices for a front-drive LT are trending just $165 below MSRP, according to pricing service TrueCar.com. As of spring 2015, however, General Motors was offering financing as low as 2.9 percent to qualified Trax buyers, and being General Motors, cash rebates will be probably be available eventually.

3. When will the next big change be?

Sooner than you might expect. With Trax actually older than its model-year 2015 U.S. debut would indicate, a midcycle enhancement with updated styling and new features could come as early as the 2017 model year. A full redesign is unlikely before 2020.

4. What options or trim level is best for me?

In the Chevrolet universe, mid-level LT trim typically offers the best combination of features-per-dollar. That’s true here, though the entry-level Trax LS is also an attractive value. It comes with a rearview camera, Chevrolet’s MyLink infotainment system, a fold-flat front-passenger seat, and GM’s OnStar telematics with built-in 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot connectivity.

The LT justifies its $2,325 bump with a host of desirable standard features, including cruise control, auxiliary power outlet, satellite radio, and remote engine start. You can further outfit the LT with a Plus Package that, for $670, includes upgraded seat upholstery, power driver seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel, and rear-obstacle detection. The Sun and Sound Package nets a Bose-brand audio system and a power sunroof but checks in at a somewhat steep $1,400.

A few factory and dealer-installed dress-up accessories are available at a variety of price points. Some paint colors cost extra, including “White Pearl Tricoat” that will set you back a whopping $995. Most of the LT’s extra-cost items are standard on the LTZ, which also adds faux-leather upholstery, heated front seats, and 18-inch wheels in place of the other models’ 16s.

We heartily endorse AWD when it’s available. But if you consider Trax a more versatile substitute for a subcompact hatchback, and a front-drive LT with Plus Package delivers the best bang for your buck.

5. What engine do you recommend?

Your only choice is a 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder and six-speed automatic transmission. It’s a combo also found in Chevy’s Sonic subcompact and Cruze compact cars. Output is 138 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque for acceleration that’s far from inspiring but entirely adequate. A 0-60-mph acceleration run will take 9.5-10.0 seconds, depending on trim level and drive wheels.

If you’re among the city folk targeted by this car, you might consider spending the $1,500 AWD costs on various options instead. That decision will also unburden your Trax of some 400 pounds, benefiting both acceleration and fuel economy.

6. How is the fuel economy?

Good but not class-leading. EPA city/highway combined fuel-economy estimates for the 2015 Chevrolet Trax are 29 mpg with front drive and 27 with AWD. That’s better than the Jeep Renegade (25 and 24 mpg combined, respectively, but worse than the Honda HR-V (31 and 29 combined).

7. How does it handle?

Great for its intended habitat. Trax handles the urban grind remarkably well. Credit its diminutive size and snappy steering response. It’s not as comfortable tackling twisting country lanes, but darting through traffic and rocking around freeway off-ramps are not an issue.

8. Are the controls easy to use?

Chevrolet’s IntelliLink infotainment system draws mixed reactions from critics. Some appreciate its comprehensive feature set and clever integration of smartphone functionality. Others find the system a bit overwhelming and often slow to react to driver or passenger inputs. The answer probably lies somewhere in between. Aside from an on/off switch, there are no physical buttons governing IntelliLink. Operation is through the dashboard touchscreen and a couple capacitive “buttons” that respond via haptic feedback, just like a tablet or smartphone. Speaking of smartphones, you’ll need one of these (or an MP3 player) to access your personal music library, as Trax doesn’t come with a CD player. You can be the judge of whether or not this is a positive attribute.

The available navigation system is not actually built into the infotainment system. It uses a third-party application called BringGo that you download to your smartphone. Connect your phone via Bluetooth (Android) or USB (iPhone), and the software will show relevant map and point-of-interest data on the IntelliLink screen. The phone app costs anywhere from $1-$60 depending on features, which makes it a cost-effective solution to standard factory-installed and aftermarket navigation systems.

Trax’s climate controls are refreshing simple to operate. Instrumentation consists of an analog tachometer flanking a digital speedometer, similar to the Sonic subcompact car. The setup seems a bit funky at first, but you get used to it pretty quickly.

9. Is it comfortable?

If you’re riding in the driver or front-passenger seat, yes. The buckets are supportive, and there’s sufficient headroom and legroom. In the back seat, there’s not much more legroom than in a typical compact car, but headroom is good. Trax exhibits exemplary isolation from road and wind noise. The engine sounds refined while accelerating and recedes into the background at cruising speeds. It’s tiny, but the suspension does a better-than-expected job of absorbing bumps, which urban-dwelling owners will appreciate when traversing pockmarked city streets.

10. What about safety?

This small crossover excels in crash testing. It earns the maximum five stars overall in the government’s 5-Star rating system. Its sole less-than-perfect score was four stars for rollover protection (a common score for crossovers). Trax also garners a coveted “Top Safety Pick” award from the industry-backed Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, receiving the group’s highest score of “Good” in all tested categories.

Ten airbags are standard, including front-and-rear side impact and head-protecting curtain side-impact. Also included in every model is a rearview camera and GM’s OnStar assistance system. Rear-obstacle detection is available on the LT and LTZ models.

11. How’s the reliability and resale value?

Being on sale for only a few months as of this writing, there’s too little available data to fully assess quality or reliability. If the similar Buick Encore is anything to go by, however, Trax should do just fine. The 2014 Encore received an Initial Quality Award from consumer-research firm J.D. Power. In customer service satisfaction surveys, J.D. Power says Chevrolet ranks slightly above average among “mass market” (aka non-luxury) brands. Projected residual values were not available at time of writing, but research company Intellichoice predicts the Trax will be more expensive to own over a five-year period than other vehicles in its class.

12. Is it better than the competition?

We’ll get back to you on that. Trax doesn’t have much competition…yet. But with the “subcompact crossover” segment poised to bubble over with new entries during calendar 2015, Chevrolet is ahead of the curve with the Trax. On its own, this is a fairly compelling choice. It might not be the most fun thing to drive, but it boasts a smooth ride, quiet cabin, and plenty of safety and convenience features at aggressive prices. Time will tell how attractive Trax remains once rivals such as the 500X, HR-V, Renegade, and CX-3 hit showrooms.

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]