All-new 2020 Chevrolet Trax subcompact crossover due for some Blazer bling

2020 Chevrolet Trax

2020 Chevrolet Trax

What changes will make the 2020 Chevrolet Trax different?

Bet on full redesign and you’ll get new styling and features along with potentially more power and a more sophisticated transmission. Side with more conservative prognosticators, and today’s first-generation Trax will be a repeat for model-year 2020, with the redesign coming for model-year ’21.

We’re banking on a model-year 2020 redesign that’ll debut the second-generation of Chevrolet’s entry-level subcompact crossover SUV. Expect another diminutive five-passenger four-door available with all-wheel drive, but with more safety features and a more modern understructure that’ll help provide a welcome expansion of rear-seat legroom. The new body should look sleeker – maybe borrowing some cues from the striking new Chevrolet Blazer crossover – and performance should improve with no sacrifice to the already impressive fuel economy.

The first-generation Trax bowed for the 2015 model year. It borrowed its drivetrain and underskin engineering from the more expensive Buick Encore, which was introduced for model-year 2013 and helped launch the premium-subcompact crossover category. Though not a looker by any stretch, that tall, pudgy original Trax delivered a surprisingly sophisticated driving experience with a quiet cabin, smooth ride, and nice array of convenience features. Prices were very competitive, too, once the often-generous incentives were factored in.

Sales were strong out of the gate and continued to improve. Trax demand increased 12 percent through September 2018, a fine showing for a vehicle so deep into its lifecycle. Expanded by new entries such as the Ford EcoSport, Hyundai Kona, and Nissan Kicks, the category itself increased sales an astonishing 37 percent through September, with the Trax in fourth place behind the Subaru CrossTrek, Jeep Renegade, and Honda HR-V.

Should You wait for the 2020 model or buy the 2019?

Wait. Count on Chevy to address the outgoing model’s most glaring weaknesses: a cramped back seat, a small cargo area, and a lack of modern driver-assistance features. Spy photos show a crossover that looks longer and slightly wider, which should ameliorate the passenger- and cargo-space issues.

As for safety features, expect the addition of autonomous emergency braking, which would automatically stop the crossover to avoid a frontal collision with another vehicle. It’s today’s No. 1 driver assist and would join safety features already available on the 2019 Trax: forward-collision warning and lane-departure and blind-spot alerts with rear cross-traffic detection.

Buy a 2019 Trax only if you get a knock-down price. Discounts should continue frequent and generous, making it a viable option if you want or need a subcompact crossover right now. Still, check out rivals available with all-wheel drive (AWD), including the aforementioned models, plus the Mazda CX-3, Nissan Rogue Sport, Toyota CH-R. If you don’t need AWD, put the Kona and Hyundai Soul on your list, recognizing they’re available only with front-wheel drive.

Will the Styling be Different?

Very much so. The 2020 Trax will remain squarely within the subcompact-crossover class, meaning tidy overall dimensions well suited to urban environments. But expect it to move away from its tall-bubble look for a more aggressive shape similar to that of the recently announced 2019 Chevrolet Blazer midsize crossover.

A pair of narrow headlights (most likely with LED illumination available) will flank a large grille itself adorned with a prominent Chevrolet bow-tie badge and geometric shapes. The angular motif will continue across the bodysides, rising to the rear quarter panels where you’ll see a slight “floating roof” design that is becoming common on many cars and SUVs. The rear end’s styling would again mimic the Blazer, which itself is reminiscent of the current-generation Lexus RX. That sounds good on marketing material, but in the flesh, we think that premium-class crossover’s looks are a bit overdone.

A sport-themed RS grade will likely join a returning roster of base LS, volume-selling LT, and flagship Premier trim levels. The RS should offer a blackout grille, wheels, and other exterior trim, along with an interior that has high-contrast piping throughout.

Trax’s interior will likely be a cut-down version of what you’ll find in the Blazer, with clean, clear instrumentation and a large tablet-style screen perched atop the center of the dashboard. Climate controls might be on the small side, but interior storage could be rather generous thanks to a larger center console and glovebox. On the infotainment side, all models will likely include a variant of Chevrolet’s MyLink system with standard support for Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto. Imbedded GPS navigation will likely be optional on the LS and RS and standard on the Premier.

In this class, only Ford’s EcoSport has a shorter wheelbase (distance between the front and rear axles) than the first-generation Trax. Expect the redesigned Chevy to have a longer wheelbase for more pleasing overall proportions. The expansion would also improve passenger comfort, particularly in the back seat, where legroom is in short supply on the outgoing Trax. Expect cargo space to also grow substantially from the ’19 model’’ 18.7 cubic feet behind the rear seatbacks and 48.4 with them folded.

Any mechanical changes?

Yes. Like the related Buick Encore, which is also slated for a model-year 2020 redesign, Trax will use a variant of General Motors’ new VSS (Vehicle Set Strategy) platform. VSS is a modular understructure that can accommodate a wide variety of vehicles. It’s intended production-expense savings would go toward boosting content, such as comfort and convenience features. Think of it as GM’s answer to Toyota’s New Global Architecture (TNGA) and Volkswagen’s MQB. Trax’s new platform will be called VSS-C, the “C” standing for crossover. All ’20 Trax models will likely come standard with front-wheel drive with AWD again an extra-cost option.

The 2020 Trax will probably use an upgraded version of the 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine found in the outgoing model. Output of 153 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque would represent increases of 15 and 29, respectively. Expect the sole transmission to be a 9-speed automatic, which would replace a 6-speed automatic.

The redesign crossover’s larger dimensions will likely result in a slight increase to curb weight, but the revised engine and new transmission should mean the next Trax will be quicker while also achieving better fuel-economy ratings. The exterior design’s better-balanced proportions should also translate into a lower center of gravity, which would contribute to more tractable handling. The bogies for sporty manners in this class are the HR-V, CX-3, and CrossTrek, and while the next Trax may not threaten them for overall driving enjoyment, it should no longer be among the stodgiest in the segment.

Will fuel economy improve?

Count on it. The upgraded powertrain, the 9-speed automatic in particular, should improve EPA ratings. Figure 2020 Trax models with front-wheel drive to rate at least 28/33/30 mpg city/highway/combined and those with AWD to rate 26/31/28. These are gains of 2 mpg over the ’19 model, and that’s a conservative estimate.

Will there be new features?

Most assuredly, at least on the safety front. We mentioned above that we expect autonomous emergency braking to be available on the 2020 Trax, along with adaptive radar cruise control that can maintain a set follow distance from traffic ahead. These will go along with the other driver assists that were available on the 2019 model. The big question is how GM will package them.

We’d urge Chevy to follow the lead of Nissan and Toyota and make the full suite of safety features standard across the board. That’s probably not going to happen because the new Trax will be required to hit a specific base-price point as a competitive tool. Expect the full range of driver assists to be standard on the top-line Premier grade, optional on the LT and RS, and unavailable on the LS.

Otherwise, the LS will return as the most basic model. It will have power windows/locks/mirrors, infotainment with smartphone integration, and onboard Wi-Fi hotspot via GM’s OnStar telematics. Cruise control should join the standard equipment list for this model as well (previously it was available on the LS only to fleet buyers).

LT grades could add LED daytime running lights and taillights, different cloth upholstery, satellite radio, remote engine start, and keyless entry with pushbutton ignition. Heated front seats could be available starting here, at least on models equipped with AWD.

The Premier would be fully equipped with driver assists, imbedded navigation, power sunroof, faux-leather upholstery, heated front seats, Bose-brand audio, and rear-obstacle detection.

Will 2020 prices be different?

They’ll probably increase, and while they might not be available immediately after launch, you can figure on GM riding to the rescue with cash rebates, along with cut-rate financing and lease options.

Including destination fee, which was $995 on the 2019 Trax, we estimate base prices with front-wheel drive to be $23,500 for the LS, $27,000 for the LT, $28,500 for the RS, and $30,000 for the Premier. Expect AWD to cost the same $1,500 as it did for the ’19 model.

A variety of extra-cost paint options will be available and should be priced from $395-$995. Other option packaging is hard to define at this point, but a package of driver aids could be offered on the LS for $495-$995. A power sunroof and Bose audio would be available on the LT and RS for about $1,150. We don’t expect there to be any factory options for the Premier.

When does it come out?

Figure on Chevrolet showing the 2020 Trax to the public at the next Detroit Auto Show, with an on-sale date sometime in the summer of 2019.

Best competitors

Fiat 500X, Ford EcoSport, Honda HR-V, Hyundai Kona, Jeep Renegade, Mazda CX-3, Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, Nissan Kicks, Nissan Rogue Sport, Toyota C-HR

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to 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, 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]