Readers of a certain vintage may recall annual school assemblies in which various and sundry teachers would dole out honours for year-long achievements such as perfect attendance, highest marks in a particular subject, and the ability to swap sugar for salt in the principal’s tea.
The last one actually did happen in this author’s high school, though the prize was seeing the top administrator spit his drink across the room like Old Faithful, not a shiny trophy.
But I digress. If the automotive community awarded a “Most Improved Award”, the 2024 Chevrolet Trax would be a top contender. For this model year, the Trax is 11 inches longer than the old model, roughly 2 inches wider, has a thoroughly modern interior with the latest tech, and wears dandy new styling. Ditching the dorky tall-n-narrow proportions has helped the Trax immensely, but it’s those new threads which really leave the old model to the pages of history.
The front end is all Chevy, with LED running lights bookending a grille bifurcated with a spear of plastic on which the brand’s bowtie resides. There are enough character lines on its flanks to provide visual interest, while the de rigeur
black plastic cladding does its job of making the Trax look taller than its dimensions imply, though ground clearance does check in at a respectable 7.3 inches. These jaundiced eyes think the taillamps are too far apart but that’s subjective.
Under the hood is a 1.2L turbocharged engine, packing just a trio of cylinders good for 137 horsepower and 162 lb.-ft of torque. Chevy told us a full 90 percent of torque is on tap by just 1,700 rpm, with all the twist showing up by 2,500 rpm and remaining present until just a few strokes short of the redline. Caning the mill through Quebec hill and dale near the St. Lawrence River exposed no real holes in the power band, with the little 1.2L spinning dutifully as it pulled us through rural areas of La Belle Province.
The three-banger doesn’t provide any aural delight, but nor are any expected. Fuel economy is rated by the feds at 7.9L/100km in combined driving, a figure we had no trouble matching after cruising Quebec City and its rural environs. We saw 5.8L/100km on a 45-minute highway run. General Motors has wisely paired this engine with an honest-to-Detroit six-speed automatic which, while sometimes slow to downshift, places the old continually variable transmission in the bin where it belongs.
Chevrolet has made the decision to offer the Trax solely as a front-wheel drive proposition, meaning customers will have the same number of driven wheels no matter how much cheddar they spend (or finance over 72 months). Every Trax also gets the likes of heated seats, a raft of USB ports, and wireless CarPlay. Trims range from mainstream LS and LT to blacked-out RS models, plus an Activ which brings knobbier 18-inch tires and a smattering of offroad-esque styling cues.
The interior is a massive walk from last year’s Trax, the type of glow-up not seen since Drake hopped off Degrassi and onto the rap scene. Gone are the acres of rental-grade black plastic and dour switchgear, replaced with large screens and spears of colour darting through the cabin like lasers (the hue depends on trim: blue for LS/LT, yellow for Activ, red for RS). Ventilation controls are smartly placed where they can be twirled without lifting one’s hand off the shifter and are trimmed with a reasonable facsimile of real metal.
Legroom was more than adequate in the front row while hard and scratchy plastic appears on door cards and console caps, and surfaces on which one’s knee will rest whilst driving was sufficiently padded. This is a detail with which some car companies struggle; not GM, this time around. This 6’6” writer found satisfactory headroom up front, even with the optional sunroof. Note well: the power seat found in the top rung Activ could be placed lower than the manual chair found in other trims. Be sure to sample both if you’re concerned about noggin space during Trax shopping.
One of our test units, an Activ trim with chunky 18-inch tires and zesty yellow interior accents, had infotainment software that spazzed out on two occasions, eventually bricking the system and rendering the central touchscreen useless save for the backup camera. It was explained our Activ was an early build running old programming; fair enough, but this hiccup is worth mentioning since GM is making noise about ditching Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to go it alone. If they wish to take on Silicon’s finest, they’ll need to bring the heavy darts and exterminate the bugs.
There were no such problems in a 2RS trim example, exhibiting crisp graphics and reasonable response times. Main functions such as heated seats still have a physical button on the dashboard, which is pleasant, but going into a menu to reset the trip odometer takes some adjustment. An 8-inch infotainment tablet is slightly canted towards the driver and standard on the base LS and next-rung 1RS, while our testers had the 11-incher. Wireless smartphone integration plays nicely with the wireless charging that’s part and parcel of most trims in an option package or as standard.
Rear seat room is about what one would expect for a small crossover, though this long-of-limb author was able to ride in those quarters without first removing his legs, largely thanks to the extra three inches of legroom – a product of that 11-inch stretch compared to last year. Make sure to take the whole brood on a test drive before signing the note. Cargo space is up as well, offering 25.6 cubic feet (725 litres) behind the back seat and 54.1 cubes (1,532 litres) when those seats are folded flat.
All told, the 2024 model vaults to join other podium finishers in this segment, a claim the old Trax simply could not muster. And before anyone complains that declaration is damning with sardonic praise, know the small crossover field is bursting with entries – some of which make a great case for your hard-earned dollars. After all, the Kia Soul, Hyundai Venue, and Nissan Kicks acquit themselves well in this very crowded group. Our buying advice is to sample the base LS and add the $295 so-called Driver Confidence Package (blind spot monitoring and cross-traffic alerts). This keeps the tab under 25 grand, which is tremendous value.
It is not disingenuous to suggest the new Trax is so many leaps and bounds over the previous generation that Old GM would have probably given this variant a new name (witness the parade of Cavalier-Cobalt-Cruze as Exhibit A of this uniquely GM phenomenon). That they didn’t speaks to the confidence they have in the Trax, its construction, and the value proposition it provides. For a vehicle that is affordable enough to mark a gateway to new car ownership, we call that a win. Break out the “Most Improved” trophies.
The 2024 Chevrolet Trax is assembled in Korea and scheduled to arrive in dealers this year before the calendar flips into summer.
2024 Chevrolet Trax
: five-door crossover
: front engine, front-wheel drive
: 1.2L turbocharged inline-three, 137 hp, 162 lb.-ft
: 8.3 / 7.4 / 7.9 (L/100km, city/highway/combined)
: 25.6 / 54.1 (cu.ft, behind rear seat / rear seat folded)
: $24,498 (LS); $25,998 (1RS); $28,698(LT); $30,798(2RS); $30,798(Activ)