Small is in, while big and oversized and overpowered is way out. Sure, there are still plenty of drivers who would prefer their cars to be large, and in charge; however, the cost-effectiveness, fuel efficiency, and all-around convenience of a compact SUV is simply difficult to pass up. It is worth noting though; the compact SUV market is crowded to the point that some might call it a little over-saturated. With so many different models to choose from it can be easy to find yourself behind the wheel of one that doesn’t quite live up to its promises. Fortunately, we’re here to sort through the noise to find you the pick that fits right for you, your driveway, and your budget. Two models tend to come to the top of the mind when drivers think ‘compact SUV,’ and those two vehicles are the 2020 Chevy Trax vs 2020 Ford EcoSport. While at first glance, one may consider these vehicles to exist in strangely similar lanes in terms of design and styling; they’re two scrunched up SUVs that attempt to bring greater utility to the classic hatchback design. But when you peel back the chassis, you’ll find two vehicles that offer a little more than meets the eye.
The Full Package
When it comes to pricing, compact SUVs aren’t meant to break the bank. Coming in with a lower MSRP is what actually makes them quite appealing. Affordability is a huge deal nowadays, so it is hard to argue against the desire of having a cheaper priced car that offers significant value at the end of the day. The 2020 Chevy Trax and the 2020 Ford EcoSport attempt to fit into this niche of affordability without a sacrifice to performance, technology, or utility.
The Ford EcoSport manages to win the MSRP game here, although not by much. Starting at an MSRP of $19,995, the Ford EcoSport is as economy as it gets, and unfortunately, that plays a role in the overall quality of what you’re getting. If you can overlook these hang-ups, though, you’ll find a compact SUV that comes in four different variants the S, SE, Titanium, and the SES, with the highest trim starting at a rate of $27,380 MSRP. On the surface, this isn’t half-bad, although having a decent number of choices with a lower MSRP can only hold so much when you start comparing things like performance, tech, and overall experience.
So, how does the Chevy Trax shape up in comparison? Well, the 2020 Chevy Trax is a solid budget buy, too, coming in at an MSRP of $21,300. While starting a little higher in pricing, you do get one less trim model option, which sums up to the LS, LT, and Premier. With one less trim model to play with, one may suspect that there is less value here, in truth, the exact opposite may be evident. With one less trim model to worry about, you get the chance to start high in value without having to pay for additional upgrades after the fact.
Small Performance for a Bite-Sized Car
When it comes to power delivery and experience behind the wheel, the Ford EcoSport isn’t anything to write home about. While compact SUVs aren’t particularly known for their game-changing handling, speed, or acceleration, there are some predetermined standards that the engine in the Ford EcoSport should live up to, and unfortunately, it fails to meet the mark in more ways than one.
The base model of the Ford EcoSport starts as small as the car itself with a 1.0-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine that uses a 6-speed automatic transmission to just barely get up to 123 horsepower and 125 lb-ft of torque. You can get a little more oomph out of this vastly underpowered engine, thanks to the Sport mode switch, but it won’t give you much. You can upgrade that standard engine, though, to a 2.0L Ti-VCT engine that churns out 166 horsepower and 149 lb-ft of torque, with the option of Intelligent four-wheel drive. Still, though, what’s offered here, doesn’t necessarily break any records. The base model of the Ford EcoSport does get decent fuel economy, clocking in at 28 MPG combined; however, the 2.0L has a combined fuel economy of 25 MPG.
Fortunately, performance in the entry-level Chevy Trax does the right thing and pack base models with a 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. While amped for better performance, this base engine still only garners 138 horsepower and 148 lb-ft of torque. While not amazing, it is still a greater fit than the base engine of the Ford EcoSport. You can also upgrade this base powertrain to get all-wheel drive, giving the compact SUV far greater handling when road conditions put the vehicle to the test. This base performance does excellent work when cruising around crowded city streets, especially considering the base model fuel economy hovers at around 28 MPG combined.
The Interior Matters Even in Small Models
The 2020 Ford EcoSport and the 2020 Chevy Trax are both small cars, but they are still expected to provide relatively ample room for both cargo and passengers. At the same time, they should also come with a decent amount of technology to make the ride feel modern, safe, and convenient. Let’s start with the Ford model, with its 99.2-inch wheelbase and 161.3-inch length. The Ford EcoSport makes use of this space to provide 20.9 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats, which is rather tight.
In base models, the low price really shows itself with hard plastics and a rather uninspired interior design. Although, you can certainly get better when you upgrade to higher models, adding in leather to make things feel a little more premium. Should you decide to pay for it, you can add remote start to the most economic model. Things do step up in higher trims, adding in Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility and an audio system designed by Bang and Olufsen.
The Chevy Trax, on the other hand, has a greater amount of length, measuring in at 167.7 inches, but only manages 18.7 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats; and unfortunately, it doesn’t pay off into rear-seat legroom either. Although, the materials in base models are fairly well made, with base models getting soft plastics and comfy cloth upholstery. Leather is also available to furnish the interior of the vehicle, but you’ll have to pay extra for it. Technology in the Chevy Trax is far more advanced than what you can spot in the Ford EcoSport, with entry-level models getting a 7.0-inch infotainment screen that is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Advancing on that standard package will cost you more money, but it’ll result in leather seating that’s heated, a Bose audio system, and a power moonroof.
Which is the Better Compact SUV
If you look at the price, and the number of trim options, it can be easy to confuse the Ford EcoSport as an equal contender of the Chevy Trax. Although, once you start delving into powertrain options, power delivery, and overall comfort, it is the Ford EcoSport that plays second fiddle. The Chevy Trax does have some drawbacks from the smaller amount of cargo space to the fact that you only get one engine option, but what’s included is already impressive, and for many compact SUV drivers, that is far more than what other models bring to the table.