Since it arrived in the United States for 2015, the Chevy Trax has been the “baby brother” of Chevrolet SUV lineup. Billed as a subcompact SUV, the Trax not just smaller in size but relatively new to the family as well. It also features the lowest price tag of the Chevy SUVs. But just as the Trax has gotten comfortable with its role in the SUV market, along comes a new family member to shake things up. The Chevy Trailblazer is set to be introduced in 2021, with a brand new design and outlook.
With the Trailblazer set to take up space in the family tree in 2021, many have speculated that this means the end for baby brother Trax. Yet, Chevrolet has made no indication that this is the end of the line for the smallest SUV in the showroom. It has also not announced plans to make any major changes to the Trax, leaving the SUV almost unchanged after six years on the market, which is practically unheard of in the automotive industry. Let us explore the similarities and differences between the Trax and Trailblazer so you can determine: is there a clear heir to the throne, or are both vehicles equally worthy of their place in the Chevy empire?
Introducing the Players
First things first: the 2021 Trailblazer is not a reintroduction of the old Chevy TrailBlazer. You may fondly recall the much larger, hulking version that was replaced by the Traverse in 2009. The new Trailblazer (no capital B) is classified as a subcompact crossover SUV. In the ever-evolving world of SUVs and their lexicon, that means it is much smaller than the midsize TrailBlazer of the previous decade.
You may wonder how much smaller is “smaller?” Despite its subcompact moniker, the Trailblazer is very deserving of the SUV title, with 54.4 cubic feet of cargo space when the rear seats are folded. And when all but the driver’s seat are folded, it can even accommodate objects up to 8.5 feet in length.
The Trax has been around since 2015 and appeared on the scene as a “city-friendly” SUV. In its first year of production, it was hailed as the perfect fit for any driver, with a frame that was smaller than even the Chevy Cruze sedan. Like every vehicle, it has evolved to meet changing consumer tastes, and the 2020 model is a bit more spacious. With the 60/40 split folding seat down, there are 48.4 cubic feet of cargo room, and folding the front passenger seat down allows room for objects up to 8 feet long. But to say the Trailblazer is larger than the Trax by just a bit is not hyperbole as the total bumper-to-bumper length of the Trax is 167.7 inches, while Trailblazer measures in at 173.5 inches.
A Limited Future?
As the model year 2020 comes to a close, Chevrolet has not been shy about revealing exciting new details about the 2021 Trailblazer. The time is right to build up the hype, and the slowly simmering rumor mill has come to a full boil. Right now, we know more about the 2021 Trailblazer than we do about the 2021 model year of several mainstays in the Chevy SUV lineup, including the Trax.
But there are a few things that have been announced. First, the number of Trax variants available is going to be sharply decreased. The 2020 Trax is available in three trims: LS, LT, and Premier. In 2021, the Premier trim is going to be dropped, leaving drivers with a choice between the LS and LT trims.
The 2020 Premier trim lives up to the name. It sits on large 18-inch wheels while the lower trims have 16-inch wheels, it includes elegant faux leather upholstery, and nearly everything is automatic, power-operated, and heated. Among the amenities are power-adjustable heated seats and mirrors, a power sunroof, keyless ignition, and a Bose sound system with satellite radio, Bluetooth, and more.
The Premier trim of the 2020 Trax also has the most robust safety package, including automatic headlights, a rearview camera, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, parking sensors, forward collision mitigation, and lane departure warning systems. But looking forward to 2021, we have limited information about how many of the Premier’s features will be offered on the LT versus discontinued completely. Still, it appears that equipment such as blind-spot monitoring, keyless ignition, and more will only be offered as options on the LT trim.
In contrast, the 2021 Chevy Trailblazer will be available in five trim levels: L, LS, LT, ACTIV, and RS. This is not unusual for first-year offerings, as Chevy will need to learn through experience where the sweet spot is between price and features. Still, the L trim starts out with a pretty impressive collection of technology and conveniences. These include the Chevy Safety Assist suite of features with forward collision mitigation, automatic high beams, and lane-keep assist.
But for the Trailblazer, more advanced features like blind-spot monitoring, rear parking sensors, and rear cross-traffic alert are only available as part of the optional Driver Confidence package on the LT trim and above. It also appears that the ACTIV and RS trims are slated to be very similar. The ACTIV trim sports a faux leather interior and roof rails, while the RS has signature red interior highlights and 18-inch wheels. But both trims, along with the LT trim, will share a variety of powered, heated, and automatic convenience features from seats to sunroofs.
Many who have been following the Chevy brand for years believe that there appears to be a move towards streamlining expectations for trims, features, and options. Especially since the Trax and Trailblazer, as well as their bigger brother the Equinox, are driving on similar roads, so to speak. But others feel this might be an attempt to level the playing field between these Chevy SUVs so as more accurately gauge performance and sales going forward. Of course, this is all speculation, and any final decisions will come from GM directly, likely within the first quarter of 2021.
Under the Hood
Power is always important, and while the SUVs of the 1990s and earlier were bulky and sluggish, today’s subcompact and crossover models zip around almost as nimbly as a family sedan. The 2020 Trax comes with a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine that offers 138 horsepower and 148 lb/ft of torque. This engine is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission, and front-wheel drive is standard on all trims. However, all trims can also be optioned with all-wheel drive. Current information from Chevy has no indication of these details changing for the 2021 model.
The 2021 Trailblazer has two available engine options. The standard drivetrain on all trims except the ACTIV and RS is a 1.2L turbocharged 3-cylinder engine that offers 137 horsepower and comes with a continuously variable transmission and front-wheel drive. The ACTIV and RS trims instead come with a standard 1.3L turbocharged 3-cylinder engine, which offers 155 horsepower and is paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission. Drivers of the LS or LT trims can get this engine as well, but only by upgrading to all-wheel drive.
Do these facts and figures portend the end of days for the trusty Trax? It’s hard to say. It is clear that Chevy is not ready to put all of their eggs in one basket when it comes to their SUV lineup. Chevy SUVs are ruling the roads in the 21st century, so it doesn’t make sense to pull the plug on any of these models at the moment. However, with the Impala singing its swan song in 2020, it’s clear that Chevy isn’t afraid to dismiss models that aren’t selling. The Trax may be cruising on fumes, but it’s clear that the American appetite for the subcompact SUVs is still high. The next few years should be very interesting for Chevy SUVs, as we see how the lineup adapts to meet drivers’ needs.