Story and photos by Jim Robinson
Metroland Media/WheelsTalk.com -
OTTAWA: It’s one thing to test a new car in sunny California as I did in the 2013 Chevrolet Trax in September, but quite another to do it in the midst of a Canadian snowfall.
Built on the same platform as the Chevrolet Sonic sub-compact car, the Trax is not a great hulking 4X4 like a Chev Yukon or Silverado, beside which the Trax looks almost dainty.
But this is Canada and we have snow, sleet and rain. So if want to sell a car here, it has to cut it here, which why I was in Ottawa driving a Trax just as a snow front moved in.
And to make it exciting, Chevy officials announced, just as we set out for the ride-and-drive portion up in the mountains north of Gatineau, that none of the testers had snow tires.
I’ll get to what happened, but first some background.
The 2013 Trax CUV joins Spark, Sonic, Orlando and Cruze, bringing Chevrolet’s small vehicle choices to five.
Motive power is a turbocharged 1.4-litre, twincam four-cylinder engine producing 138 hp and 148 lb/ft of torque with a standard six-speed manual or optional six-speed automatic transmission. Towing is not recommended.
Front-wheel-drive (FWD) is standard with optional all-wheel-drive on all but the base LS. With FWD models, there are front disc brakes with drums rear, but four discs on the AWD.
Fuel rating for the FWD manual is 7.8/5.7/6.9L/100 km city/highway/combined and 8.1/5.9/7.1 for the automatic. For the AWD it is 8.7/6.5/7.7L/100 km.
Even though it’s a turbo, Trax runs on regular gasoline.
Utility is served with no less than eight different seating/cargo possibilities. For example, the front passenger seat folds flat for long items.
In addition to a 358-litre trunk (785 litres with second row 60/40 split/fold seat flat), there are various bins/cubbies above and on both sides of the centre stack, as well as a tray under the passenger seat. Further stowage can be made available under the cargo floor.
A unique touch is four, inline cupholders between the front seats. There is also an under and over glove box.
There are three trim levels with the LS FWD at $18,495 with the automatic a $1,450 option. Starting prices for the rest where automatic is standard are: (FWD/AWD) 1LT $23,205/$25,155; 2LT $25,500/$27,450; LTZ, $27,380/$29,330.
Air is standard on all models except the LS where it is a $1,250 option. Shipping is $1,500.
As luck would have it my usual co-driver and I scored a topline LTZ AWD in a kind of Wedgewood blue.
No sooner did we leave the hotel then we hit ice in front of the Parliament Building. A Mountie in a Crown Vic watched as the ABS kicked in just a hair away from the guard fence.
After that the snow started to come down, but we motored on secure in the sense of knowing GM has a brace of driver and safety aids at our disposal.
These included 10 airbags, Electronic Stability Control (ESC) including Hill Start Assist (HSA), Traction Control (TC) and an Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) with Electronic Brake Force Distribution. Hill Descent Control (HDC) is standard on all models.
Up in the hills the route book noted glibly “let the rally begin,” words that struck terror into my heart as my co-driver (the Star’s Jim Kenzie) is a Targa Newfoundland fanatic who relishes tearing down gravel and earthen roads at speeds several times the posted limit.
He did pretty well until we encountered a stretch on snow covered earth with the trees bending down under the weight of the heavy, wet snow.
Picture postcard it may have been but I had a white-knuckle grip on the grab handle as Jimmy started to lose it more than once. But the ABS, stability control and Jim’s own vast experience kicked in and onward we ran.
When it came to my time behind the wheel I started out quite sedately but as confidence grew, I picked up speed to the point, even on gravel, I felt in control.
With four snow tires, it would be have been a piece of cake.
The interior is pretty straight forward with the main gauge cluster design borrowed from the Chev Sonic featuring a motorcycle-like round tach with an attached digital readout with everything from speed to several driver information readouts.
The top two trim levels will feature Chevrolet’s MyLink as standard with a seven-inch display for the infotainment system that aggregates content from smartphones on to the seven-inch, high resolution, full-color touchscreen display.
A dedicated navigation app called BringGo will become available early next year. It will project the route from the smartphone on to the system’s touch-screen.
Depending on what level of connectivity you want, the app will feature local search by Google, “where am I?” locator, emergency info such as the location of the nearest hospital and live traffic information such as crash reports and lane closures.
A rearview camera is part of the MyLink infotainment package and provides assistance during parking maneuvers.
We didn’t have much opportunity to test the traffic reports because we were miles removed from major arteries during most of the drive, but the rearview camera sure came in handy backing into areas for photo ops.
Chevrolet lists a number of competitors they are after but what they really want is a slice of the small/compact market that accounts for 52 per cent of all vehicles sold in this country.
And Chevrolet’s own research suggested this market will grow by 25 per cent by 2017.
More to the point, 33 per cent of these sales will come from Toronto-Montreal-Vancouver alone.
And when you look at it, Chevrolet alone offers four CUVs (Trax, Orlando, Equinox and Traverse) that have the market covered in terms of size, utility and pricing.
When it comes to being attractive to the CUV buyer, Chevrolet is on the right Trax.
Chevrolet Trax LTZ AWD 2013 at a glance
- BODY STYLE: five-passenger compact CUV.
- DRIVE METHOD: front-engine, front/all-wheel drive.
- ENGINE: 1.4-litre, DOHC turbocharged four-cylinder (138 hp, 148 lb/ft)
- FUEL ECONOMY: (Regular) FWD, six-speed manual, 7.8/5.7/6.9L/100 km city/highway/combined, six-speed automatic, 8.1/5.9/7.1L/100 km; AWD, 8.7/6.5/7.7L/100 km
- CARGO CAPACITY: 358-litre trunk behind second row seat, 785 litres seat folded
- TOW RATING: Not recommended
- PRICE: LS, $18,495;(FWD/AWD) 1LT $23,205/$25,155; 2LT $25,500/$27,450; LTZ, $27,380/$29,330 not including $1,500 shipping fee