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Chevy makes Trax into the small car market

Chevy unveils three new minicar concepts.

Chevy Beat concept CNET Networks

General Motors seems to be waking up to the idea that there might be something in this whole small-car thing. Unveiling three new minicar global concepts this morning at the 2007 New York International Auto Show, GM's design chief Bob Lutz disclosed the blindingly insightful revelation that "small cars can be cool, bold, stylish, and fun." GM used the first press conference slot of the show to unveil three Korean-designed compact cars: the Chevrolet Groove, Beat, and Trax concepts.

Chevy Groove concept CNET Networks

The four-door Groove features an upright front windscreen, flared fenders and a short snout, which according to Chevy, were inspired by a "half-solder, half-modern" military helmet (no, we don't get it either). It is powered by a 1-liter diesel engine and is equipped with 17-inch five-spoke wheels. The two-door Chevrolet Beat hatchback is GM's take on a micro-import tuner car, and is designed to appeal to drivers who want to personalize their rides. The Beat, which is evocative of many Japanese rice burners, is motivated by a 1.2-liter turbocharged gasoline engine, and features LED headlights and tail lamps.

Chevy Trax concept CNET Networks

The Chevy Trax rounds out the trio. Postioned as a "micro SUV," the front-wheel driver Trax features a single-unit bumper and fender in front and rear and a rear-mounted spare tire and roof rack. The Trax has the most innovative drivetrain of the three, with a 1-liter gasoline engine assisted by a battery-pack driven electric motor, which drives the rear wheels, creating a hybrid four-wheel drive system.

None of the concepts is set for production, but GM is encouraging people to vote for their favorite of the three in an online poll, whose results will help Chevy decide a direction for an eventual production mincar. Small, edgy cars? Models designed to appeal to the tuner crowd? Engaging with customers using new media channels? Anyone would think that Chevy is trying to emulate Scion.