Chevrolet's subcompact Trax crossover is being refreshed after only about a year and a half in the US, as the company is quick to remind anyone who'll listen. But it's not like General Motors decided to accelerate the car's development. In reality, the Trax has been on sale in other parts of the world since 2013, so the interval isn't out of the ordinary.
As far as mid-cycle refreshes go, the 2017 Trax update is on the mild side. Its front and rear fascia are all new, evoking the same style as other recently tweaked models such as the Malibu and Cruze. The whole thing looks more contemporary, if only because the previous set of headlights looked very 2010.
The Trax's 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine puts out just 138 horsepower, but it feels far peppier than the more powerful 1.4-liter in the Cruze. This ute is quick to spring to action, with its conventional six-speed automatic staying largely in the background, although its shifts can feel a little slow at times.
Based on my limited test drive composed largely of highway and city driving in Chicago, I think it would be easy to top the front-wheel-drive Trax's EPA estimates of 33-mpg highway (FWD city fuel economy sits at 25 mpg). Sadly, I didn't get any time in the all-wheel-drive model, although it would be hard to notice anything other than additional weight on my entirely urban, entirely fair-weather drive route. In either case, EPA fuel-economy estimates still trail behind key competitors such as the Honda HR-V (28/35) and Mazda CX-3 (29/34).
The car's suspension tuning is on the compliant side and soaks up bumps nicely, although a fair bit of noise does make its way to the interior. Ride quality is largely dependent on the trim level, though.
The new Premier trim features 18-inch alloy wheels and tires that contribute to additional road noise and a slightly stiffer, more car-like road feel. The mid-range LT, with its smaller wheels and thicker tire sidewalls, proves more comfortable over iffy roads.
The real meat and potatoes of the 2017 update lies inside. The dashboard looks way better, with soft-touch materials flanking the latest iteration of Chevrolet's MyLink touchscreen infotainment system. Sure, the majority of the interior is still hard plastic, and I don't think that piano-black trim is premium so much as it is a fingerprint magnet, but with a starting price just over $20,000, buyers will both notice and enjoy the improvements. Cabin furnishings are perhaps the single biggest area where the outgoing Trax lagged the competition, so these numerous small changes add up to a big deal.
MyLink feels snappier, too, but the Trax's pre-refresh infotainment system was not at all good, so this is a low bar to vault. Chevrolet's optional 4G LTE modem and Wi-Fi hotspot make for a welcome addition, as such systems always seem to get better reception than my phone. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both present and both work just as well as they do in any other car.
Because the drivers in downtown Chicago are largely horrible, I can confirm that Trax's forward-collision warning system works as intended, although it might be a bit overactive. Blind-zone monitoring is also new for 2017, and it's a welcome addition, because the Trax's massive C-pillar can leave drivers with a pretty large blind spot. This was a problem on the pre-refresh model, as well.
Overall, the 2017 Trax comes across as very similar to the old one. It's largely inoffensive on the road depending on the trim level purchased, and that sentiment extends to both its driving dynamics and aesthetics. The much-needed technological updates inside should keep the Trax closer to the front of buyers' brains as the subcompact crossover segment continues to grow. For the crossover-lusting urbanites Chevrolet envisions buying the Trax, I think it hits all the right points, even if it's a bit of a snoozefest.
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