Curbside Newsstand: The 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer Is GM’s Attempt At Cruze Control

2021 Chevy Trailblazer

As demand for crossovers heats up, automakers continue to expand their product offerings in as many segments as possible. We now have vehicles like the Hyundai Venue and Nissan Kicks, two value-oriented crossovers positioned at the lower end of the subcompact segment. With the 2021 Trailblazer, Chevy hasn’t introduced a direct competitor to either of the aforementioned vehicles. Instead, they’ve made a play to (probably) make the Trax Chevy’s value entry. Then again, this is GM we’re talking about, so who knows.

Chevy has once again revived a discontinued nameplate to slap onto one of its modern crossovers. It’s also put the Trax in an odd spot in Chevy’s lineup. Without destination, the Trax starts at $21,300. That’s about $1300 more than the Trailblazer’s starting MSRP. Not a substantial difference, but the Trailblazer is the larger of the two vehicles. What’s going on here? GM is probably going to either cut content from the Trax to keep its price in line with its size, or a redesigned model is right around the corner, which would make a similar move, just at a later date.

The Buick Encore possibly hints at what’s in store for the Trax. At the top end, the Encore lost its optional engine and some equipment. That’s due to the unimaginatively named Encore GX, which is the Trailblazer’s sibling. Like the new Chevy, the Buick Encore GX is bigger than the other subcompact in Buick’s lineup. They’re oddly named. However, these new crossovers do have room in their respective lineups for something slightly larger. The Trax/Encore measure 168 inches in length while their next largest family members, the Equinox/Envision come in at 183 and 184 inches, respectively. Most compact measure in at around 180 inches, which means GM has some additional room to play with.

The Trailblazer will offer two turbocharged three cylinder engines. Standard is a 1.2 liter turbo three cylinder rated at 137 horsepower and mated to a CVT. That’s the engine buyers receive if they opt for the $19,995 L trim, which also comes with a 7.0 inch Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatible touchscreen. The 1.2 liter is exclusively front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive becomes available with the LS trim, which will net buyers a 1.3 liter turbocharged three cylinder rated at 155 horsepower. Unlike the base engine, the optional powerplant utilizes GM’s nine speed automatic transmission.

It’s probably not a coincidence that the Trailblazer’s power figures neatly match up with what’s available on the last remaining examples of the Cruze. Pricing also isn’t too far off. The Cruze Premier starts at $23,520. Notable features include LED daytime running lamps, 17 inch alloy wheels, and heated seats. Similarly, the Trailblazer LT nets shoppers LED running lamps, 17 inch alloy wheels, and heated seats. About $1,000 separates the two, but it’s more likely that Chevy will find customers perfectly willing to pay the additional cost of stepping into the new crossover, especially after the Cruze disappears from dealer lots.

In typical GM fashion, the Trailblazer is oddly positioned and even more strangely named. The slightly upmarket subcompact crossover is clearly Chevy’s attempt to mimic the Nissan Kicks and Hyundai Venue. Those are vehicles worth pursuing, but they exist at the value end of the segment, and at minimum are about $1500 cheaper than the Trailblazer. What’s also puzzling is GM’s logic in using these older names. Why is Trailblazer being applied to the smaller crossover when it would have worked perfectly for the mid-size entry? The new Blazer and old Trailblazer are very similarly sized. Trailblazer = Trailblazer seems like a pretty easy concept to grasp. What happened?

Just to recap: Next year shoppers will arrive at a Chevy dealership and immediately encounter a crossover designed to compete with the Hyundai Venue and Nissan Kicks, at least in appearance. If they already experienced those crossovers at their respective dealerships, they’ll find the Trailblazer’s price a little hard to swallow. They’ll also see the smaller Trax and be similarly turned off by the even higher MSRP on certain trims. In the same showroom are GM fans ready to trade in their 2009 Trailblazer for something similarly sized. After seeing the diminutive new Trailblazer, they decide to head next door to check out the Ford Edge, which seemed pretty similar in size to their current ride. The Blazer that would have suited their needs was out on a test drive, which is why they didn’t see it. These are not unrealistic scenarios.

Chevy’s newest Trailblazer is set to confuse shoppers in early 2020, when it arrives at Chevy dealerships nationwide.