When Chevy introduced their new Trailblazer last year and I subsequently saw a few on the roads I was excited as it seemed to tap into all the things that buyers are looking for these days. I just needed to be able to get my hands on one to see if it really was all it appeared to be. The only thing I initially considered odd about it was reusing the Trailblazer name since the new one has virtually nothing in common with the long defunct model, especially the size, this one is much smaller. Yet the old one was clearly a success for Chevy, or enough of one anyway to not need to dustbin the name forever. In any case, last week I finally got my request granted and now I can report my findings.
While the new Trailblazer fits into the Chevy SUV lineup below the Equinox and above the Trax, that’s only in relation to its size, in terms of price the Trailblazer actually starts lower than the Trax, making it the least expensive way to get an elevated driving position in a popular vehicle segment wearing the bowtie ($19,000 even plus destination which seems an excellent value). Trax production is being curtailed somewhat to make more room for the Trailblazer which makes sense, especially seeing as how the Trailblazer has the currently popular look about it while the Trax is far more nondescript.
What’s the look? Well, the model that I got to try out is the top of the line “Activ” trim level (so not exactly near that $19k base price), but externally all of them look very similar. Overall it has an aggressive go-anywhere look about it, or at least as aggressive as something so small can be; a hedgehog is sort of aggressive too with all of its spiky quills but so small as to come across as cute and cuddly.
The headlights are the separate unit kind with the lower items being the actual lights and the upper slivers housing the markers and signals. It’s got the requisite black trim around the fenders and most of the perimeter. The bodywork features some, dare I say, daring contours without being completely anti-social. The roof and mirrors can be spec’d in contrasting colors to the body, and in this trim level with the AWD option it gains another half inch of ground clearance for a total of 8 inches.
Styling is of course very subjective, my opinion is that they nailed it and I find this to be the most physically attractive SUV sold by the division currently. It gets people what they seem to want along with loads of practicality, economy, all weather capability, good build quality, and certainly value for money. Especially if one is selective with wants versus needs.
It’s probably obvious to everyone here, but the basic car is the same as the Buick Encore GX (the larger one of the two Encores), one of which we reviewed here last year. That one was a FWD version and I thought it a very good car while wondering how the AWD option might change it, now I can opine on that as well, and my thoughts will likely transfer right back to that Buick as well.
Just like with that car, the doors open wide and sitting down is a simple matter of sliding in with the seat at more or less the perfect height and the roof not in the way. The driver’s seat itself, while no wider than it absolutely needs to be to not have bits of me hanging over the edges, is comfortable and easy to adjust along with providing two-way (i.e. either more or less but at a fixed spot) lumbar support. The driver’s seat was powered with 10-way adjustments while the passenger’s was a four way strictly manual affair.
The roof is high and in this case there was no sunroof provided although a panoramic one is an available option, here leaving me with an abundance of headroom. The steering wheel is well-shaped and covered in leather (as is the gear shifter) while the seats themselves are draped in a faux-leather material that felt good to the touch.
Instrumentation is clear, providing all the important information with a center display between the gauges for more information that can be toggled through with a control on the wheel. In conjunction with that as well as telephone and adaptive cruise controls on the wheel, radio volume and presets can be adjusted via buttons on the back of it an easy finger’s reach away without removing hands from its well-padded rim.
Much of the dash and door panels are hard plastic except for the areas most likely to come in contact with the driver or passenger and not any worse off for it. There were a few attractive colored accent pieces in this one (a coppery color as opposed to the exterior bronze accent paint) that do a lot more than the ubiquitous silver pieces do, and a sort of black/gray denim-like material in the door where the back of your hand might hit it.
In the center of the dashboard is of course the touchscreen, in this case integrated into the dashboard and upgraded from the standard 7″ to an 8″ version and providing audio, secondary HVAC, communication, and vehicle settings options. The backup camera picture quality housed within is of notably higher quality than that of many cars costing multiples of this price and is far better than it needs to be.
Navigation is not included but directions can be provided using the included OnStar system. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are on board too (wirelessly!) and can easily fulfill navigation duties as well. A central volume button and some basic controls at the base serve to fulfill most users’ wishes for some hard buttons.
While there are two vents above the screen, the dedicated HVAC console is right below it, in this case providing a single zone automatic HVAC option. Knobs for temperature and fan speed, with buttons for direction of airflow, defroster options as well as the (front) heated seats make for a user-friendly and simple to understand and use system. Note that the Buick referenced earlier was provided with different electric/electronic options in regard to the seats and the HVAC.
The chrome dials of the knobs on this one though were frankly unpleasant to use though with little tactile feedback but, even worse, being very loose and flimsy with significant play in them, not what I was expecting and a clear area for improvement no matter the price level. It was almost enough to just use the touchscreen instead.
Under the HVAC module are multiple outlets/inputs including a small AUX input, USB, USB-C, as well as a regular 12v one and a SD-memory-card slot. And just below that resides the bin that contains a wireless phone charger with enough slope in it to securely hold a phone in place until the end of a journey. A small button bank controls the safety assist items as well as the button to engage the AWD which I’ll discuss further below.
Aft of that is the gear shifter with a button to hold (or max out at anyway) a selected gear, the electric parking brake and two cupholders. Behind that another bin and then the padded armrest which is the lid for yet another storage space. The passenger also has a small shelf ahead of them above the glovebox for small oddments, but it isn’t really deep enough for a modern smartphone. Perhaps a pen or some mints etc.
The back seat too was roomy enough for me, my 6’1″ self had good space both around head and shoulders as well as the knees, it’s not swimming in room for people my size but not at all bad for the exterior size. Cupholders, various media plugs at the back of the center console, and decent sightlines at least to the sides make this an area that is easily usable for adults as well as children.
In regard to children (or smaller people I suppose), I was able to wrangle one of my own flock and convinced him to help produce a short video extolling the virtues of this particular back seat area from the perspective of a frequent back seat occupant which is below.
The cargo area is fairly roomy with a spare tire below the floor and tool kit, as well as some space around it to stow smaller and/or softer items . This example did not have a powered rear hatch, but it is available as well if desired. As you’ve seen if you took the in my opinion well worth it four minutes to watch, even those smaller of stature though can reach high enough to close it manually.
The box above measures 19″x19″x17″ and is pushed up against the rear seat. The hatch closed just fine on it and being a fairly upright design the rear space is practical. There are also small bins to the sides that can hold loose items to stop them from bouncing all around the whole area. In total the rear area provides just over 25 cubic feet of cargo space and with the rear seats folded that expands to 54 cubic feet.
The rear seats fold in a 60/40 split manner for more space and the passenger seat can fold forward to become completely flat as well, which could be used for a rear passenger to stretch their legs out or more likely to enable the carrying of longer items very easily. Perhaps there isn’t a need for a Suburban after all, you could get three of these instead. Or just one or two and leave some for others.
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