Auto123 reviews the 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer.
There is seemingly no stopping the advances of SUVs as they win over the affections of 21st-century consumers. Manufacturers are pulling out all the stops to create utility vehicles of different sizes, shapes and capabilities. From the smallest to the largest, from the most luxurious to the most affordable, from the most urban to the most hardy, automotive giant GM has all the types motorists might want to meet their needs across its various brands.
But as in life, it takes practice to make perfect when it comes to developing the right SUV. The reborn Trailblazer sits at the end of a long road that has had its share of missteps and oddities. Think of the Pontiac Aztek, which many have dubbed one of the uglier SUVs ever produced and which drew a lot of criticism also for its questionable reliability. But that's ancient history! Now, there’s this new subcompact+ whipper-snapper of a 2021 Trailblazer that we had occasion to test-drive recently.
Small without being tiny, the Trailblazer sits between the Trax and the Equinox in the Chevy lineup. And for what it’s worth, it’s also much smaller than - and has nothing to do with - its ancestor that carried the same name.
This Trailblazer has style, it stands out in the automotive landscape, and it proudly displays its mission as a small SUV made for the urban jungle. The high-beam lights are placed at the top of the huge centre front grille, and just below them are the headlights that also incorporate turn signals. This type of design is becoming more commonplace among designers across the industry, particularly those making city-friendly SUVs and crossovers.
Now, not everyone likes this look, but on the Trailblazer, the result is rather pleasant. Also, our Activ version had a white roof which helped bring out its epic-sounding Zeus Bronze Metallic colour.
Honestly, we would never have chosen Zeus for our own vehicle, but after a week behind the wheel, we got quite friendly with it. Let's not forget, this an urban SUV designed to fit in tight spots and zip around in traffic, and generally it seeks to appeal to the demographic that wants that type of ride. In fact, Chevrolet also includes n the product offering original colours like Dark Copper Metallic, again with that contrasting roof in Summit White or Zeus Bronze Metallic. In short, the result is original and contributes positively to the overall youthful appearance of the vehicle.
Cabin space is generous both front and rear for a vehicle of this size. Passengers have plenty of room for their heads, shoulders and legs. The instrumentation, such as the audio system and climate controls are within easy reach and logically placed, and it requires very little adaptation to use them easily. The traction control, lane tracking, AWD and sport mode buttons are located at arm's length at the bottom of the center console. Behind these buttons, a charging plate for our smartphone was available in our Activ model.
The only regret was that there was no active vehicle auto-hold button, which allows you to keep the brakes applied at a red light without having to keep your foot on the brake pedal. Once you've tried this option, you frankly don’t want to do without it.
The other false note to our ears was the amount of cheapish plastic placed variously about in the passenger compartment. All the places you’re likely to touch easy reach are made of hard plastic, which makes the experience inside the vehicle a little poorer.
Chevrolet’s Safety Assistance system comes standard and includes many features that were previously optional or only available in more-expensive models. The standard system includes automatic front emergency braking with front pedestrian detection, lane assist with lane departure warning and a front collision warning system.
The standard system comes with a 7-inch screen, and as an option you can flush that in favour of one an inch larger. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay wireless applications are included as standard. Note that wireless connection is often only included as standard in luxury vehicles. The Trailblazer is, to my knowledge, the first vehicle to offer wireless connectivity for those apps.
Quite frankly, we loved driving this vehicle! Despite its small 1.3L engine consisting of three wee cylinders and mere 155 hp and modest 174 lb-ft of torque (in the case of the Activ variant), the Trailblazer’s powertrain helps it delivers on the performance front. GM has managed to make the model pleasant to drive, primarily because initial acceleration, while not explosive, is still well above average in this segment. The car is agile and responsive, and the brakes are powerful. Did we mention this car is a pleasure to drive?
Plus, in addition to enjoying this small, nervy vehicle, we were pleasantly surprised to register average fuel consumption of 8.1L/100 km, generally in a mixed urban-suburban environment.
Versions and prices
The Trailblazer starts at $26,443 for the basic LS version, including $1,800 freight to destination.
This entry-level version comes with a 1.2L engine making 137 hp and 162 lb-ft of torque at 2,500 RPM and managed by a continuously variable transmission (CVT), manual tailgate, 17-inch aluminum wheels, cloth seats, 7-inch screen for infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto wireless and a 4-speaker audio system. At this base price, the Trailblazer is front-wheel drive.
Note that all versions come with a fold-flat passenger seat.
The cheapest Trailblazer with all-wheel drive starts at $28,443, still in the LS version. Taking this option also adds the 1.3L engine, 9-speed automatic transmission and 6-speaker audio system.
The Activ and RS versions are better equipped, more attractive and, of course, come with a higher price tag. The Activ and RS come at the same price of $33,143, and in the former you get the AWD as well as an off-road appearance package, leather-wrapped interior elements and interior extras such as heated power seats and the enhanced 8-inch infotainment system. The Trailblazer RS has a slightly sportier look that's unique to the brand's RS versions (such as the RS Blazer) and adds 18-inch wheels and leather-and-cloth seats.
Despite its small size and its three-cylinder, the 2021 Chevrolet Traiblazer made a positive impression on us. From the first turns of the wheels, we noticed the ardour of its small engine that does not lack of breath at low speed. Its dynamic on-road behaviour and handling make it a small urban vehicle really well adapted to its environment.
Thanks to the on-demand all-wheel-drive system, more suited to a snowstorm than an off-road circuit, there’s a good chance we’ll be seeing a lot of Trailblazers zipping around Canadian towns and cities in the coming months.
Admittedly, things aren’t all sunshine and roses. The quality of workmanship, particularly as it concerns the abundance of hard plastic, will certainly make you hesitate between a Trailblazer and a CX-30 that can be had for the same price, while being better finished. On the other hand, the little Mazda offers less interior space. These will be among the factors to consider before making your choice.
We like less
Slightly stiff seat
The 3-cylinder is less impressive at high speed