The 2024 Trax is Chevrolet’s bid for the lower end of the new car market in the U.S. In fact, the Trax is now going to be the cheapest car Chevy sells in America, which brings the General hope that the new and improved version of its entry-level crossover can turn a first-time Chevy buyer into a lifelong customer. And it’s quite the shoe to fill, as the previous version of the crossover found itself under pressure to make a good case for the brand — pressure that it was more or less, unable to handle. But the second-generation Trax is here to change that.
Full Disclosure: Chevy invited me to drive the new Trax in Asheville, North Carolina. The company flew me out, put me in a nice hotel, and fed me. Chevy told us its game plan for the all-new Trax while the Miami Heat pulled an upset over the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 4, which was a nice reminder that, every now and then, even an underdog like the Trax can come back a winner.
First things first: other than the nameplate or badge, the 2024 Trax has very little in common with its predecessor. The previous Chevy Trax was based on the Buick Encore, while this new one is based on the Buick Envista. If you’re keeping track of all GM’s new products — the Envista debuted in 2022 in China, where it’s known as the Chevy Seeker, and its production has been ongoing in South Korea.
The Buick Envista and both of its Chevy cousins are built on the same GM platform, known as the VSS-F; the Chevy Trailblazer also rides on this platform. What’s odd is that the new Trax looks a lot like the bigger Chevy Blazer, and its designers were emphatic when speaking to the family resemblance. Granted, the resemblance is there. Indeed, the Trax no longer looks like a little egg on wheels, but now has a more active appearance. I guess that’s fitting for the top-spec Trax Activ trim, but the lower LS, 1RS, LT and 2RS models look good, too.
Compared to the outgoing model, the new Trax is four inches lower, which Chevy says improves handling, but we’ll get into that a little later. The crossover’s wheelbase is six inches longer than before, as well as 11 inches longer overall and two inches wider.
Those big changes extend to the Trax’s engine bay where under the hood sits a 1.2-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine making 137 horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque. For reference, that’s one fewer cylinder than the engine in the outgoing Trax, which had a 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that made 155 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque. All 2024 Trax models will come with the same engine, paired exclusively with a six-speed automatic transmission. Weirdly, despite being a crossover, the Trax is only available with front-wheel drive.
Despite the smaller engine, the new Trax will sprint from 0 to 60 miles per hour quicker than before, and fuel economy is improved, too. The Trax will now get up to 28 miles per gallon in the city, 32 mpg on the highway and up to 30 mpg combined — an improvement of 4 mpg in the city compared to the old model.
I initially thought the Trax would be boring to drive, with tons of body roll as it clumsily takes tight turns. But I was pleasantly surprised and happily proven wrong, because the Trax was just as happy puttering around Asheville as it was weaving left and right along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
The Trax is nicely composed when the parkway forces the driver to change direction dramatically. Tight left. Tight right. Here’s a sweeper, now another. Nice banked turn on that down slope. Now brake for the pickup pulling that RV. This thing is surprisingly fun.
Still, the telos of the Trax is not performance; its ultimate aim is practicality and value. This is a cheap car, starting at about $21,000 and yet it’s still pretty fun to drive. It’s also easy to see out of, despite the flattened profile. And in the loaded Trax Activ – which comes with a 11-inch center screen, 8-inch infotainment display and colorful interior scheme – the cabin is nicely appointed.
You already know the drill nowadays in any new car: Climb in, buckle up, and then plug in your USB cable and start Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. A lot of cars now feature wireless CarPlay or Android Auto, complete with inductive charging for ease of use, and the Chevy Trax is no different. You just drop your phone onto the wireless charging pad and off you go. I’m a stickler for audio quality and a proponent of hardwired anything, so I prefer to still plug in if given a choice.
The native interface is functional, if not boring, but the layout of the screen’s information, as well as the physical controls for the HVAC, etc., is excellent. Apple CarPlay is, well, CarPlay, and the center screen is angled toward the driver. The buttons and the dials are mostly arranged in a way that makes sense, but I couldn’t get used to the placement of the volume knob, which doubles as the power button.
The knob is too small to see easily, and has the same glossy black finish as the screen. I kept reaching over to crank the tunes only to pinch at the empty air. Taking your eyes off the road to scan the dash for the volume knob is not ideal, but I suppose owners will get used to the placement over time.
Beyond infotainment, the Trax’s interior fit and finish is about what you would expect from a modern entry-level car, which is to say it’s nicer than expected. The Trax may be at the bottom of Chevy’s lineup, but it doesn’t feel cheap.
The Chevy Trax will start at $21,495 for the base model LS, but it can go up to around $27,500 on higher with all the option boxes checked. The Trax 2RS and Trax Activ are the uppermost trims, both starting at $24,995. They feature similar standard features and the usual driver-assistance technologies (automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist, and forward collision alerts, among others) but come with different looks to suit different drivers. I’m partial to the color-matched front end of the Trax Activ, myself.
In terms of pricing, the Trax lineup compares favorably to its key competitor, the Toyota Corolla Cross. Of course, the crossover Corolla comes with a bigger 2.0-liter engine and optional all-wheel drive, but the Trax feels more responsive and light on its feet. Other solid compact SUV options include the Hyundai Kona and Subaru Crosstrek.
The new Chevy Trax is a well-meaning and inexpensive car, which is to say it’s a good entry-level offering, and a damn decent daily driver. The Trax’s value proposition is good overall, and this crossover no longer feels like an afterthought in Chevy’s lineup. More importantly, the Trax can confindetly make a case for an encore performance from Chevrolet come trade-in time.