SUVs offer many advantages over traditional sedans and hatchbacks––a higher seating position for easy entry and a clear view of the road, good ground clearance for avoiding obstacles and driving on rough terrain, and a more spacious interior for comfort and cargo room. However, not everyone needs or wants a large SUV. Perhaps you spend most of your time commuting and want good gas mileage, or perhaps you live in an area with crowded streets where a large vehicle is a hindrance. Situations like these are where a subcompact SUV like the 2020 Chevy Trax shines. These vehicles combine all the advantages of the SUV and the car in a package that is versatile and economical.
First introduced in 2012, the Chevy Trax (alongside its counterpart, the Buick Encore) was a pioneer of the subcompact SUV concept. And while the other major manufacturers have since released their own vehicles in this class, the Trax remains one of the best options and successfully competes on features, performance, and value.
Bigger on the Inside
With a curb weight of slightly over 3,100 pounds and an overall length a touch less than 167 inches, the 2020 Chevy Trax more than lives up to its subcompact moniker. This makes it an excellent choice if you are looking for something to squeeze through city streets or fit into small parking spaces. However, the inside of the 2020 Chevy Trax is another story all together. While the rear seat is not the most comfortable in the world, with 38.8 inches of headroom and 35.7 inches of legroom, it is good enough for occasional use or for kids. But the front seat offers the roomy ride that is expected of an SUV, with an excellent 39.6 inches of headroom and 40.8 inches of legroom.
If you are shopping for an SUV because you need carrying capacity, then the 2020 Chevy Trax has you covered. When the 60/40 folding rear seats are fully in place, it has a respectable 18.7 cubic feet of cargo space. But folding the rear seats will expand that to a cavernous 48.4 cubic feet and give you a cargo bay that is just shy of 5-feet deep. Further, the front passenger’s seat can fold flat, allowing you to fit even longer items with ease. This cargo space makes the Trax a great option if your work or hobbies involve lots of gear, and unlike a traditional hatchback or wagon (which may have similar space) the higher cargo floor and liftgate on the Trax means that you will not constantly be bending down and hitting your head.
The only real mechanical drawback of the 2020 Chevy Trax is the engine. While the 1.4L turbocharged four-cylinder provides more than enough power for city driving (especially considering the light weight of the Trax) and the turbo means that its 148 pound-feet of torque is readily available instead of being buried near the redline, its 138 horsepower can be lacking on the highway. However, lower power is something of the price that you must pay for a good fuel economy. And at 26 MPG in the city and 31 MPG on the highway (for the FWD version), the fuel economy of the 2020 Chevy Trax is excellent for an SUV. All in all, the engine on the Trax is far from a wrong choice, but it would have been nice to see a more powerful option available (such as the 252 horsepower turbocharged 2.0L engine from the Chevy Equinox).
Despite its low $21,300 MSRP, the 2020 Chevy Trax has a reasonable assortment of standard features. These include items such as a 6-speaker audio system, a digital compass, dual USB ports (important if you and a passenger both need to charge your phones), and OnStar. But the highlight is Chevrolet’s excellent standard Infotainment 3. On the 2020 Chevy Trax, this system is built around a 7-inch touchscreen and is compatible with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, making it easy to connect your phone regardless of which operating system you prefer. The infotainment also includes a full set of both voice commands and steering wheel controls to ensure that your attention remains on the road rather than hunting for buttons (or worse––trying to use a touchscreen). Finally, it comes with a 4G LTE wireless hotspot for maximum connectivity.
Optional features for the base LS trim are sparse and mainly consist of the usual floor mats and cargo organizers. However, there is an optional remote start system, which can be invaluable in colder climates. Unfortunately, cruise control is not standard on the LS trim, but part of a package that comes with window tints. But the single most important decision is whether to spend the money to upgrade to AWD.
The Higher Trims
Jumping from the base LS trim to the LT trim will make cruise control standard as well as add SiriusXM satellite radio to the infotainment system. The optional Driver Convenience package will further add keyless open, push button start, a six-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and a leatherette seat trim. Given the features, it is difficult to argue against this package, and it probably should have been standard equipment. Whether to add the Sound and Sun package with its Bose 7-speaker sound system and power sunroof is more dependent on personal desires.
However, the real advantages of the LT trim are in its vastly superior exterior lighting. The reflector headlights are upgraded to more powerful projector-beam lights, while the standard taillights and daytime running lights are changed to long-lasting LEDs. As any driver knows, how safe you are at night depends on how well you can see and be seen, and these lighting upgrades are a significant improvement over the base trim. The other safety option on the LT trim of the 2020 Chevy Trax is the Driver Confidence Package, which adds side blind zone alert, rear park assist, and rear cross traffic alert. While these are not the most valuable safety features, for the price, they are probably worth it and would probably pay for themselves if they help you avoid just one parking lot fender bender.
If you want a more comprehensive set of safety equipment, then it is only available on the Premier trim of the 2020 Chevy Trax. This includes all the optional features of the LT trim as well as forward collision alert and lane departure warning. Exterior lighting is also further upgraded with a set of fog lights. However, if you do not feel the need for those additional safety features, then the Premier trim is not a particularly good bargain as all of the other features can be had for less on an appropriately optioned LT trim. And if you do not want the 18” wheels, improved sound system, and sunroof, then the LT trim will run you nearly $3,500 less than the Premier trim. Overall, you will find the Chevy Trax to be an affordable vehicle, perfect for city drivers.