Used 2016 Chevrolet Trax Review

Edmunds expert review

The 2016 Chevrolet Trax is worth consideration if you're looking for an affordable suburban runabout that's easy to drive, easy to park and offers up-to-date technology. It's not quick, though, and its interior materials are far from best in class.




What's new for 2016

Coming off its introduction last year, the Chevrolet Trax is essentially unchanged.

Vehicle overview

At a time of lower gas prices, the surging interest in the subcompact crossover segment has surprised quite a few carmakers. General Motors, however, isn't one of them, having launched Buick's Encore (built atop the same platform as the Trax) in 2013. The surprising success of the Encore led Chevrolet to introduce the Trax to American showrooms in 2015.

The 2016 Chevy Trax takes a more youthful approach to styling than the related Buick Encore.

The 2016 Chevrolet Trax occupies the small end of America's most expansive SUV lineup, beginning here and ending at Chevy's larger-than-life Suburban. Between the XS and XXL are the Equinox, Traverse and Tahoe. Those wanting to combine maximum utility along with some towing capability and efficiency would be well served to compare the Trax with Chevy's next-size-up Equinox; it provides a significantly larger and more useful footprint for not a significantly higher price point. But for tight urban areas where even the smallest cars feel large, the Trax makes more sense.

For general use, though, the 2016 Trax isn't quite as fun as its size might suggest. Its four-cylinder engine has just enough pep for city driving, but it runs out of steam quickly when you're accelerating at highway speeds. The ride quality isn't all that great, either, as it can exhibit a fair amount of choppiness on rough roads. Handling and steering are also below par.

The Chevrolet Trax does have some good attributes, including relatively roomy seating, a healthy complement of standard features and impressive crash test ratings. But the subcompact crossover class is led by Mazda's CX-3, Jeep's Renegade (and its platform mate, the Fiat 500X) and Honda's new HR-V. The Mazda has the best on-road dynamics, the Jeep supplies the most credible all-road capability and the Honda's interior provides the best balance between seating comfort and storage space. Overall, we'd recommend going with one of these models before finding new roads with a Chevrolet Trax.




Trim levels & features

The 2015 Chevrolet Trax is a five-passenger subcompact crossover offered in LS, LT and LTZ trim levels. Each is available with either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive.

Standard equipment on the LS includes 16-inch steel wheels, automatic headlights, full power accessories, air-conditioning, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a 60/40-split-folding rear seat, a fold-flat front passenger seat and a rear cargo cover. Standard electronics features include the Chevrolet MyLink interface with a 7-inch touchscreen and integrated smartphone apps, a rearview camera, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, GM's OnStar telematics (with 4G WiFi), Siri Eyes Free voice control for iPhones and a six-speaker sound system with a USB port and an auxiliary audio jack.

The LT trim adds alloy wheels, roof rails, rear privacy glass, cruise control, remote engine start, heated outside mirrors, storage under the front passenger seat, a 110-volt power outlet and satellite radio.

Going with the LTZ gets you 18-inch alloy wheels, rear parking sensors, a six-way power driver seat, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, leatherette premium vinyl upholstery, heated front seats and a seven-speaker Bose audio system.

A relatively bland interior design is made worse by marginal materials. We do like the standard touchscreen, though.

Options are minimal. The LT is offered with an optional Convenience package, which includes the six-way power driver seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, cloth/leatherette upholstery and rear parking sensors. With Chevy's Sun and Sound package you can upgrade your LT with the Bose audio system and a sunroof. The sunroof can be added separately to the LTZ.



Performance & mpg

Every 2016 Chevrolet Trax comes with a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. The engine produces 138 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque. In Edmunds testing, a 2015 Trax LTZ with all-wheel drive accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 10 seconds flat. This is about a second slower than similarly sized and purposed small crossovers. A front-drive Trax was quicker at 8.9 seconds, but this is still below-par acceleration.

The EPA's estimated fuel economy figures are 29 mpg combined (26 city/34 highway) with front-wheel drive and 27 mpg combined (24 city/31 highway) with all-wheel drive. These are respectable figures for this class of vehicle, but similar to our experience with the Chevrolet Sonic and Cruze (which share this turbocharged 1.4-liter engine) we've found it difficult to achieve the EPA's ratings in real-world driving.

Safety

The 2016 Chevrolet Trax comes standard with antilock brakes, traction and stability control, front-seat side airbags, front and rear side curtain airbags, and knee airbags for the driver and front passenger. Front-wheel-drive models have front disc brakes and rear drum brakes, while all-wheel-drive versions have four-wheel disc brakes. At the Edmunds test track, an LTZ AWD came to a halt from 60 mph in 120 feet, which is a slightly better-than-average distance for this class.

A rearview camera is standard on all versions, and the LTZ model adds rear parking sensors. Every Chevrolet Trax comes with a six-month OnStar emergency communications subscription, which includes automatic crash notification and roadside assistance.

In government crash tests, the 2016 Trax received a top five-star rating overall, with five stars for total frontal impact safety and five stars for total side crash safety. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Trax its highest possible rating of "Good" in its small-overlap frontal offset, moderate-overlap frontal offset, side impact and roof strength tests. The Trax's seat/head restraint design was also rated "Good" for whiplash protection in rear impacts.

Driving

With its small, urban-oriented footprint, the 2016 Chevrolet Trax is both easier to park and more maneuverable than larger crossovers. The LS and LT models are better riding because of their 16-inch wheels, but even here the ride can get overly choppy. It gets worse with the LTZ model and its 18-inch wheels. A busy ride, combined with the Trax's short wheelbase and somewhat vague steering, can generate a lack of straight-line stability on the highway. With that, you'll likely find yourself making frequent, albeit minor, steering corrections. When driven enthusiastically around turns, the Trax seems competent, although the uncommunicative steering and modest tire grip prevent drivers from enjoying any real engagement.

The engine's performance is also no better than adequate. Although the Trax's engine proves reasonably responsive in city driving, its lack of punch on the highway means merging and passing maneuvers require planning and patience. Regrettably, this is something also found on other competitive crossovers; both Honda's HR-V and Fiat's 500X seemingly come up short when asked to merge or pass. The better news is the six-speed automatic transmission, which shifts smoothly and quickly enough to wring the most out of the engine's limited power.

Interior

Despite its small footprint, the 2016 Chevrolet Trax enjoys plenty of useful interior space. Although the front seats are narrow, front-seat headroom and legroom are plentiful, while the rear seat has enough room for a pair of adults, provided neither adult is over 6 feet tall.

The Trax rear luggage area has a modest 18.7 cubic feet of cargo space, and while that's more than the average sedan's trunk (assuming you pack up to the roof) it's a modest amount of utility in what is sold as a sport-utility. The rear seats fold down to expand that to 48.4 cubic feet; lifting the seat bottoms first allows for a flat load floor, which is viable when trying to maximize available cargo space. Those 48 cubes are significantly more than what's offered by Nissan's Juke, and on par with the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, but constitute less total volume than vehicles like Jeep's Renegade, Kia's Soul or Subaru's XV Crosstrek.

The small Chevy's rear hatch opens to roughly 48 cubic feet of cargo space. The fold-down front passenger seat helps with carrying long items.

If its cargo space is relatively small, the big inside issue is the substandard quality of the interior materials. Hard plastic covers most interior surfaces, and the handful of soft-touch surfaces don't impress as substantial when viewed or touched. Another example of cost-cutting is the absence of a center console, which impacts available interior storage.

The Trax's standard MyLink interface features a 7-inch touchscreen on the dash that links with your smartphone to provide access to apps, pictures and even videos. Available apps for 2016 include Pandora, TuneIn and Stitcher Internet radio, and BringGo navigation. Available for a flat fee, BringGo works with select iPhones and Android smartphones to provide full navigation functionality, including traffic data and POI searches. It runs on your phone (and relies on your phone's data connection), but you can control and view it on the Trax's touchscreen. Compared to traditional factory navigation systems, BringGo is cheaper to buy and easier to update, but as with similar systems, it's not compatible with all phones. In addition, the MyLink touchscreen sometimes fails to register touch inputs, which can be frustrating.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.