Chevrolet has a sordid history with entry-level compacts – some excellent (Nova), others not (Vega), and a few unfairly maligned (Corvair, Cavalier). My first car was a 1989 Geo Spectrum, built by Isuzu and sold through Chevrolet, that served me well through high school and college. Chevrolet no longer builds small cars, but none compared to its current entry offering, the 2024 Trax crossover. Spend extra to get this seriously excellent entry-level crossover in RS trim.
And, it does look good in RS trim with a large black chrome grille, 19 alloy wheels, black moldings, and LED headlamps. It’s a much sexier car, longer and lower than its predecessor, looking more like a Camaro crossover than the Chevy version of a popular Buick. It’s especially fetching in our car’s Cayenne Orange paint with spoiler and roof rails, though the rear view is a little frumpy. Little red RS badges tell others you’re not completely boring.
If there’s Camaro on the outside, Corvette seeped inside with the twin-screen arrangement for gauges and infotainment. It’s all very crisp, bright, and easy to access. Devices connect via wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Just toss you phone onto the wireless charger and go. Beyond that, our RS got red accents, thick heated flat-bottom steering wheel, “Evotex” upholstered seats – heated in front – and a sunroof. Tap around and you realize the textured dash is hard plastic, seats are manually adjusted, and there’s only one zone for the automatic climate control, but at least it all works well while the cabin is kept quiet with active noise cancellation.
It’s also kept safe with a full array of safety tech that includes adaptive cruise, automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist, and blind spot warning. That adds peace of mind when you storming down the highway…and it can storm down the highway.
Don’t let its cylinder count turn you off. The RS’ 1.2-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine sends a peppy 137 horsepower and 162 lb.-ft. of torque to the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. You can get all-wheel-drive in the Trailblazer that shares the Trax’ architecture, but not in the Trax. There’s really no need unless you plan to bust trails because front-drive with traction control will handle all the snow you’re likely to encounter. Even better, fuel economy is rated a frugal 28/32-MPG city/highway.
Just last week, I drove a Buick Encore with the same engine from Indianapolis to Memphis and back, over a thousand miles. That engine is a dream at Interstate speeds, providing just the right amount of torque to carry it through the hills of Kentucky and Tennessee. Put in the RS with its tight steering and chassis, and it is a lot of fun. GM is excellent at developing chassis that are comfortable and engaging. Four-wheel disc brakes are right-now ready. You’ll barely notice the torsion beam rear suspension because it rumbles over the rough stuff and plants corners with aplomb.
After college, I almost traded my Geo for a Chevy Cavalier Z24, but bought a Saturn SC2 instead. The Z24 didn’t seem as good. When I inflation-adjust what I paid for the Saturn coupe, it comes to over $30,000. I loved that car, but would have lost my mind over the Trax at a base price of $21,485 or just $27,080 as-tested. This is a thoroughly enjoyable crossover at a stupidly low price. Competitors include the Hyundai Kona, Toyota Corolla Cross, Honda HR-V, Subaru Crosstrek, and Nissan Kicks.
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