The compact / sub-compact crossover segment is one of the hot spots in the automotive industry. If you ain’t here, you ain’t a player.
Canadians are flocking to these CUVs in ever-increasing numbers. The result is a continual barrage of newcomers to the game. Look at the list: Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Toyota, and VW. General Motors alone has more than a half-dozen entries wearing Buick, Chevrolet, GMC, and even Cadillac badges.
One of the segment’s newcomers is the Chevy Trailblazer.
While it wears a familiar name, it has absolutely nothing in common with the mid-sizer that first appeared 20 years ago. The 2021 Chevy Trailblazer is a much smaller ute, based on a front-drive unibody platform powered by a three-cylinder engine.
You read that correctly – three cylinders – a pair of them displacing 1.2 and 1.3 litres!
Before going any further, let’s deal with the elephant in the room – the three-cylinder engines.
They may have a trio of tiny cylinders, each the size of a lawn mower engine, but modern technology allows them to punch well above their weight. In each case, a turbocharger forces an inordinate amount of air into the engine where it mixes with the appropriate amount of fuel before being ignited at the perfect moment by a high-tech electronic system.
The best way to put the results into perspective may be this: The smaller of the two produces 137 horsepower and the ‘larger’ one has 152 ponies in the corral. Doesn’t seem like much until you realize that if the engine was twice as large, and retained the same efficiency, it would displace 2.4 or 2.6 litres and produce 274 or 304 horsepower respectively – the upper range of current four-cylinder engines.
After 1,000 km in the 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer, the three cylinders felt like four, thanks to sophisticated electronics
The test vehicle had the turbo’d 1.3 and, after nearly 1,000 kilometres, I had come to think of it as thoroughly competent. If you didn’t know better, you would think it had four-cylinder power like everything else in this crowded class. Only once or twice did I detect a slightly vibration at idle to remind me of the odd cylinder count.
Passing on the open road or climbing steep grades at highway speeds finds the little triple breathing hard. BUT there are nine gears in the transmission and the sophisticated electronics ensures the engine stays in the heart of its powerband with no delays in downshifting to an appropriate lower gear as necessary.
The Trailblazer can hold its own in this league, but is happiest in more urban surroundings.
The 1.2-litre engine is paired with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) for use with front-drive versions of the Trailblazer only. Those with all-wheel-drive get the larger 1.3. and the nine-speed box.
All-wheel drive and a set of top-quality winter tires took the worry out of the first storm of the season! It was also pretty thrifty. I averaged 8.1 litres/100 km for a mixed bag of city and highway driving in cold weather.
It’s a pretty good looking little set of wheels, too, with lots of creases and character lines.
The tester had a two-tone paint job with a white roof contrasting with a “Zeus Bronze” lower portion helping it stand out in a crowded parking lot.
The roofline is pretty high and squared off, resulting in lots of headroom, front and rear seat. Tall door openings aid ease of entry and exit, no need to fold yourself in half and duck!
The front buckets are supportive and have a full range of adjustments. Combined with a tilt and telescope steering wheel it is easy for folks of all sizes and shapes to get comfy. The rear seat offers a surprising amount of room, considering the diminutive size of the vehicle. But don’t plan on long trip with a couple of basketball or football players back there, shoulder and knee room are in limited.
You can plan on carrying large objects!
The front passenger seatback folds down flat leaving an uninterrupted space from tailgate to dash.
There is a touch too much hard plastic inside for my liking, but the interior is nicely designed. There are pleasant little touches like contrast stitching and faux metal trim.
Buyers will also appreciate the amount of technology. At this trim level, you get a seven-speaker Bose audio system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, a WiFi hotspot, 20-cm colour touchscreen for the infotainment system and wireless charging for your phone.
There is a full slate of active and passive safety features, including automatic front emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane assist with lane departure warning, blind zone and rear cross traffic alert and rear park assist.
This stylish city-friendly crossover is small without being tiny. It offers lots of interior room and all-season capability.
FACTS & FIGURES – 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer 4WD ACTIV
As tested: $37,478 including freight
Lane change alert with side blind zone alert, rear cross traffic alert, rear park assist, automatic emergency braking, front pedestrian braking, lane keep assist with lane departure warning, following distance indicator, forward collision alert.
Chevrolet Infotainment 3 Plus system, 20-cm HD colour touchscreen, AM/FM stereo, Bluetooth audio streaming for two active devices, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capable, voice recognition, in-vehicle apps, cloud connected personalization for select infotainment and vehicle settings. Subscription required for enhanced and connected services after trial period.
Keyless push-button start, all-wheel-drive, 17-in machined aluminum wheels, automatic headlights, heated power mirrors, heated front seats, eight-way power driver seat, tilt & telescope steering wheel, compass, power windows and locks, remote keyless entry, cruise control, air conditioning
Zeus Bronze Metallic paint, $495; technology package, (Includes Chevrolet Infotainment 3 Plus system, HD Radio, SiriusXM, seven-speaker Bose audio system, memory card receptacle, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, wireless charging, adaptive cruise control, HD rear vision camera, enhanced, 11-cm driver information centre and LED headlights), $1,995; sun & light package, (power, dual-pane, panoramic sunroof, power, programmable hands-free liftgate with LED logo projection), $1,995; convenience package (automatic climate control, one type-A and one type-C charging only USB ports, 120-volt power outlet, auto-dimming rear view mirror), $695
Turbocharged 1.3-litre three-cylinder, 155-horsepower, 174 lb.ft. of torque – regular fuel; nine-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel-drive NRCan rating (litres/100km city/highway): 8.9 / 7.8
Length, 4,412-mm; width, 1,898-mm; wheelbase, 2,639-mm; weight, 1,523-kg
Honda HR-V, Hyundai Kona, Kia Seltos, Nissan Kicks, Mazda CX-30, Toyota CH-R