It seems to be a new trend these days of auto manufacturers taking classic nameplates and repurposing them for new crossovers. In Chevrolet’s case, it was the Blazer first and now it’s the Trailblazer. The old Chevrolet Trailblazer used to be a rugged off-road SUV but now it’s part of a fast growing subcompact crossover segment. So how well does it do against its competitors?
Engine – The 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer is available with two engines, both of which are turbocharged 3-cylinders. Nope, that’s not a typo. The base engine is a 1.2L turbo 3-cylinder while the optional engine – as equipped – is a 1.3L turbocharged 3-cylinder. This 1.3L produces 155 hp and 174 lb-ft of torque (115 kW & 236 Nm) which is actually more than what you get in the Nissan Qashqai but less than the Kia Seltos with the optional 1.6L turbo engine. The 0-100 km/h sprint is predictably not very quick at 9.5 seconds but it’s fast enough to not impede anyone’s way when setting off from a stop. The peak torque figure is reached at a very low 1,500 rpm which actually makes the Trailblazer feel quite peppy when you need a burst of acceleration. However, overtaking on a highway requires a bit of planning.
The benefit of cutting off a cylinder is reduced weight and increased fuel economy. The 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer RS with AWD is rated at 8.9 L/100km (26.4 MPG) in a city and 7.8 L/100km (30.2 MPG) on a highway. During my time with the crossover, I managed an average of 8.5 L/100km. Also an interesting fact, the Trailblazer has a switchable AWD system that can physically disengage the driveshaft from the rear wheels. By not having the driveshaft spin, Chevrolet says that you can save up to 0.2 L/100km.
Transmission – Front-wheel-drive Trailblazers come equipped with a CVT while AWD Trailblazers receive a 9-speed automatic. Let the transmission do its own thing and you barely notice it in everyday situations. Shifts are smooth and it doesn’t feel as though the transmission is hunting for the right gear when you put your foot down. Just don’t expect quick reactions from the transmission if you decide to take over shifting duties with the gear selector mounted buttons.
Braking – One of the biggest selling points of the Chevy Trailblazer is standard active safety features such as automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection. Thankfully the system never needed to intervene during my time with the Trailblazer but it’s a blanket of security and a nice feature to have even on a bare bone trim of the crossover. As for the brakes themselves, they bring the 1,507 kg (3,322 lbs) body to a stop fairly quickly. The brake pedal provides a firmer feel the harder you push on it but it doesn’t actually require much force to bring the car to a stop under normal driving conditions.
Handling – Like many other subcompact crossovers, the 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer has light steering for easy maneuverability at parking lot speeds. Thing is though, the Trailblazer’s steering is much lighter than the competitors. It’s laughably light. You can turn the wheel with your pinky finger, that’s how light it is. It’s also lacking of any feel on center when driving. It does firm up slightly in Sport mode but the engine will remain at higher rpms for better acceleration thus reducing fuel economy. Granted, the steering response is very quick and direct regardless of what drive mode the car is in.
Ride Comfort – The Trailblazer is aimed at being a bit more of a sporty crossover and as such, the ride is on the firm side when compared to similarly sized crossovers. It’s not overly rough but small, quick bumps at higher speeds are quite evident in the cabin. On city streets, the suspension does a good job of absorbing bigger pot holes and not making it feel as though you drove over a landmine.
Interior Space – The Chevy Trailblazer is a tall crossover which translates to plenty of interior headroom for both front and rear occupants. Better still, the Trailblazer can boast the most rear legroom between itself, the Nissan Qashqai & the Kia Seltos. Just a note on the back seats, the bottom cushion is quite a bit firmer than the front seats. Behind the rear seats, the Chevy Trailblazer has 716 L (25.2 cu-ft) of cargo volume. Drop the rear seats and the cargo capacity increases to 1,540 L (54.4 cu-ft). But that’s not all because the Trailblazer has a party piece. The front passenger seat can also fold flat allowing for items that are around 8-feet in length to fit inside the crossover.
Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – While the engine only has 3 cylinders and is inherently unbalanced, the engineers did a great job of isolating the vibrations from the cabin. There are no more engine vibrations from this 3-cylinder than there are from a 4-cylinder in a similar crossover. The noise from the engine is also well subdued under normal driving conditions. Of course if you put your foot down, engine noise is very evident from the driver’s seat.
Odds and Ends
Gadgets – As mentioned earlier, the 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer comes equipped with a suite of advanced safety & driver aids. Forward collision alert with pedestrian detection and emergency braking, lane change alert with lane keep and auto high beam. Side zone alert – or blind spot sensors – and rear cross traffic alert are the only driver aids that are optional.
In terms of convenience features, the Trailblazer can be equipped with quite a bit. Heated seats, panoramic sunroof, power liftgate, HD backup camera, adaptive cruise control, wireless phone charging, LED headlights, automatic climate control, & Bose audio system to name a few. Apple CarPlay & Android Auto are standard but if you add the Technology package, you have the option to use the features wirelessly. A word of warning though, using wireless CarPlay or Android Auto drains your phone’s battery much more quickly.
Interior Design – The Trailblazer tries to give a sporty vibe with the interior design. In this RS trim, it has red accents around the angular vents, the shifter, and along the lower portion of the center console. This RS trim also adds the flat bottom steering wheel with contoured grips at the 9 & 3 positions. It is nice that the Trailblazer has physical buttons for items that you would use the most, for example the heated seats or climate control.
Exterior Design – Just like the interior, the exterior is styled to invoke sportyness. There’s a lot of Chevrolet Camaro in the design language which is not too bad looking. This RS trim comes with either a black or red contrasting roof – depending on the body colour – and lower trim levels are available with a white roof as well.
The 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer starts at $23,798 CAD ($19,995 USD) while a fully loaded RS trim will end up costing $35,500 CAD ($31,355 USD) before fees & taxes. That fully loaded price puts it in the same range as the Mazda CX-30 which is a better overall crossover of similar size. But if your budget is in the $27,000 to $29,000 CAD range, the Trailblazer is a good city crossover worth considering.
Thank you to Chevrolet Canada for providing the vehicle. www.Chevrolet.ca