The wave of small utility vehicles continues to expand with models such as the 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer.
Not to be confused with the new-for-2020 Blazer, the Trailblazer name originated with a much larger Chevrolet utility model sold in the 2000s.
The new urban-oriented version shares only the name with the earlier truck-based model and is noticeably larger than the current Chevrolet Trax.
The Trailblazer has much in common with the equally new Buick Encore GX, sharing the platform, dimensions and powertrain lineup. Both models are imported from Korea, but each has its own distinctive look.
From the front, the Trailblazer displays an oversize grille and rounded hood that’s similar in shape to other vehicles in Chevy’s stable, most notably the bigger Blazer. The rest of the body hints of the Trailblazer’s multi-functional leanings, with slightly bulging fenders and darkened trim surrounding the wheel openings and alongside the rocker panels.
Compared with the Trax, the Trailblazer is about 18 centimetres longer, slightly wider and has a 7.5-cm advantage between the front and rear wheels. However the Trax holds a slight advantage in cargo volume, owing to a taller roofline.
Chevrolet deserves kudos for the Trailblazer’s interior, especially the straightforward dashboard and gauges along with an integrated touch-screen (7.0- or optional 8.0-inch varieties) and traditional floor shifter. There’s nothing fancy to see here, just clean and uncomplicated controls that should be easily mastered.
The roomy cabin ensures that front-and back-seat passengers will experience sufficient head and legroom. When not in use, the optional split-folding rear-seatback sections fold perfectly flat (rarely seen on competing vehicles), as does the available folding front-passenger seat, which will come in handy when transporting items up to 2.6-metres long.
Keeping the Trailblazer on the move is a pair of new turbocharged three-cylinder engines. The base 1.2-litre unit puts out 137 horsepower and 166 pound-feet of torque, while the optional 1.3-litre steps up with 155 horsepower and 174 pound-feet.
Both engines are linked to continuously variable transmissions, but the 1.3 can be ordered with a nine-speed automatic, which also includes all-wheel-drive with Normal, Sport and Snow modes. AWD is a feature not offered in some competing vehicles such as the Nissan Kicks, Toyota C-HR and Hyundai Venue.
Interestingly, the FWD 1.3 — rated at 8.0 l/100 km in the city, 7.2 on the highway and 7.6 combined — uses less fuel than the 1.2-litre (8.4/7.5/8.0).
Pricing starts at $25,700 for the base L trim, including destination charges. However it lacks alloy wheels and Apple CarPlay and Android connectivity. A four-speaker audio system without satellite radio is standard. The L does come with adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist with lane-departure warning, and emergency braking with pedestrian detection.
The LS comes with the folding passenger seat plus a six-speaker audio system and alloy wheels, while the LT bulks up with heated front seats, a roof rack, a remote engine starter and fog lamps.
The Activ grade, along with turbo 1.3 engine, receives off-road suspension tuning, a protective skid plate and unique wheels and tires.
Topping the trim list is the RS, which is the same price as the Activ ($32,900). The RS gets a leather-trimmed interior (including a flat-bottom steering wheel), rear centre armrest and 18-inch wheels (17-inchers are standard).
Heading the options list is a panoramic sunroof, a hands-free power liftgate, rear-park assist, 4G Wi-Fi hotspot and a seven-speaker Bose-brand audio system.
Chevrolet and competing automakers have zoned right in on this size of vehicle as well as the pricepoint. The question is whether the Trailblazer can stand out in a sea of attractive alternatives with similar looks, powertrain choices and features. It could boil down to personal preference and financing options, which means the Trailblazer should be on your shopping list.
What you should know: 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer
Type: Front- /all-wheel-drive subcompact utility vehicle
Engines (h.p.): 1.2-litre I-3, turbocharged (137); 1.3-litre I-3, turbocharged (155)
Transmission: Continuously variable (CVT); nine-speed automatic
Market position: The Trailblazer is Chevrolet’s second entry in the subcompact utility class, but differs from the Trax in terms of size, style and performance. It competes in an increasingly crowded segment along with similar domestic and import-based models.
Points: Body styling is similar to other Chevrolet utility vehicles. • Both available turbocharged three-cylinder engines aren’t particularly powerful. • Standard array of safety tech covers most contingencies. • Base model is well-priced but lacks many items that most buyers are looking for. • Available all-wheel-drive, which isn’t offered for all other competitors.
Driver assist: Blind-spot warning with cross-traffic backup alert (opt.); active cruise control (std.); front and rear emergency braking (opt); lane-departure warning (std.); pedestrian detection (std.)
L/100 km (city/hwy): 8.4/7.5 (1.2)
Base price (incl. destination): $25,700
- Base price: $24,100
- Small model comes with a turbo 1.0-litre I-3 or opt. non-turbo 2.0-litre I-4
- Base price: $22,950
- Compact wagon offers two gasoline-engine choices plus an all-electric option.
- Base price: $23,400
- It isn’t very roomy for people or cargo, but it is fun to drive.
– written by Malcom Gunn, Managing Partner at Wheelbase Media