Last year, Chevrolet demonstrated that you can never have too many SUV choices, adding a seventh vehicle – the 2021 Trailblazer – to their already extensive SUV/CUV lineup. The Trailblazer is best classified as a “subcompact-plus” because size-wise and price-wise it slots neatly between the little Trax subcompact and the bigger Equinox compact.
And, yes, the Trailblazer is all-new, no relation to the slightly differently-named and larger TrailBlazer that served sporadically as an on-again, off-again midsize sport ute in years past.
The 2021 Trailblazer, developed and built by GM Korea, aims for a youthful design with unique front fascias and a sports car-inspired rear design. An available two-tone paint palette follows the lead of competitors aimed at the same young customer base – the Nissan Kicks, Hyundai Venue and Toyota C-HR for example.
Trailblazer prices range from $23,798 – $30,498 across four trim levels – LS, LT, Activ and RS – with different stylings to allow some personalization choices.
The LS and LT start with graduated levels of content and a frugal 1.2-litre turbo three-cylinder engine (137 hp, 166 lb-ft) mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT) operating in front-wheel drive. Opting for the available all-wheel drive system adds a slightly larger, slightly more powerful 1.3-litre turbo three-cylinder engine (155 hp, 174 lb-ft) mated to a nine-speed automatic instead of the CVT.
The two upper trim level models – the Activ and RS – come standard with that upgraded 1.3-litre AWD powertrain, offer top-of-the-line content levels and are both equally priced at $30,498, but they are individually designed with different intents.
The Activ adds a light-duty off-road flavour, displaying a signature Chevy dual-port grille with the lower fascia raised for a sharper approach angle. It adds specially tuned shocks, a functional skid plate, trapezoidal exhaust tips and 17-inch aluminum wheels mounting all-terrain tires. I kind of lean toward this model because I like the available black & brown interior and the white or bronze roof colour choices from its two-tone palette.
Tested here, however, we have the Trailblazer RS with more of an on-road style, its Rally Sport demeanour starting with a Camaro-inspired mesh grille and unique front splitter elements. The RS stands on bigger 18-inch High Gloss Black machined aluminum wheels and also features polished round dual-outlet exhaust tips, red RS markings and black bowtie badging. Our RS tester came wrapped in an eye-catching hue of Oasis Blue, contrasted by a Mosaic Black Metallic “floating” roof. A Scarlet Red Metallic roof is also available.
The RS sport styling influence continues inside with red-stitching and silver piping on the trim-specific cloth and leatherette seats. Other sport accents include more red stitches on the dash, shifter boot and on the unique leather-wrapped flat-bottomed steering wheel. And there are more red cues on console and vent trim pieces and the RS shifter badge.
Okay, it looks sporty, you say. But does it walk the talk?
Well, let’s just say the Camaro influence ends with the front grille styling. But what can you expect from a diminutive but determined little three-banger. Other reviewers have griped about acceleration times because some people struggle with the concept of three-cylinder power but, frankly, for this segment, it does just fine, providing enough get-up-and-go to get the job done. The Trailblazer will even tow up to 454 kg (1,000lb), just about enough oomph to tow a toy, like a Jet Ski or snowmobile. An AWD button on the console allows the driver to select all-wheel drive for weather conditions or front-wheel drive for better fuel economy. A Sport mode button doesn’t really alter power delivery but it will modify steering effort, suspension tuning and automatic shift points.
Normally, the 9AT shifts early to a low-rev 1,500 r.p.m. cruising baseline, which, along with Auto Stop/Start, contributes to a thrifty fuel economy rating of 8.9L/7.8L/100km (city/hwy). My real world results didn’t disappoint at 8.1L/100km (comb).
Inside, the seats may be smallish and firm but they are comfortable and the upright cabin architecture allows for agreeable four passenger seating, maybe five in a pinch. Behind the seats, a hands-free power liftgate opens to a rear cargo area that features side cubbies and tie-down rings and offers 716 litres of room, expanding to 1,540 litres of space with the second row folded. The front passenger seat also flops forward to allow items up to 260 cm (8.5-feet) long. And the two-tier cargo floor can be adjusted up or down or flipped for a choice of either a carpeted or smooth finish. Nice touches.
As you’d expect in an upper trim level, the Trailblazer RS comes with the mod cons including Front Pedestrian Braking, Automatic Emergency Braking, Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning. Our tester bolsters this with option packages containing too many extras to list, but notable add-ons include LED lighting, 4G LTE WiFi, wireless cellphone charger and wireless hookup to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto apps, 120V power outlet, Adaptive Cruise, HD Rear Camera, panoramic sunroof and a BOSE premium 7-speaker audio system.
There’s long list of capable crossovers in the entry-level utility vehicle market including brand new “in-betweeners” like the Kia Seltos, this Chevy Trailblazer and its Buick Encore GX sibling, varying sizes of smaller or bigger models, car-like performers like the Mazda CX-30, wagon-like contenders like the Subaru Crosstrek and more off-roadable versions like the Jeep Renegade.
Yup, plenty of choices in a busy small crossover sport utility segment.
And now one more choice worth considering with the 2021 Chevy Trailblazer.
The vehicle was provided to the writer by the automaker. Content and vehicle evaluations were not subject to approval.