Review: 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer
A great little car – and the price is right
My father, the late J.A. (Al) McDonald, was a big guy. He drove big cars. A big guy looks good in a big car.
One year, my mother, the late Grace Dorothy McDonald, said, “You can save money if you buy a smaller car.” So he bought a smaller car and everybody said to him, “You should have a bigger car. You don’t look good in that smaller car.”
I was thinking about that earlier this week when we were driving around town in the 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer. It is not a big car. In fact, it could probably fit on the back of my truck. That’s an exaggeration but you get my drift.
My wife is as tall as I am. We’re both tall people. (I never use the word “big” when talking about my wife because I don’t want to get killed.) She likes riding around in our truck. “We look good in the truck,” she says. She was not happy when I told her we would have a Trailblazer for a week. “It will be too small for us.”
The first thing she said when she got in the Trailblazer was this: “There is a lot of room in here. It looks small on the outside but when you get in, it’s very roomy. I’m very comfortable in this car, which is a surprise. I like it. I like it so much, in fact, that when I win the lottery, I’m going to buy one for everybody in the family.”
So, there you go. You sure can’t get a better endorsement than that. And my wife knows her cars. The other thing she liked was the price. For less than $24,000, you can start to build yourself a nifty piece of personal transportation.
The second I first saw my loaner for this review, I thought I was looking at a baby Range Rover. It’s not, of course, but that was my first impression. In size, it’s somewhere between two cars in its own family, the Trax and Equinox (which is one of my favourite suburban cars). The trim levels determine the styling: the LS and LT trims look similar while the RS and Activ trims stand out. The grille of the RS, for instance, is a black-mesh hexagon and the dual-exhaust outlets have chrome tips. The Activ adds 17-inch, sport terrain, all-season tires, improved ground clearance and underbody shielding for drivers who can’t stop themselves from going off-road (which us not something that I, personally, can ever imagine doing.) I like the LED lights too. Quite stylish.
As well as liking the roominess, my wife reminded me to report that the car is very easy to get into and exit. The centre console has room for odds ‘n ends and there are cubbies in each door for your stuff and her purse. There is a surprising amount of cargo space. You start off with the hatch at the back and then, when you fold down the rear seats, you have 1,540 litres of volume available for suitcases or groceries. And when you go Costco to buy a bookcase, your partner will have to stay home so you can fold down their seat to enlarge the space to handle something 2,594 mm long. One negative: Chevy says the Trailblazer has best-in-class rear legroom. My legs are long – and it’s pretty tight back there.
The seven-inch colour touchscreen (an eight-inch is optional) has AM/FM/Sirius XM radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (both wireless) plus Bluetooth (there’s a wireless phone charging pad at the front of the centre console.) Multiple USB data ports are on offer, depending on the model, and up to seven Bose speakers are available. A small screen between the tachometer and speedometer allows you to check fuel availability and mileage – that sort of thing.
Other Chevrolet Safety Assist features include automatic emergency braking, front pedestrian braking, lane-departure warning, forward-collision alert and other aides like rear-seat reminder. Teen driver technology allows parents to set controls and review their kid’s driving habits (and am I ever glad this stuff wasn’t around when I was in my teenage years).
Okay, there are two three-cylinder turbocharged engines available – a 1.2 litre that makes 137 horsepower and puts out 162 lb-ft of torque and a 1.3-litre that produces 155 hp and 174 lb-ft.
There is a GO parking lot around the corner from my house that’s completely deserted on weekends – the perfect place to put a tester through its paces. I do the slalom using light standards as poles and there’s plenty of room to try U-turns and so-on. The Trailblazer is a nimble automobile. Steering is precise and light and it passed the slalom exam with ease. It was surprisingly quick off the line from a standing start and there was no problem when I tested its stopping ability by slamming on the brakes. I took my hands off the wheel when I hit the brakes and the car held the line, straight and true, while coming to a halt.
I work from home these days but my wife goes into the office and the drive to her work place involves a combination of city streets and highways. There are two transmissions – one for each engine: CVT or nine-speed automatic – and four driver modes. If shifted up and down smoothly on the highway. And it had the get-up-and-go to get out of the way of a tractor-trailer that came bombing up behind us one day and didn’t show any signs of slowing down.
This is a great little car and the price is right. Safety and driver assistance features lead the way and the performance is satisfactory-plus. A good car all-‘round, except for that tight backseat fit. In the end, though, you can’t have everything and that is far from a deal-breaker.
2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer
BODY STYLE: Small SUV
DRIVE METHOD: Front engine, front wheel and all-wheel drive, CVT transmission (9-speed top trim)
ENGINES: Three cylinder, 1.2 litre turbocharged (137 hp, 162 lb-ft); 1.3 litre turbocharged (155 hp, 174 lb-ft)
FUEL ECONOMY: (Standard) 1.2 litre turbo – 8.4L/100km city/7.5 hwy/7.6 combined; 1.3 litre turbo – 8.0L/100km city/7.2 hwy/7.6 combined
CARGO VOLUME: 1540 litres
TOW RATING: Up to 1,000 lbs
PRICE: $23,698 low end; $28,098 upper (not including freight, taxes, licensing, options