2024 Chevrolet Trax First Drive: Flipping The Script On Chevy's Cheapest Crossover

A little over 30 years ago, the truck/SUV/crossover boom we still experience to this day detonated with the first-gen Ford Explorer. Built to go toe-to-toe with the Jeep Cherokee and Chevrolet S-10 Blazer, the Explorer forged a path all manufacturers would take in the years to come. As a result, any segment deemed capable of supporting a truck or — more likely than not — an SUV/crossover soon received one, from the Porsche Cayenne in the performance/luxury market to the Toyota RAV4, the first of many compact crossovers to roll out onto the highways and trails all over the world.

Fast-forward to today, where the boom has enveloped nearly every segment to the point where it has replaced what was there before: coupes, sedans, and subcompact econoboxes have all felt the crossover pinch. One such example is the Chevrolet Trax, which arrived in the mid-2010s to — ultimately — take the place of Chevy's subcompact offerings, the Sonic and Spark. For the 2024 model year, though, the Trax is moving up to the compact crossover stage to hunt down the likes of the aforementioned RAV4, Honda CR-V, and Ford Escape. What better way to experience this segment change, then, than to head down to Asheville, North Carolina to drive the new Trax through some windy roads and straight highways around the town.

From humble beginnings

Developed in 2008 — in South Korea, atop the same GM Gamma II platform as used by the Chevy Aveo/Sonic and Opel Mokka/Buick Encore — when Chevrolet and the rest of General Motors were on the financial ropes, the first-gen Chevrolet Trax initially hit the market in February 2013 for the 2013 model year. The rest of the world soon got their versions of this subcompact, though no plans were originally made to bring it to the United States. 

Once the aforementioned Encore popped off in the U.S., though — and after Jeep had such success entering the subcompact fray with the Renegade — GM decided to bring the Bowtie'd tall boy over as its entry-level crossover. The only major changes made to the U.S. version were the additions of OnStar and SiriusXM. A refresh arrived in 2017, giving the Trax styling cues from the Malibu and Volt (the former of which you can still buy new today), plus an updated dash and center console. U.S. sales figures peaked in 2019 with nearly 117,000 units sold, crashing down to nearly 27,000 sold in 2022, when the first-gen Trax was discontinued.

The second-gen Chevrolet Trax, arriving in showrooms by the end of Spring 2023 for the 2024 model year, leaves its subcompact past behind with a little help from its more off-road-focused sibling, the subcompact Trailblazer. That lends some of its styling cues to the all-new compact crossover (those styling cues are also shared with the Blazer and 2023 Equinox, by the way). And that's only the beginning.

Longer, lower, wider... better?

The 2024 Chevrolet Trax has clearly been paying attention to the old Pontiac marketing slogan of "longer, lower, wider," with its step up to the compact crossover class. The second-gen Trax gains nearly a foot in overall length, two more inches in width, and a roof height 4 inches shorter than the subcompact 2022 model. Overall length comes to 178.6 inches, the wheelbase is now 106.3 inches, and the overall height tops out at 61.4 inches. The new track for the Trax is meant to improve ride and handling by boosting the balance of body motion control, offering a smoother ride than before. Depending on trim level — of which there are five: LS, LT, 1RS, 2RS, and Active — the new Trax carries itself across the open road on a set of 17-, 18- or 19-inch wheels.

The 2024 Trax's overall gains also include an extra 3 inches of rear legroom, offering plenty of room for the five occupants who will spend some time cruising through town or rolling down the highway. And they'll have room for more of their gear, thanks to a 12% increase over the first-gen Trax's tiny backside. With the rear seats folded up, 25.6 cu.-ft. of cargo is more than enough to haul the groceries or a bag of soccer balls around. With the 60/40 bench down, though, the space more than doubles to 54.1 cu.-ft. of space for accommodating all the camping gear you can fit for a weekend (or week-long) trip; a removable roof rack with cross rails can take on the rest. 

Down on size and power, but for a purpose

The first-gen Trax offered a wide selection of engines, though not all were available in all markets. For the U.S., consumers only had one choice for power: a 1.4-liter turbo-four with 155 horsepower and 177 lb.-ft. of torque. A six-speed automatic (also the only choice available in the U.S. as far as selecting gears were concerned) directed those subcompact ponies and their combined pulling ability to either the front or all four-wheels, depending on what was checked off on the order form. 

This time around, the second-gen Trax keeps the same Hydra-Matic 6T40 six-speed from the first-gen model in most markets, while engine offerings shrink to two. Chinese buyers receive a 1.5-liter turbo-four tied to a CVT, while the rest of the world (including the U.S.) gets to put their six gears to use with a 1.2-liter turbo-three. Losing a cylinder means losing a bit of power, too, coming down to 137 ponies and 162 lb.-ft. of torque.

Down on size and power isn't the only thing the 2024 Chevrolet Trax has done to differentiate itself from its subcompact past. For the newly upscaled second-gen compact crossover, the turbo-three's power goes exclusively to the front pair of 17- to 19- inch wheels. This is in large part due to Chevrolet wanting the Trax to be the on-road entry point to the Bowtie's family of crossovers, while the all-wheel drive capability the Trax once offered is now handled by the subcompact Trailblazer, Chevy's off-road entry point. The differentiation in mission serves a purpose: to pull in consumers looking to replace not only their old Trax, but those seeking a new ride to take the place of discontinued Chevys like the Cruze and Volt. It's a similar strategy to that of GM sibling Buick, which opted to make its new entry-level 2024 Envista front-wheel drive only, too.

Decked out in the finest tech and materials anyone can buy

Depending on the trim level, the 2024 Chevrolet Trax comes with either a 3.5-inch (LS and 1RS trims) or an 8-inch (LT, 2RS and Activ) gauge cluster for the driver, the former of which is more analog than the latter shown above; the tachometer is on the left, the analog speedometer is on the right, and a digital speedometer takes its place between the two. The former cluster is paired with an 8-inch touchscreen above the center console, the latter cluster comes with an 11-inch touchscreen. Both touchscreens come with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for the first time, with wireless charging available on the LT, 2RS, and Activ trim levels.

From there, the Trax comes with the Chevy Safety Assist suite of safety aids, including automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, and forward collision alert. Cruise control, a rear HD camera, and Teen Driver Technology — Chevy's teen driver training system that includes everything from a report card on your young driver to the industry-first Buckle to Drive pro-seat belt tech — are also part of the standard kit in every Trax.

Beyond the tech, the interior of the second-gen Trax gets a welcome revamp. Both the gauge cluster and touchscreen are angled towards the driver, and ride low to give the driver better visibility of the road. Sweeping lines and texture patterns pay homage to Chevy's more performance-oriented machines, and are meant to emphasize the compact crossover's all-new longer, lower, and wider appearance. The RS and Activ trims receive some custom touches, from red stitching and a flat-bottom steering wheel for the RS, to Evotex seating with safety yellow accents for the Activ.

A more comfortable ride down the Trax

With all of that out of the way, it's time to answer the big question: what's it like to drive the all-new-and-then-some 2024 Chevrolet Trax? Turns out, the answer is that it's a pleasant experience, though unsurprisingly not a dramatic one. The turbo-three doesn't have a ton of power — it's not a Camaro or Corvette, nor even its former subcompact self — but I would feel safe driving this along I-81 to and from my local airport. The Trax Activ handled itself well on an urban loop, too, managing the small city traffic like nothing at all. Riding along the curves and over the bumps felt like a pleasant day of sailing on a calm lake. Comfortable, almost forgettable, which how I'd imagine most Trax owners would prefer their drives; they're only going to the track's parking lot for race day, after all, not racing on the track itself.

The 1RS I drove, meanwhile, lacked adaptive cruise control. Though ACC is an available option, it's one that's increasingly becoming standard across the board — along with blind spot alerts, push-button start and keyless entry — among Chevrolet's rivals; instead, those features are available options on the 2024 Trax. Perhaps this is Chevrolet's way of keeping costs down, in order to attract buyers looking for their first new vehicle, but it remains to be seen whether buyers will be happy with the upsell involved to bring their crossover up to speed with the competition.

Future Trax owners will be happy to know, however, that functions like heating and cooling, along with volume control, are done via knobs and physical buttons. After years of seemingly everyone pushing to have every function live in the touchscreen, the memo has reached a few human interface engineers to tone it down a bit: being able to adjust the temp or the volume while keeping eyes on the road is an ideal we can all fully (re-)embrace.

A second chance to make a first impression

Before my outing with the 2024 Chevrolet Trax, I never gave much thought to the Trax at all. I knew it existed, but that was as far as that went. Chevrolet, perhaps, had an inkling of such feelings from the U.S. market in recent years, prompting the step-up into the compact crossover class for the second-gen Trax. The Bowtie brand plans to do a major marketing push for the entry-level crossover starting this summer, to hype up this new take on the former subcompact machine in order to attract new, current, and former customers to their latest and greatest.

With pricing starting from $21,495 on the LS to $24,995 on the Activ, an EPA-estimate of 28 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway for a combined 30 mpg, and a major increase in footprint with the looks to match, there's no arguing that Chevrolet has given its entry model the crossover glow-up to meet where the car market has landed. Trim quibbles aside, this all-new Trax deserves more than a passing glance.