General Motors has unveiled a new, slightly larger, facelifted version of its most affordable entry-level SUV, the Trax. The new version looks way, way slimmer than the chunky little SUV it replaces and adds new features. But it also drops an important option while retaining perhaps the SUV’s most important feature, its affordable price.
The subcompact Trax SUV has a starting price of just $21,500, a few hundred dollars below its current price This makes it one of the cheapest SUVs on the market. It will compete against the recently redesigned Honda HR-V, Hyundai Kona, Mitsubishi Outlander Sport and Nissan Kicks. All versions of the Trax, including the flashy-looking Trax RS models, will have starting prices under $25,000, GM executives said. According to Edmunds.com, the average base price for decals for vehicles sold in the United States today is nearly $47,000, making SUVs like the Trax dirt cheap in relative terms.
The fact that some automakers are adding cheaper SUVs to their lineup while others have exited this market altogether shows there is an opportunity, said Brad Franz, director of Chevrolet Cars and Crossover SUVs.
According to Edmunds.com, over the past five years there has been a general increase in cheap SUV models — those with a base price of around $25,000 or less.
“I would also say that the quality of vehicles in this segment has improved dramatically,” said Edmunds.com editor Will Kaufman. “Automakers take it seriously.”
The US auto market has shifted heavily toward SUVs in recent years, but in general, SUVs cost more than cars. Products like the Trax present an opportunity for those who want the storage space and high seating position of an SUV but can’t afford or don’t want to pay for larger, more expensive models. Among non-SUV cars, Chevrolet currently has the cheapest of those available in the United States, the $13,600 Spark. Some other automakers, like Honda, have abandoned the super-cheap car market because they believe those customers might as well buy a good used car.
The unveiling of the gas-powered Trax comes just weeks after GM unveiled the Chevrolet Equinox EV, a $30,000 electric SUV that will be among the cheapest electric SUVs on the market. These new SUVs serve as evidence that GM’s mainstream Chevrolet brand intends to maintain a position at the cost-conscious lower end of the auto market, company executives said, although they also offer models like the $106,000 Corvette Z06 and Tahoe SUV models with base offering prices near $80,000.
The new Trax is powered by a 1.2-liter 3-cylinder turbocharged engine with around 137 hp and mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission. Unlike some rivals, the Trax isn’t offered in an all-wheel-drive version, an option available on the current model. The new Trax will only be available with front-wheel drive. Customers wanting all-wheel drive can choose the slightly more expensive Chevrolet Trailblazer, which has a more upright, truck-like look and a more streamlined ride for those wanting a more traditional SUV experience, Franz said.
GM’s strategy of having two SUVs in this budget segment is similar to the approach of some others like Hyundai. The Venue, Hyundai’s cheapest SUV, is front-wheel drive only, but the slightly more expensive Kona offers optional all-wheel drive.
The Trax and Trailblazer share much of their engineering, including the small 3-cylinder engine, and both are assembled at the same GM factory in South Korea. The Trax is slightly longer and lower. It’s also 11 inches longer and about two inches wider than the current Trax model. In addition to the base Trax LT model, it will also be available in RS versions with sportier design features such as special wheels and a flat-bottomed steering wheel. Trax Activ models will have a slightly more rugged off-road look, including black wheels. Aside from the design details and other added features like heated front seats, there won’t be any real difference in performance on these compared to other Trax SUVs.
GM also boasts that the Trax will have options like active cruise control, which can automatically maintain a safe distance behind cars ahead on freeways, a feature typically found on pricier vehicles Vehicles. Active noise cancellation will also be a standard feature on all Trax models. This feature uses inaudible sound waves produced by the car’s stereo speakers to cancel out some noise, such as that from the tires and engine.
The Trax will go on sale in spring.