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a yellow 2024 Chevrolet Trax 2RS at the San Gabriel river

The New Chevy Trax Is Redefining The Basement Bargain Special

With sleight of hand, Chevrolet bends steel and molds plastic on its entry level 2024 Trax 2RS to make it into one of the most attractive crossover SUVs you can buy.

By Roy Nakano

Tue, Dec 19, 2023 09:48 PM PST

Featured Image: The 2024 Chevrolet Trax 2RS at the entrance to the Lario Staging Area of the San Gabriel River Trail in Azusa, California.

All images by the author.

Every now and then, we like to explore the bottom of the barrel—i.e., the cheapest cars you can buy brand new. In the early days of LA Car, that meant roll-up windows, no air conditioning, inadequate acceleration, tinny-sounding doors, and a face that only a mother could love.

Zen and the Art of Inconspicuous Consumption

The cars were always devoid of creature comforts. One was lucky to get a radio that didn’t suck. Premium safety features? No. Outside mirrors? Just one on the driver-side door. Maybe carpets on the floor. Maybe not.

But during the course of the extended review, we learned to do without the frills. After all, there was a time when no car had AC, and most had roll-up windows. Even power brakes and steering were optional. We found that it IS possible to do without a lot of what we assume to be must-have necessities. We called this state of enlightenment zen and the art of inconspicuous consumption.

After seeing images of Chevrolet’s new entry level Trax, we thought it was time to revisit this time-honored category of cars.

a yellow 2024 Chevrolet Trax at the Monrovia station
The Coke bottle treatment on the lower fuselage makes the new Chevrolet Trax look sleeker and raises its profile like a lifted SUV. Above: the Trax next to the tracks of the Monrovia Station.

Making Cheap Plastic and Metal Look Good

Most cars are made of the same materials—steel, plastic, vinyl and rubber. So what differentiates the design of a high-end luxury mobile from an economy car? Aside from the number of parts, not a whole lot it turns out. For the new Trax, the team at Chevrolet put this theory to the test. The exterior profile looks nothing like the previous generation Trax. In fact, it looks better than many of its higher priced siblings in the Chevrolet brand. Witness the Coke bottle treatment on the lower fuselage, making the car look sleeker and raising its profile like a lifted SUV.

Inside, the sleight of hand is applied with equal success. Look at the A-pillars that flank the windshield. It appears as if they’re covered in fabric, but touch it and you realize it’s just plastic made to convincingly look like fabric. The dashboard receives a similar cost-defying treatment, with its colorful accents and attractive textures.

front interior of the 2024 Chevrolet Trax 2RS
Chevrolet uses sleight of hand on plastic to make the interior look more upscale than it really is. With its colorful accents and attractive textures, it all comes together quite nicely.

So, What’s Missing to Get the Price So Low?

Very little is missing from the new Trax, it turns out. For those of you used to being propelled by at least four cylinders, the Trax is short of that standard by one. However, as we’ve noted in our review of the Chevrolet Trailblazer, the industry has done a remarkable job at making turbocharged three-cylinder engines work well.

Turbo threes can be found on some noteworthy vehicles today, including the Buick Envista (the sister car to the Trax), the Toyota GR Corolla, the Ford Bronco Sport, the Ford Escape, the Jeep Renegade, the standard MINI Cooper and the Nissan Rogue.

The 1.2-liter engine in the Trax may seem diminutive, but it manages to box above its weight and size class. That’s because its turbocharger is calibrated to boost the low end, providing a palpable surge of acceleration from a standing start. The surge is short-lived, however, as its 0-60mph elapsed time hovers in the upper 8 second range—a tad better than the highly regarded (and more expensive) Subaru Crosstrek with its base engine. Quick stops and starts can also trip-up the Trax as the turbo boost can lag a bit behind the actions of the brake and accelerator pedals. The optional 1.3-liter turbocharged engine available in the Trailblazer performs more linearly in this regard. Thankfully, the Trax is fitted with a 6-speed automatic transmission rather than a drone-prone continuously variable transmission.

a yellow 2024 Chevrolet Trax
Chevrolet’s new entry level Trax is actually longer than the Trailblazer. Its cabin space is also a bit larger. Above: The Lario Staging Area in Azusa connects the San Gabriel River Bike Trail to the “Foothills to the Sea” trail in Seal Beach.

Where Size Matters

There’s nothing diminutive about the cabin space in this car. The new Trax is actually bigger than its “bigger” sibling, the Trailblazer, measuring 106.8 inches in length with 106-inch wheelbase, versus 173.5 inches and 103.9 inches for the latter. In cabin space, the new Trax tops the Trailblazer by a narrow margin. Evidently, the numbers crunchers at Chevrolet determined a little extra steel, vinyl and plastic in the cabin compartment is a worthy expenditure for even the cheapest vehicle in its line.

a yellow 2024 Chevrolet Trax 2RS at the Metro Monrovia Station
The Chevrolet Trax next to the tracks of the Gold Line Maintenance Facility in Monrovia, California.

The Proof of the Pudding

The proof of the pudding for the Trax is in the driving. Here, the car fared quite decently. The sound of three cylinders clapping may take getting used to for some people. Its faint engine knock will remind some of the sound of diesel propulsion. But that’s only under moderate-to-hard acceleration. Once you have the Trax up to speed, it rides just like your typical well-built crossover SUV—smooth and relatively quiet.

The ride can be a bit unsettling on bad roads—a consequence of its non-independent torsion beam rear suspension. But it’s par for the course among crossover SUVs in this price category. On decent pavement, the Trax rides just fine.

The car does not particular excel in the fun-to-drive category, but that’s a tall order for a basement bargain special. Just don’t flog it around corners and expect it to act like a sport sedan. For a crossover SUV that can be had for under $25,000, it feels solid, gets out its way from a stoplight, cruises competently, stops assuredly, and looks good doing it.

a yellow 2024 Chevrolet Trax 2RS
The Lario San Gabriel River Trail, located off of Huntington Drive between Duarte and Azusa, also has hiking trails and a picnic area for up to ten people.

What Others Say About the Trax

Consumer Reports says, “The redesigned Trax is a slam dunk when it comes to value: heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, wireless Android Auto and Apply CarPlay, and a wireless charger, all for under $25,000 as tested.” However, CR also faults the new Trax for uneven power delivery, pronounced cabin noise, and barely tolerable front seats.” The uneven power delivery I already commented on. Having lived with turbocharged fours since the original VW-Audi 1.8T engines with tweaked computer chips in the 1990s, it’s something I’ve learned to live with. As for the seats, I don’t find the Trax front seats to be particularly uncomfortable. You’ll want to try them out for yourself. People’s bodies react differently to seats.

Car and Driver magazine was so impressed with the new Trax it made it onto that publication’s 2024 10 Best Trucks and SUVs list. Says C&D, “A base Trax starts at $21,495, and even the top-of-the-line Activ at $24,995 is roughly half the price of the average new vehicle today.” While acknowledging the interior has plenty of hard plastics, they conclude, “In nearly every aspect, the Trax is both better than we expected and better than it needs to be, a textbook way to earn a place on this list.”

Summary Judgment

The new Chevy Trax shows what’s possible in the basement bargain category. It’s not perfect, but it advances forward in key areas than its crossover SUV competition. Most surprising of all, it’s one of the best-looking crossover SUVs you can buy—better-looking, in fact, than most of the more expensive crossovers coming out of General Motors and elsewhere. GM cannot let this situation stand for long—and it won’t. Neither will the competition.

engine and engine compartment of a yellow 2024 Chevrolet Trax
The 1.2-liter turbocharged DOHC 3-in-line engine in the Trax manages to box above its weight and size class.

Specification (That Matter)

Name of vehicle: 2024 Chevrolet Trax 2RS

$21,495 - LS
$23,195 - 1RS
$24,995 - Activ
$24,995 - 2RS
$25,985 - 2RS, as tested, with sunroof package, driver convenience package (includes adaptive cruise control, rear cross alert with side blind zone alert, rear park assist), and Nitro Yellow Metallic paint

EPA fuel economy rating: 32 mpg highway/28 mpg city
Drive configuration: front-wheel drive
Engine: 1.2-liter turbocharged DOHC 3-in-line
Horsepower: 137
Torque: 162 pound-feet at 2500 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
0-60 mph: 8.6 seconds (manufacturer estimate)
EPA size classification: small station wagon

For more information on the 2024 Chevrolet Trax, click here.

About The Author

Roy Nakano's profile picture

Roy Nakano

Roy Nakano gave birth to LACar in the late '90s, having previously delivered LA Audio File back in the '80s. Aside from the occasional review, Roy likes to stray off the beaten automotive path: "Six Degrees of Reparations" reflected on the regretful ethical paths taken by car companies throughout history. "Traveling Through the Past and Present of the Green Book" looked at businesses that took a stand against racism and the man that wrote the book on where to find them. "Best Cars to Drive in Rush Hour Traffic" was an LACar guide published in the pre-GPS era. "In Search of the First Datsun 510 Tuner" looked at one of the milestones in the origin of import tuners.

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