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Motoring: Makin' tracks in Chevvy's Trax

Nauman Farooq | Interrobang | Sports | November 18th, 2013

It's small, nimble, comfortable and practical; the latest offering by Chevrolet will surely prove to be a winner among those who are looking to buy their first SUV.

The 2013 Chevrolet Trax is based on the platform of the Sonic hatchback, only lengthened to provide more space.

Not only is the Trax 9.5 in. longer than the Sonic hatchback, it's 2 in. wider and also 5 in. taller.

However, put the two vehicles side by side and they share no styling DNA. Most people will never know if the Sonic and Trax share more than just a company badge. But looks can be deceiving.

Under the hood, you'll find the same 1.4-litre, double overhead cam, turbo-charged four-cylinder motor that was first launched in the Cruze. One big drivetrain difference is that the Trax does not come with the normally-aspirated 1.8- litre motor. One small drivetrain difference is that the Trax can be had with all-wheel drive (frontwheel drive is standard).

Standard transmission in the Trax is a six-speed manual, although most people will likely spend the extra $1,450 for the six-speed automatic.

Such is the success rate expected for the automatic that at the time of its Canadian press launch in Ottawa, there were no manual transmission vehicles on hand, because the factory is currently only producing automatics.

While there are four trim levels available, my tester was the 2LT model with all-wheel drive. This version comes with a six-way power driver's seat, a seven-speaker Bose stereo, MyLink Touch radio and a reversing camera, among other goodies.

However, gadgets might help sell vehicles these days, but what is the vehicle actually like to drive?

Chevrolet had planned a scenic and often unpaved drive route for the journalists, which took us from Ottawa to Gatineau, Quebec, to show us how the Trax performs.

In the city, it is very maneuverable — partly because of its small size and partly because it has a tiny turning circle. Ride quality over bumps, cracks and expansion joints is bouncy due to its firm suspension. However, on the unpaved back roads, it exhibited quite a comfortable ride, even the interior stayed mostly rattle-free.

Its AWD system works well too. Basically a front-wheel drive setup, it sends power to the rear wheels through an electronic coupling when the vehicle detects slippage or upon initial acceleration. The latter will help you beat most other vehicles off the line despite only having 138 hp and 148 lb/ft of torque. While it is surprisingly quick off the line, on a two-lane highway, you have to really plan your overtaking maneuvers as this is no rocketship.

The six-speed auto is impressive also. Not only is it smooth, but when you use it in manual mode, it shifts gears very quickly on your demand. Unfortunately you have to use a tiny button on the shift knob for manual shifts, which is not ideal.

However, due to its size, features and an entry price of just $18,495, the Trax might just be the ideal vehicle for many Canadian buyers.
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