2021 Chevy Trailblazer

PHOENIX — For the 2021 model year, Chevrolet has resurrected yet another name from the past, this time the Trailblazer. But rather than the truck-based utility vehicle that was available from 2001 through 2009, the new Trailblazer is a very different vehicle that’s much smaller and slots between the larger Chevy Equinox and smaller Trax. The only thing it shares with the old Trailblazer is the name. Also know, this is not a derivative model of the mid-sized Chevrolet Blazer that’s larger and was an all-new model for 2019.

To begin, don’t let the name Trailblazer fool you into thinking this new crossover has the ability to blaze any new trails, but we’re confident that the ACTIV trim level will handle any already blazed trail just fine. More about that below.

Trailblazer is an all-new two-row compact crossover utility vehicle with room for five with sporty looks, a roomy cabin and an attractive bang-for-the-buck value proposition. The new Trailblazer is a near-twin vehicle of the also new Buick Encore GX, and shares many of the same components including identical drivetrain and available two similar turbocharged three-cylinder engines. Front-wheel-drive is standard with all-wheel drive available.

The Trailblazer is offered in a choice of five different trim levels including the base L, LS, LT, RS and our test vehicle the ACTIV (no we didn’t misspell it). The L trim level starts under $20,000, making it $1,300 less than the smaller Trax. But the base model is only offered in one color — white –— and is basically a plain-Jane with 16-inch wheels, painted wheel covers, non-tinted glass, and lacking numerous safety and convenience features. Likewise, numerous options, such as SiriusXM, rear center armrest, keyless opening, auto-dimming rearview mirror, heated seats, cruise control, and others aren’t even available as options.

The ACTIV trim is aimed for the outdoor enthusiast, with standard front-wheel drive. All-wheel-drive adds $1,500 and includes a skid plate, off-road tuned shock absorbers, and synthetic leather upholstery. It really isn’t an off-road vehicle, even though it has up to eight inches of ground clearance, similar to rivals like the Subaru Crosstrek. When properly equipped, Trailblazer is rated to tow up to 1,000 pounds. Additionally, a $1,720 technology package is available that bundles an eight-inch touch screen, HD radio, satellite radio, a seven-speaker Bose stereo, wireless device charging, adaptive cruise control, and LED headlights.

Inside, the Trailblazer sports an attractive cabin design with well-chosen materials throughout, refined enough to be compared to its larger Blazer sibling. To be sure, there’s cost-cutting hard plastic about the door trim, center console and instrument panel, but the execution is tasteful. At the center of the instrument panel is a touchscreen infotainment system that supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto that we found easy to use.

Trailblazer has 26 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats upright, 54 with those seats folded. That’s about average for the class but some offer more than 60 cubic feet of space.

Power is available in a choice of two engines: The base 2L turbo provides 137 horsepower/166 lb.-ft of torque, paired with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT); the 1.3L turbo that provides 155 horsepower/174 lb.-ft of torque and is available with CVT or nine-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel-drive models are not available with the CVT.

Our ACTIV is powered by larger 1.3L engine paired with the nine-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. Regardless of engines, acceleration is anemic, with our Trailblazer reaching 60 mph from a standing start in just under 10 seconds. There’s also noticeable turbo lag before the booster catches hold. It’s noticeably slow when punching it pedal-to-the-metal getting up to highway speeds or when passing another vehicle. To be fair, that isn’t unlike other vehicles in Trailblazer’s competitive set but we wished for an additional 20 to 40 more horsepower.

Around town, the lack of power was much less noticeable, with our Trailblazer zipping in and out of urban traffic with aplomb. When it comes to handling, it performed better than expected but on par with competitors like the excellent new Kia Seltos, Mazda CX-30, Toyota CH-R and Nissan Rogue Sport. Over a week of test driving our fuel economy averaged 27 mpg, just one mile per gallon under the EPA fuel economy rating.

On a longer car trip, we found the Trailblazer to be quite comfortable, with supportive seats, ample head, hip, shoulder and legroom. There’s a surprising amount of room for passengers in the second row and a good amount of cargo space in the rear. However, the level of interior road noise nearly renders the Trailblazer a deal breaker. It was almost impossible to carry on a conversation with any passenger regardless if they were up front or in the rear seat. Chevy would do well to up their game on adding sound-deadening material and insulation wherever possible to improve this design flaw.

The Chevy Safety Assist suite also comes standard, and it includes forward collision warning, pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, and automatic high-beam headlights. The optional Driver Confidence and Cruise package ($495) adds blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, rear parking sensors, and cruise control.

Overall, the new reborn Trailblazer is a looker inside and out, but doesn’t standout in any particular area nor break any new ground in its class. We do like how it drives, with on-center steering, a tight turning ratio, decent ride quality, roomy cabin and easy to use tech. It does a decent job at most things, but the disappointing areas of the anemic and underwhelming three-cylinder engines, along with one of the noisiest cabins we’ve experienced are major letdowns and fall short of excellent new competitors like the Kia Seltos, Hyundai Kona and Kia Soul. Still, we think it’s worth checking out if you’re shopping for a subcompact crossover.