2013 Chevrolet Trax Launch

Last month just before Bacchanalia, GM hosted a driving event amid the scenic hills around Ottawa to test the all-new Chevrolet Trax — 5-door compact SUV exclusive to Canada (OK, also Mexico).

Fortunately for all involved, it snowed like a mofo that week. Surprisingly, our test vehicles were equipped with all-seasons and not snow tires. This meant we were really able to test the city-slicking mini-‘ute’s mettle in the country.

It’s a small engine, a turbo-charged 1.4L four-cylinder — definitely not an adventurer’s summer escape, but enough to get you, your girlfriend and three of her (short) friends around town. Measuring just 168.5” long and 70” tall, it’s fairly small — just 20” longer than the Chevy Spark.

Roomier than it looks, I shared the front with another voluminous auto writer and we never grazed knees or lacked for storage caches. Four cup-holders between the seats meant coffee and energy drinks for all! Nipping out of the downtown hotel with just inches to spare in the lane between buildings, it also proved diminutive enough for dicey city commutes.

Pushing it hard on snowy country roads, we could feel the Stabilitrak stability control overriding us, transferring power to whichever of the 16” wheels was necessary to regain composure. The engineers didn’t quite solve the turbo-lag, as the Trax wheezed a bit on the steep hills, but negotiated them well enough in lower gears. It’s agile, turning nicely on ice-covered gravel hairpins and should do just fine on urban right angles.

Given all that, you needn’t bother upgrading to all-wheel drive. We did superbly on all-season tires and front-wheel drive. Save the money for AC, instead.

The Trax’s closest competitor is the Hyundai Tuscon, which is slightly bigger and slightly more expensive, base to fully loaded.

For the money (AWD aside),  the Trax is a good starter car for a young person. The LS model comes with some pretty generous standards: the aforementioned ESC, plus traction control, a nifty integrated blind-spot mirror, the always useful OnStar, Bluetooth, steering wheel audio controls and some other fun stuff, including a 6-speed manual transmission, which we sadly did not get a go at.

The Trax may not appeal to most downtown hipsters, but for the urban gear head with an adventurous streak (and a limited budget), this is one for the short list.

2013 Chevrolet Trax

LS (base): $18,495
LTZ (fully-loaded): $29,330

This is a test