The 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer is Chevy’s latest entry in a constantly growing legion of tiny crossovers. Despite its name previously being used for a midsize SUV, the new Trailblazer is substantially smaller and bridges a gap between the subcompact Trax and compact Equinox. It accomplishes that task with a lot more style than either of those rather drab people movers. It’s cute, distinctive and we like it.
Unlike the bigger and mechanically unrelated Chevy Blazer, the Trailblazer doesn’t stand out for its driving dynamics. Instead, Chevy makes up ground with its cavernous rear seat room and cargo area. Also of note are its two unique trim levels: the outdoorsy Activ and sporty RS. From the curb, either of these will stand out from the crowd of other boring small crossovers. The Trailblazer is truly competitive with other little utes from Japan and Korea, so long as your priorities are space, technology and design. Those looking for a sporty, hatchback-on-stilts driving experience will be better off with a Mazda CX-30 or Kia Soul.
What’s new for 2021?
The Chevy Trailblazer is a totally new model for 2021.
What’s the Trailblazer interior and in-car technology like?
The Trailblazer’s interior design and styling resembles other Chevy crossovers. That means it's rather uninspiring to look at with plenty of black plastic switchgear, but it doesn’t feel cheap or especially low-rent for the money. The Activ may lack an 'e' in its name, but at least it has some nice touches like a neat cloth pattern on the front doors and brown-painted dash trim (pictured above right). The RS gets a flat-bottom leather steering wheel and red interior accents (picture above middle). The available eight-way power driver seat allows for a long range of movement and would be suitable for taller drivers.
The Trailblazer can be loaded up with tech competitive for its segment. A 7-inch infotainment touchscreen comes standard, and an 8-inch is optional. Both feature wireless Apple CarPlay (that works quickly and easily) and wireless Android Auto, but can also accept a traditional wired connection. Those who use the wireless functionality will find the wireless phone charging pad handy, letting them store the phone in a cubby ahead of the shifter. The instrument panel isn’t fully digital, but a small screen between the tach and speedo can cycle through a number of informational readouts. GM also makes its handy rearview camera mirror available as an option.
How big is the Trailblazer?
The Trailblazer slots neatly into the growing subset of "in-betweener" crossovers between subcompacts and compacts that includes the Kia Seltos, Mazda CX-30 and Nissan Rogue Sport. That means it's bigger than than Chevy's subcompact crossover, the aging Trax, but not significantly so. Sitting in the back is pleasant from a pure space perspective, with 39.4 inches of rear legroom (0.5 inch less than the compact Equinox), but it’s a step back in ambiance, as most of the intriguing trim and style is abandoned for the back seat.
Cargo space is impressive at 25.3 cubic feet behind the second row and 54.4 cubic feet with the seats down. That’s well ahead of the Trax and just behind the Equinox in maximum utility. The Trailblazer’s passenger seat also folds flat for extra-long items. On paper, the Trailblazer's cargo room is indeed greater than most subcompacts, but the Nissan Kicks, Kia Seltos and Honda HR-V all have similarly good figures.
What are the Trailblazer’s performance and fuel economy numbers?
Chevy offers customers two different three-cylinder turbocharged engine options. The base engine is a 1.2-liter, and it produces 137 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque. It's paired only with front-wheel drive and a continuously variable transmission. EPA-rated fuel economy is 28 mpg city, 31 highway, and 29 combined.
Chevy’s upgrade is a 1.3-liter that makes 155 hp and 174 lb-ft. Front-wheel drive and the CVT are standard, but the optional all-wheel-drive system brings with it a nine-speed traditional automatic. The fuel economy numbers for the 1.3-liter jump to 29/33/31 with FWD and 26/30/28 with AWD.
What’s the Trailblazer like to drive?
You may be bored by the Trailblazer’s driving characteristics, but it’s fundamentally sound. The muted three-cylinders sadly don’t sound like much from the driver’s seat and it’s fairly blah off the line, even with the 1.3-liter, nine-speed auto and all-wheel drive. A 0-60 time of around 9 seconds seems likely, which is slow, but not unusual for the subcompact segment (then again, the Kia Seltos and Mazda CX-30 do buck that trend). A significant amount of lag between foot down and forward thrust is to blame for some of its laziness.
We can’t speak to the handling and ride characteristics of anything but the Activ (all other trims have different damper tuning), but this one errs toward comfort over everything else. The steering is slow and numb, and the Trailblazer’s body motions don't encourage backroad fun. It’s not cumbersome, but it’s no Mazda CX-30, either.
These comfort-tuned dampers do a swell job of making the Trailblazer ride better than expected, though. Rough city streets are handled with aplomb, and it does a bang-up job making sure harsh impacts don’t intrude into the cabin. We sent it down some dirt roads with similar results, noting that it was plenty comfortable and sopped up imperfections better than we’d expect from a car with its size and wheelbase. If this sounds like what you're expecting from your small crossover, the Activ is probably your best bet, but you'd also be wise to check out the Subaru Crosstrek. It has the same comfort-and-off-road mission and generally does a better job of it.
What more can I read about the Trailblazer?
Our first drive of the totally new Chevrolet Trailblazer. We go over its engineering and all the details of this new, little crossover.
What features are available and what’s the Trailblazer’s price?
The Trailblazer’s price starts at $19,995 for the base L trim, including the $995 destination charge.
This entry-level car gets you 16-inch steel wheels, halogen headlights/taillights, a manual liftgate, manual cloth seats, 7-inch infotainment system with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a four-speaker audio system.
The cheapest all-wheel-drive Trailblazer starts at $24,595, in the LS trim. This adds the better 1.3-liter engine, nine-speed automatic, 17-inch aluminum wheels, carpeted floor mats, six-speaker audio system and the flat-folding passenger seat we mentioned above.
Both the Activ and RS trims are attractive for their appearance and equipment extras, but they’re also the most expensive. The Activ with all-wheel drive costs $27,995 and adds an off-road appearance package (including a skid plate), leather-wrapped interior bits and a ton of interior extras like heated power seats and the upgraded eight-inch infotainment system. The RS with all-wheel drive has the same $27,995 price tag, but skips the off-road bits for the sporty parts we’re accustomed to seeing on RS-badged Chevys.
You can find more in-depth information about pricing, features and local pricing here on Autoblog.
What are its safety equipment and crash ratings?
A suite of driver assistance features is standard on every 2021 Trailblazer. Chevy calls the package Chevy Safety Assist, and it includes forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, lane-keep assist, a following distance indicator, automatic high beams and a rear seat reminder. You can add other features via options including adaptive cruise control, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic warning, and rear parking sensors.
The 2021 Trailblazer was tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and achieved a four-star crash test rating. It received five-star marks for side crash tests, but only scored four stars in front crash tests and the rollover test. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety had not yet rated the new Trailblazer at the time of this writing.
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