Given the bow-tie brand’s abandonment of traditional cars, the Trailblazer competes for entry-level buyers alongside the also-subcompact Chevy Trax. These two models are similar in size, but the Trailblazer is slightly larger, swankier looking and much more modern. If you’re trying to decide between the two, you should choose the Trailblazer — no question.
Updated for 2022, this spunky little SUV benefits from a few minor changes. Activ and RS models gain a standard heated steering wheel, though this feature is also offered as an option on the LT trim. Roof rack cross rails and a trailering package that includes a hitch, harness and bezel are now available as dealer-installed extras. That last item allows the Trailblazer to tow up to 1,000 pounds, which isn’t much, but enough for light-duty tasks — very light-duty tasks.
The Activ model is one step below the range-topping RS trim. Differentiating it from the pack are a standard front skid plate, off-road suspension tuning that’s supposed to improve the ride on rougher terrain and 17-inch wheels wrapped in vaguely rugged Hankook tires. Other goodies that are included at no extra cost but aren’t exclusive to the Activ trim are things like keyless entry with push-button start and a 10-way power-adjustable driver’s chair that’s extremely supportive and comfortable, plus a folding front passenger seat backrest, which allows you to carry 8.5-foot-long items in this small utility vehicle.
The Trailblazer offers 25.3 cubic feet of cargo space in its hold and 54.4 cubes with the rear backrest folded. These figures put the Chevy right behind the Honda HR-V, though only by a skosh. Improving its cargo-hauling capability, my tester also features a towering, aftermarket Thule Canyon XT cargo basket on the roof. This add-on looks great and is undoubtedly useful, but it creates loads of wind noise while driving, even at around-town speeds.
Rear-seat passengers should be reasonably happy in this Chevy. Despite the vehicle’s dimensions, its back bench offers more than enough room for those who are long of leg or torso. The seat is firm and nicely elevated, though the bottom cushion is angled downward toward the front, which prevents it from supporting your thighs.
One unexpectedly pleasant aspect of this pocket-size SUV is the interior. Yes, there’s a lot of hard plastic, but the armrests are plush and there’s a swath of soft material on the dashboard that’s embellished by a nice diamond pattern and even some stitching. Copper-colored trim on the front door panels and around some of the air vents livens up what would otherwise be an inky-dark interior.
Nothing is ritzy, but nearly everything inside the Trailblazer feels nice. This example’s steering wheel is leather-wrapped, the 8-inch touchscreen looks decent and the infotainment system that lives in there is immediately responsive and wirelessly supports both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. About the only disappointing parts of this cabin are the standard-issue GM control stalks, which feel as rubbery as string cheese.
Chevy Safety Assist is standard across the Trailblazer lineup. Among other items, this suite of driver aids includes responsive automatic high beams, lane-keeping assist and lane departure warning, a following distance indicator and automatic emergency braking. A 7-inch color touchscreen is also standard, though the larger 8-incher is bundled in the $1,620 tech package, which also includes a high-definition backup camera, a mediocre seven-speaker Bose sound system, a wireless charging pad and LED headlamps. Adaptive cruise control and an HD Rear Vision Camera are included in this options group as well.
Two tiny, turbocharged, three-cylinder engines are offered in the Trailblazer. The base unit displaces just 1.2 liters, but the “big-block” offering is a much burlier 1.3-liter. That optional engine delivers 155 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque, figures that are pretty unimpressive. In practice, however, there’s nothing to be scared of, as the Trailblazer out-muscles the Honda HR-V and Nissan Kicks. About the only competitor that has a big advantage over this Chevy is the turbocharged (and much pricier) Mazda CX-30, with its overachieving 250 hp and 320 lb-ft of torque.-
In real-world driving, the Trailblazer has plenty of scoot thanks to abundant low-end grunt. It pulls like a much more potent vehicle until around 4,000 rpm, where things noticeably taper off. This off-kilter engine is reasonably smooth once it’s spinning, though the idle is a bit choppy and it often sounds strained.
The Trailblazer’s base engine is only offered with front-wheel drive, but the 1.3-liter powerplant is available with all-wheel drive. Front-drive examples come exclusively with a continuously variable transmission, though models with four driven wheels feature a traditional stepped-ratio automatic with nine speeds. This gearbox is smooth and responsive, shifting without drama and helping this small Chevy return an EPA-estimated 26 mpg city and 30 mpg highway. Combined, it’s rated at 28 mpg, an accurate figure, as I’ve been averaging around 27.7 mpg in mixed driving.
When it comes to ride and handling, the Trailblazer is merely OK. The steering ratio is quick and nimble, but the vehicle feels more top-heavy than it should while navigating corners. As for the ride, it’s on the firm side and slightly choppy, likely because of the relatively short 103.9-inch wheelbase.
The 2022 Chevy Trailblazer starts at around $23,000 for the base LS model, which is comparable to a base Kia Seltos or Honda HR-V, though the Nissan Kicks is still a couple grand cheaper. Check every option box and you’ll be spending around $34,000, making the Trailblazer quite a bargain, at least by today’s standards. As it sits, this Activ-trim model stickers for $31,505 including $1,195 in destination fees. Options include the $1,620 tech package, $520 for the convenience package, $350 to add special floor mats, $345 for a few driver aids and $275 to cover the dealer-installed roof rack cross rails. Finally, that Thule roof basket goes for around $370.
It’s not sexy, lavish or amazing to drive, but the Trailblazer is still a respectable subcompact SUV, one with more personality than an HR-V, Kicks or Chevy’s own Trax. The Seltos and CX-30 are probably still better options, but this Chevy is by no means a bad choice. In short, you could do a hell of a lot worse than the Trailblazer.