By Krishan Narsinghani, Vivek Lalchandani × Vaughn Lowery
Driving dynamics, heritage, sexiness, imposing, Chevy. What are you thinking of? ’63 Corvette with a split window? Mid engine C8 Corvette? Chevelle? Camaro? Wrong – everyone is talking about the 2021 Chevy Trailblazer.
GM pulled a bold move bringing back the Trailblazer name. An even bolder move is to make it a unibody construction compact SUV. 360 Magazine had the opportunity to spend some time with the little monster and definitely raised the game for competitors like the Honda HR-V, Toyota CH-R, and even the new Kia Seltos and Hyundai Venue/Kona. The main question is whether or not this new Trailblazer can park at the same lunch table as the original.
Looks of the older model weren’t extraordinary but this makeover had the team in awe. The new one gets dramatic lines and aggressive styling to start. The design is truly striking, taking after the beautiful new Camaro and big brother Blazer. If Americans want SUVs, then this is how manufacturers should be designing them. Take notes (Ford and Jeep). Glancing ahead, the upcoming Bronco and Grand Wagoneer have a precedent already set. Imagine the designers took a picture of a Blazer to photoshop, compressed it and added a flat and taller top. The front gets the same narrow headlight design. The only thing differentiating the front of the vehicle from the Blazer is the width, with this being slightly narrower.
Wrapping around to the side, the Trailblazer gets a much more traditional SUV shape over the Blazer. The top is square rather than sloped to mirror a coupe SUV. This beauty gets a floating roof design with the blacked out roof wrapping from the bottom of the front windshield all the way to the upper rear. The mirror caps are color matched with the roof. All trims get wheels to suit the rest of the car. RS trims get sporty wheels whereas the Active trim gets off road worthy smaller wheels with a thicker sidewall. The rear is just as striking as the front. The tail lights wrap around to the side of the vehicle, similar to Lexus design language. Exhaust tips are molded to a square shape. Overall, the Trailblazer is definitely one of the best, if not the best, looking entry in this segment.
Moving to the inside of the vehicle, the interior is expected to live up to the hype of the exterior. This is perhaps where the new model lacks. Chevy knocked it out of the park with the Blazer so why not carry over the interior design? On the contrary, the Trailblazer gets an interior that looks fairly normal in the segment with bland design. The large round air vents are gone along with the beautiful simplistic climate controls. Let’s not get it twisted, this doesn’t mean the interior doesn’t feel nice. Materials are excellent along with the technology. Soft touch materials are placed everywhere to give a more premium feel. The RS trim gets a very nice flat bottom steering wheel while all others get an equally nice round steering wheel. Premium appointments are prevalent throughout the cabin. Seats are wrapped in a beautiful black design with contrast stitching on RS trims. All other trims get premium looking two tone seats and dashboard. Most interior color choices are dark, but the massive panoramic sunroof lets in enough light to brighten the cabin and make the interior feel bigger than it is. Included in upper trims is a quality Bose sound system that is calibrated perfectly for the small cabin space. It’s something you would expect from a German luxury vehicle in a Chevy. Other great features include wireless charging and ample space for passengers and cargo.
It’s a new era for tech advancements. The name suits the vehicle when it comes to safety. Chevy threw an incredible suite of safety features into this SUV. Standard features are Automatic Emergency Braking, Front Pedestrian Braking, Lane Keep Assist w/ Lane Departure Warning, Forward Collision Alert, Follow Distance Indicator, IntelliBeam Headlamps, Rearview Camera, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. An advantage of buying a GM product also includes a few very useful convenience safety features like Teen Driver mode, Rear Seat Reminder and OnStar. The Rear Seat reminder is perhaps the best feature that is still not standard on other brands. Optional safety features include Adaptive Cruise Control, Rear Park Assist, Lane Change Alert w/ Side Blind Zone Alert, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and an available higher resolution rearview camera.
To this point, the Trailblazer meets expectations of the name in every way other than size. Performance is where the car loses to its predecessor, the Trailblazer SS. The most powerful engine today gets a 1.3 liter turbocharged 4 cylinder. However, this engine produces plenty of power for the size of the vehicle. It cranks out 155 hp / 174 lb. ft. of torque and pushes it to either the front wheels or all wheels. This engine returns 29/33/31 mpg city/hwy/combined, respectively, when paired with either the CVT or available 9 speed automatic on the AWD models. Also available is a 1.2 liter turbocharged engine with 137 hp / 166 lb. ft. of torque. This engine can only be had with the corporate CVT and FWD. The 1.2L is good for 28/31/29 mpg.
Throwing it around The Bronx in New York City was truly a blast. The nimble handling makes this vehicle the best driving in the segment. Aiding the experience is the incredibly low curb weight. Test for yourself and you’ll want to trade in that sedan for a more practical small SUV. Adjust to the quick steering in sport mode to avoid large potholes and imperfections in the road while maintaining a very comfortable ride. Switch the drive mode to normal and experience the relaxing weight free steering. This is definitely a car to shortlist in an area with roads like The Bronx.
Compared to its competition, the youthful Trailblazer deserves to sit up top. Chevy set out to make the SUV version of a Camaro with the Blazer, and with that solid foundation, they manifested a small SUV that carries the DNA of a Camaro at a price of $19,995. Does it live up to the Trailblazer name? Yes, in a way it does. With modern emissions regulations, one can argue that the performance of the new model is better. The 2021 Trailblazer holds its own and competes pound for pound.
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