2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer Pros and Cons Review: Back for More10/12/2020
- Baby Blazer looks
- Fancy optional equipment
- Huge back seat
- Ridiculous as-tested MSRP
- Stiff ride
- Loud interior
Every full-line automaker needs a strong portfolio of SUVs in every shape and size to be competitive in today’s market. Although Chevrolet has had a subcompact SUV in the Trax for years, that car has failed to gain meaningful, ahem, traxion with consumers. Riding to the rescue is the 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer, which avoids many of the missteps made by the Trax but doesn’t go far enough to achieve class leadership.
Leave aside any baggage associated with the Trailblazer name (if you can), and the all-new and entirely different model makes a good case for itself on paper. Its $19,995 starting price is noteworthy, its rear seat is enormous for the class, and it offers a number of optional technologies you just don’t find in this price range. We were particularly impressed with the optional wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, the panoramic sunroof, and the power liftgate.
View Other 2021 SUV of the Year Contenders and Finalists Here
But leaving paper for pavement revealed trouble in translation. Some editors had difficulty keeping Android Auto connected via the wireless connection, and these high-end features seemed to come at the price of more conventional options. For example, the Trailblazer cannot be equipped with common features such as built-in navigation or dual-zone climate control, both offered on the competition.
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The Trax has always been a bit frumpy and anonymous in terms of style, but the Trailblazer wisely draws styling inspiration inside and out from the larger Blazer, which in turn draws on the ever-popular Camaro. Although we liked the sporty look and optional two-tone roof, some editors were disappointed to learn the RS trim level is purely an appearance package and does not improve handling or performance, as it does on the Blazer. Given the Trailblazer’s excessive body roll, lower cornering limits, and vague steering, editor-in-chief Mark Rechtin thought this SUV’s looks were writing checks its chassis couldn’t cash.
Nor does it ride particularly well. “Over the broken pavement, the body shakes like a wet dog,” MotorTrend en Español managing editor Miguel Cortina said. It’s not just this RS trim level, either, as an Activ trim model we drove previously suffered the same problem. Worse, every bit of noise generated by those bumps rings loud and clear inside the vehicle.
Needing 9.3 seconds to reach 60 mph, the Trailblazer runs with its competitors on paper but struggles on the highway. The 1.3-liter turbocharged I-3 engine (a 1.2-liter turbo I-3 with 137 hp, a CVT, and front-drive is standard) drew mixed reviews, with most editors disappointed in the way it struggled climbing hills and overtaking on the highway. We did find the nine-speed automatic transmission that comes with the all-wheel-drive system to be a good match for the most part, though, even if it had to hunt a bit to make the most of the 155 hp and 174 lb-ft available.
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We were less than impressed by the AWD system, which is better suited to poor weather than blazing trails and must be manually activated by a button on the center console rather than engaging automatically when needed (a trick Chevrolet uses to get better fuel economy numbers, which nevertheless rank at the low end of the segment).
The real problem, though, is the as-tested price tag. At $32,350 out the door, the Trailblazer was a nonstarter for our editors, who were quick to point out you could have better competitors for thousands less—or even a larger, better-performing compact SUV for the same price. Maybe Chevy has its customers trained to expect thousands of dollars on the hood and to ignore the MSRP, but we’re not convinced. Even with a few thousand dollars shaved off, there are stronger options in the subcompact class at the same price.
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