2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer
Right-sized and Right-priced
Chevrolet is bringing back another name from the past, the Trailblazer. But, this Trailblazer has a much different mission than the midsize full-framed utility that was available in the early 2000s. This one attacks the heart of the fastest growing crossover segment, and brings a whole lot of style with it.
To put its smallish size in perspective, the 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer is a tweener; smaller than the compact Equinox, bigger than the subcompact Trax, and a whole lot more interesting to look at than either of them.
That’s because it takes after its stylish big brother Blazer more than any other utility in the Chevy lineup; with an athletic stance, expressive dual-port grille, and slender headlights all inspired by the Camaro. This Trailblazer ACTIV takes the rugged route; getting a nip/tuck to the front fascia for a little more clearance, simulated skid plate, 2-tone paint with roof rails, and unique exhaust tips.
It’s not exactly an off-roader, as even Chevrolet claims it was “designed to enhance performance and ride comfort on gravel terrain.”
You don’t necessarily need all-wheel-drive for that, but it is available on the ACTIV as well as every Trailblazer trim except the base.
If you’re not a fan of continuously variable transmissions, that may be reason enough to add all-wheel drive, as it comes with a 9-speed automatic transmission, replacing the front drive’s CVT.
You also get a bigger engine, swapping the standard 137–horsepower 1.2-liter I3 turbo for a 1.3-liter I3 turbo with 155–horsepower and 174 lb-ft. Of torque. Neither engine is exactly a powerhouse; the larger one is mostly to aid the all-wheel-drive system.
But to see exactly what our ACTIV AWD could do, we blazed a trail to Mason Dixon Dragway.
Wide open throttle for extended periods of time with a 1.3-liter eco-minded 3-cylinder engine, is not exactly the stuff of track day fantasies. But after being a little sluggish off the line to a 9.2-second 0-60, the Trailblazer digs in with earnest and puts some decent power down for the rest of the ¼-mile, finishing in 16.8-seconds at 82 miles-per-hour.
You can barely feel the 9-speed auto doing its thing, but you can certainly hear that engine working away under the hood.
The brakes work even harder, bringing this 3,300-lbs baby ute to a halt in just 103-feet. Stops were consistently straight, with no fade at all.
When it comes to our handling course, we found ourselves whipping in and out of the cones much faster than expected. Now, the steering does feel soft, but the chassis responds to inputs very quickly. There wasn’t much body roll at all, and you could really toss this thing around without stability control jumping in; something you can’t say about GM’s truck-based utilities.
Away from the track, that prowess manifests itself with a fairly stiff ride; perfect for navigating city potholes, with an occasional venture outside the beltway to do some active lifestyle stuff. But, not necessarily the most comfortable for interstate tripping.
We last saw the Trailblazer here in the U.S. in 2008 when the full-framed midsize SUV fell prey to the crossover carnivore, being replaced by the unibody traverse. But, the nameplate actually first appeared 10-years prior, when it debuted as an upscale trim level of Chevrolet’s S-10 based Blazer utility... which brings us to the interior of this Trailblazer. While no one would confuse it with anything upscale, it is a far cry better than what the Trax has to offer. And, it is also quite spacious feeling, with generous two-row seating room; plus an available 8-inch touchscreen, and plenty of tech to enable the gen whatevers to do what they do these days.
If that involves lots of gear, they’ll find a good 25.3 cubic-ft of cargo space, expanding to 54.4 with rear seatbacks folded. The front passenger seat also folds flat to allow for longer items. Towing capacity is limited to just 1,000-lbs.
Government fuel economy ratings for the all-wheel-drive 1.3-liter are 26-City, 30-Highway, and 28-Combined. That’s a better than average energy impact score; 11.8-barrels of yearly oil use, and 5.2-tons of CO2 emissions. The Trailblazer is definitely priced to sell, with an entry level sticker of just $20,195; that’s 2-grand cheaper than a Trax! ACTIV resides at the top of the food chain along with a sporty RS version, at $26,695 for either.
Did the bowtie brigade really need another little crossover in their lineup? Not necessarily, but when it’s vastly better than its small SUV stablemates, you’ve got to respect the process. The 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer is the perfectly right-sized and right-priced vehicle that Chevy needs to gain an edge in the small crossover segment.
- Engine: 1.3L I3 Turbo
- Horsepower: 155
- Torque: 174 lb-ft
- 0-60 mph: 9.2 seconds
- 1/4 Mile: 16.8 seconds @ 82mph
- EPA: 26 City / 30 Highway / 28 Combined