Chevrolet is suddenly flush at the lower end of the booming CUV market.
The compact Trax has been around for a few years and was the most popular small CUV in America in the first quarter of 2020, according to Wards Intelligence data, while the Equinox was trailing only the Toyota RAV4 for the lead among midsize CUVs.
Wedged in between the Equinox and Trax in the Chevy lineup is the all-new ’21 Trailblazer – not to be confused with the larger Blazer, yet another new ute wearing the bowtie.
From the outside, it’s clear the Trailblazer is bigger, sportier and more rugged than the Trax, but it’s inside where the Trailblazer shines with its first-rate connectivity, intuitive controls, ample standard driver-assistance technologies and an overall excellent user experience – all attributes that earn the it a 2020 Wards 10 Best UX trophy.
With a base price under $20,000 (including destination charges), the Trailblazer exceeds expectations with standard equipment: color touchscreens, Bluetooth audio, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, automatic emergency braking, front pedestrian braking, lane-keep assist with lane-departure warning, forward collision alert and Teen Driver technology, allowing parents to set limits on their joyriding kids.
That’s a lot of content for a car priced well below the $37,000 average price of a new car in the U.S. Even our well-equipped all-wheel-drive Activ trim model stickered at $32,350 with a host of compelling options, such as a seven-speaker Bose premium sound system, panoramic sunroof (pictured below), adaptive cruise control, rear park assist and rear cross traffic alert.
The highlight of the Trailblazer’s user experience is Chevrolet’s Infotainment 3 Plus system, which provides the brainpower behind the standard 7-in. or optional 8-in. (18-20 cm) color touchscreens.
From here, long-time Chevrolet customers will find the screen layout to be familiar and simple to navigate for audio, a Wi-Fi hotspot (pictured below), user settings, OnStar and Amazon Alexa. Phone pairing is lightning fast, as is the case in General Motors vehicles.
This up-level trim also gets you wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as wireless phone charging.
The touchscreen provides redundant climate controls, while hard buttons for HVAC are conveniently located directly below the display for those who prefer a tactile experience.
Another tip of the hat to old-school customers is the single audio power/volume knob below the screen in the center of the instrument panel, easily reached by passenger and driver. Flanking the volume knob are additional hard buttons for track selection, “home” and “back,” which helps with touchscreen navigating.
The Chevrolet Marketplace also has a tab on the touchscreen, providing quick access to the nearest Applebee’s, McDonald’s, IHOP, Domino’s pizza, gas stations and parking – a list sure to grow in the future. The vehicle owner sets up an account with a credit card to activate the system, enabling cash-free transactions at multiple stores and restaurants.
For germaphobes struggling through this era of social distancing, the Marketplace could be an absolute godsend.
Need to schedule service at a Chevy dealer, call roadside assistance or page virtually through the electronic owner’s manual? It’s all at your fingertips on the touchscreen.
Voice commands are quickly acted on for making calls or finding radio stations. And we’re finding the virtual female’s voice to be more easygoing and conversational. When asking for the Sirius XM Beatles channel, this response comes within two seconds: “18 Sirius XM, coming right up.”
A few seconds later, when asking for Spectrum, Channel 28, again we hear within two seconds: “Got it, 28 Sirius XM, coming right up.”
The analog instrument gauges bookend a 4.2-in. (10.6-cm) multicolor information display, readily visible for the driver and easily scrolled with steering wheel buttons and a thumbwheel.
The second row in our test model even came with USB-A and USB-C charging ports, as well as a 120V power receptacle.
Assembled in Bupyeong-gu, South Korea, the Chevrolet Trailblazer is an affordable, stylish small CUV that delivers a top-notch user experience.