THOUSAND OAKS, CA – Betting on rapid small CUV segment growth, Chevrolet adds the 2021 Trailblazer to its expanding lineup, giving the brand seven utes for shoppers to ponder.
Sharing a platform and powertrains with the new Buick Encore GX and rolling off the same South Korean assembly line as its tri-shield sibling, the ’21 Trailblazer is priced from $19,995 (including $995 for destination charges). Five trim levels – L, LS, LT, Activ, RS – and two turbocharged powertrains are available, along with front-wheel or all-wheel drive.
With L, LS and LT trim, the standard engine is a turbocharged 1.2L 3-cyl. making 137 hp at 5,000 rpm and 162 lb.-ft. (220 Nm) of torque at 2,500 rpm. It comes only with a continuously variable transmission and front-wheel drive.
Optional with LT trim and standard with Activ and RS versions, a turbocharged 1.3L 3-cyl. delivers 155 hp at 5,600 rpm and 174 lb.-ft. (236 Nm) at 1,600 rpm. With FWD, it pairs with a CVT. With AWD, a 9-speed automatic sends power to the ground.
Driven for an afternoon on sunny Southern California roads, the ’21 Trailblazer Activ’s larger 3-cyl. engine supplies adequate power, feeling more energetic than many vehicles in the segment. The smooth-shifting 9-speed automatic helps, delivering quick gear changes when accelerating and holding a lower gear for climbing steep grades with ease.
To engage AWD, the driver pushes a button on the center console. This allows power to flow to the rear wheels and eliminates torque steer under hard acceleration.
A brief off-roading jaunt makes use of the Activ version’s front skid plate, underscoring Chevrolet’s assertion that the model is made for superior performance on gravel roads and not dirt trails.
Suspension tuning provides a firm ride and good roll control, but the independent front and semi-independent compound crank rear suspension struggles to absorb impacts from potholes and sharp pavement transitions. The front suspension easily tops out when cresting speed bumps.
Most of the time, the steering feels properly weighted and responds in linear fashion. But on occasion, as the CUV comes to a stop it goes slack. Brake pedal calibration is excellent.
Over the course of 145 miles (233 km), the Trailblazer Activ AWD returns 26.6 mpg (8.8 L/100 km), coming up a bit short of the official EPA rating of 28 mpg (8.4 L/100 km).
Not surprisingly, the Trailblazer is best to drive in urban situations, where the Activ’s 8 ins. (203 mm) of ground clearance and broad torque curve come in handy.
Nimble, sized for easy parking and equipped with a tall seating position for a good view and easy entry and exit, the Trailblazer is perfect for all-weather commuting.
There is plenty of room for four people, and the back seat is spacious for its segment. The Activ test vehicle had USB-A and USB-C charging ports in the back seat, along with a household-style electrical outlet.
Chevrolet provides plenty of in-cabin storage for the Trailblazer. Behind the rear seats are 25.3 cu.-ft. (716 L) of maximum volume. Fold the 60/40-split rear seats down to create 54.4 cu.-ft. (1,540 L) of cargo space. The Trailblazer also has a fold-flat front passenger seat, allowing the CUV to carry objects measuring up to 8.5 ft. (2.6 m) long.
Equipped with the latest infotainment technology, the Trailblazer has a 7-in. (18-cm) or 8-in. (20-cm) touchscreen display, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and the ability to pair two phones to Bluetooth at the same time. With the larger screen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto can function without wires.
An active Chevrolet Connected Services subscription supplies a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, automatic collision notification and more. A 7-speaker Bose premium sound system also is available.
Every ’21 Trailblazer has 10 airbags plus Chevy Safety Assist, the automaker’s new name for its standard collection of advanced driving-assistance systems.
A rear-seat reminder system and Teen Driver parental-report-card technology also are standard, while options include blindspot warning, rear cross-traffic warning and adaptive cruise control.
With good looks patterned after the midsize Chevrolet Blazer, a roomy interior for the segment, turbocharged torque for a responsive driving character and the latest in technology, the ’21 Chevy Trailblazer is a compelling new small CUV.