Chevrolet resurrects a familiar name as it releases the diminutive Trailblazer crossover.
The Chevrolet Trailblazer once represented off-road capability, but the all-new 2021 version does not. Instead, Chevrolet resurrected a recognizable name and affixed it to a small crossover SUV. The new model may not do more than manage gravelly surfaces and push through puddles, but it does a stellar job of shuttling passengers and equipment efficiently.
Chevrolet offers the 2021 Trailblazer in five trims ranging from $19,995 for the standard L trim with front-wheel drive to $27,995 for the all-wheel-drive Activ. These prices include the $995 destination charge. Taxes, title, and other fees are extra. The Trailblazer seats up to five.
There’s something familiar about the Trailblazer design. One look at the midsize Blazer says it all: both models borrow front fascia elements from the Camaro sports coupe for an aggressive look. That look is more pronounced on the RS trim.
Narrow headlamps, huge wheel arches, a high beltline, and distinctive body sculpting supply definition. The rear fascia delivers a similar aggressive layout with its chunky, yet sporty look. Models outfitted with the contrasting roof and lower body trim are especially inviting.
Inside, the cabin seems larger than other small models and it is. We found the front seats comfortable and supportive, and were surprised by the amount of rear-seat legroom. That bench seat is useful for two or three for a short trip.
Although a budget model, the Trailblazer utilizes handsome styling with cloth covering the seats and door panels. The plastic chrome trim adds polish and definition. The cabin controls are easy to find, decipher, and use.
Decent standard storage space mushrooms considerably with the rear seat folded. The front passenger seat also folds, making it possible to carry something as large as a kayak inside.
Chevrolet offers two three-cylinder engine choices with the Trailblazer. That’s right: three cylinders. Manufacturers continue to find ways of doing more with less and in this case powering some vehicles with just three cylinders is one way to do that.
Fortunately, both engines are turbocharged and that means an extra amount of boost is available when you need it. The first engine displaces 1.2 liters and makes 137 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque. This one works with a continuously variable transmission. The second engine, with a displacement of 1.3 liters, is standard with the two top trims. Though barely larger than the base engine, this one develops 155 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque. A CVT also works with the front-wheel-drive model; a 9-speed automatic comes with the all-wheel-drive version.
Our Activ model with all-wheel drive offered good step-off acceleration and adequate passing power. Under hard acceleration the engine is loud, but that’s typical of most small crossovers. In those versions with the gearless CVT, the shifting feel is mimicked by the computer, which manages output. As for the automatic, it does its job without complaint and that’s a good thing.
Even with all-wheel drive, don’t think about blazing trails with this model. It doesn’t have a locking rear differential, nor does it come with underbody cladding to protect the vehicle. It’s most useful for urban settings and, yes, it is a jungle out there!
Safety & Technology
The Trailblazer comes with automatic high beams, active lane control, and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection. However, you must move away from the base L trim to find extra-cost features such as blind-spot monitoring, rear park assist, and adaptive cruise control.
Chevrolet supplies the Trailblazer with a 7-inch touch-screen display or an 8-inch unit with some trims or when the Convenience Package is selected. The standard infotainment package includes four speakers, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone compatibility, and a Wi-Fi hotspot. Some trims include six speakers and two additional USB ports. A 7-speaker Bose audio system is available on the Active and RS trims.
Slotted between the Trax and the Equinox, the Chevrolet Trailblazer is one of seven utility vehicles offered by Chevrolet. It’s a more modern model than the smaller Trax and both of the Trailblazer’s engines produce more power than the Trax’s four-cylinder. We think most people will be satisfied with front-wheel drive, but choose all-wheel drive if you live in the mountains.
Chevrolet charges the same for the two trims and both come with the more powerful of the two engines. We recommend spending the $1,620 for the Technology Package, which brings in adaptive cruise control, the full suite of safety features, wireless charging, the Bose audio system, and automatic climate control.
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