2013 HOLDEN TRAX REVIEW
What’s Hot: Steers and rides well, quiet cabin, well equipped LTZ, spacious.
What’s Not: Too many hard plastics.
X-Factor: Small, tall and a decent drive. There’s much to like about the Trax.
Vehicle Style: Small SUV
Engine/trans: 103kW/175Nm 1.8 petrol 4cyl | 5sp manual, 6sp auto
Price: $23,490 (LS manual), $25,690 (LS auto), $27,990 (LTZ auto)
Fuel Economy claimed: 7.0 l/100km (LS manual), 7.6 l/100km (LS auto, LTZ auto)
Try and define an SUV. Go on, accept it as a challenge. (And we look forward to the comments...)
While the criteria for a “Sport Utility Vehicle” was quite clear-cut in the past, these days it’s not so easy to pin down.
It’s an, ahh... “flexible” category. One person’s SUV is another’s jacked-up hatchback. With this in mind we suggest you consider the Holden Trax with an open mind.
See, the Trax is front-drive only, has a low-hanging chin that would surely be challenged by the mildest of molehills, and is built on the Barina platform - neither the sportiest nor the most utilitarian of GM architectures.
But even if you don’t consider the Trax an SUV, it is, on balance, a decent car. Our first taste of the Trax left us thinking that yes, this is something that buyers - particularly downsizers - will go for.
It also happens to be comfortable, spacious enough for four full-grown adults, and fairly well equipped.
The Trax is currently selling up a storm overseas in Chevrolet form, and our experience of it suggests that it should do exactly the same in this market. Read on.
What’s immediately apparent when you enter the Trax is just how tall it is. Externally, it’s smaller in every dimension than a Nissan Dualis (which Holden lists as a key competitor), except for height.
There’s plentiful headroom as a result, even with the high hip-point of the front seats.
That makes getting in and out easier, particularly for those with bad backs or dodgy hips. Outward vision is also better than the average hatchback thanks to the higher seating position.
Rear seat accommodation is also rather good. With a cathedral-esque ceiling there’s never at a shortage of headroom, and the upright seating position for front-seaters equates to good leg and knee room for those in the back.
The Trax’s width means you’ll never fit three adults across the rear bench though, and even three kids would be a squeeze.
Boot space measures in at 356 litres with the 60/40 split rear seats in place, and 1370 litres with them folded down.
A standout feature is the Trax’s MyLink infotainment system, which is borrowed from the Barina and features a wholly different software package to the MyLink systems in the Cruze, Commodore and Malibu.
The graphical presentation is slicker, it’s easy and more intuitive to use, and the touch screen is very responsive.
It also comes with the BringGo sat nav app, which allows smartphone-toting drivers to use their phone as a GPS receiver and map data storage unit for the car.
The full version of the BrinGo app costs around $65 when downloaded from iTunes or Google Play (a 30-day free trial version is offered), but it’s a much more desirable - and affordable - option to buying a portable GPS unit.
ON THE ROAD
The Trax’s powertrain is essentially the same 1.8 litre naturally aspirated inline four as used by the Cruze, and in the Trax it’s perfectly adequate for everyday motoring.
Outputs of 103kW and 175Nm are nothing to get excited about though, and overtaking at highway speed will require a decent run-up.
The base LS come with a five-speed manual transmission as standard, but the optional six-speed auto (standard on LTZ) is a better choice.
The manual has wider gaps between its ratios that can put the engine outside of its comfort zone, and the clutch pedal has a vague friction point.
Compared with the well-calibrated auto, the manual loses out.
Ride comfort is rather good, even on the 18-inch wheels of the up-spec LTZ. There’s some jitteriness over smaller bumps at highway speed, but the Trax easily absorbs larger imperfections.
It also handles surprisingly well. Much credit goes to the grippy Continental tyres, but the electric power steering also deserves kudos for its good on-centre feel and consistency when off centre.
As for refinement, the engine can be a pretty thrashy thing when asked to work hard but there’s remarkably little tyre noise on coarse surfaces and little wind noise either.
Again, smart tyre choice has paid dividends for the Trax, not to mention the softer rear suspension bushes applied to Australian-market cars.
FIRST DRIVE VERDICT
The Trax is a surprisingly likeable little package.
It’s got a smaller footprint than all of its key competitors (Dualis, ASX and ix35) and in our mind it doesn’t really fit into the small SUV category. But it drives well, has a reasonably spacious interior and is sharply priced at $23,490 for the LS manual.
If we could change one thing about it, it would be the quality of interior plastics. There are simply too many hard surfaces.
On the whole though, Trax hits the mark. Is it really an SUV though? Who cares?
Pricing (excludes on-road costs)
- Holden Trax LS Manual - $23,490
- Holden Trax LS Automatic - $25,690
- Holden Trax LTZ (Auto only) - $27,990