2013 HOLDEN TRAX REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Small SUV
Price: $27,990 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 103kW/175Nm 4cyl petrol | 6spd auto.
Fuel Economy claimed: 7.6 l/100km | tested: 9.8 l/100km
But this isn’t new territory for our local brand.
Holden had a small SUV on the market years before anyone gave the segment a second look. Remember the first appearance of the Cruze nameplate, the little light-duty SUV?
That first Holden Cruze sat on a rebodied Suzuki Ignis platform. It matched jacked-up looks and hatchback practicality at a time when no-one really knew what to do with it.
But now little SUVs are becoming the hottest property in the showroom and Holden is back with the Trax. It's based on the Barina platform, but the pumped-up Trax is a world apart.
Quality: Interior quality is where the Trax sheds most points. The interior plastics are universally hard, and pretty easily marked.
The seating surfaces are covered in ‘Sportec’ trim, which is Holden-speak for vinyl. It's supposed to replicate the look and feel of leather, but does a poor job of it.
There’s chrome, foiled, and silver finishes to the trim, giving a mix-and-match effect across the dash and doors. The fit throughout is ok, but our test car had a persistent dash rattle - a constant companion, even on smooth roads.
Comfort: Good news and bad when it comes to seating. The front bucket seats are big enough to fit most sizes, shaped to be comfy and high enough to offer a great view.
Lumbar support however is lacking, which becomes tiresome on long hauls.
Rear seats are surprisingly roomy. They’re a little upright, but head and legroom are very generous, there’s even space for big feet under the front seats.
Shoulder-room is at a premium. Three across the back will be a tight squeeze on short runs, but for long hauls best to keep it two people if possible.
Equipment: Trax comes stacked with air-con, power windows on all doors, remote central locking, reverse sensors and rear camera, a 230v powerpoint on the centre console (try finding that anywhere else for the price!), auto headlights, leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel, six-speaker audio and cruise control.
The LTZ also gains 18-inch alloy wheels, trip computer, heated front seats, fog lights, additional chrome and illuminated vanity mirrors.
Holden’s impressive seven-inch touchscreen MyLink system provides a tablet-like interface for the audio system, Bluetooth connectivity and included apps like Pandora, Stitcher and BringGo navigation (although we found this a bit fussy to set up).
Storage: Boot space measures 356 litres rising to 1370 litres with the seats folded. To do that you have to pull the squab up first, which is a bit of a fussy operation.
Elsewhere in the cabin, there are nooks and crannies everywhere. The front and rear doors score map-pockets, bottle-holders and an extra storage slot perfect for a wallet or small purse.
There are four cupholders on display and two hidden in the rear armrest, dual gloveboxes, a lidded bin at the top of the dash, a driver’s storage compartment, a bin at the bottom of the centre stack and a slot on each side of the centre air-vents.
We couldn’t work out a good use for those, except for holding onto your Snickers or Cherry Ripe. But, for all of that clever storage, there’s no covered centre console.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: Holden has saddled the Trax with the same uninspiring 1.8 litre four cylinder that powers base versions of the Cruze. It produces 103kW of power at 6300rpm and 175Nm of torque at 3800rpm.
The engine feels lethargic and slow to gather revs. And, with 1371kg to lug around - a bit of heft for a small car - the torque output is on the low side.
Thankfully, the six-speed auto is quick witted and decisive enough to keep things on the boil.
Around town, although a little 'soft', the Trax has enough punch to keep up with traffic. And, thanks to a willingness to downshift, it's not too bad around a winding road and will also hold pace on inclines.
Visibility is tight, hampered by thick pillars that make approaching roundabouts or checking blindspots a squirm-around-in-your-seat affair.
Don’t fool yourself about off-road adventures either. There’s an effective hill-descent control, and added ride-height, but the super-low front lip will catch every tussock if you wander off the beaten track.
Refinement: Engine noise is well-damped, and there are no errant vibrations until the top of the rev range where things start to sound and feel a little strained. Road roar is also well-suppressed, even across varied patches of asphalt.
Wind noise is a killer though. There’s no flush-fit glass in the Trax, and even at moderate speeds it's apparent. On a gusty day on the highway the wind threw up quite a din.
Ride and Handling: For most small cars, 18-inch wheels would spell disaster for ride comfort.
But thanks to the baggy SUV tyres of the Trax and higher ground clearance, imperfections are neatly absorbed over broken surfaces.
Being tall and narrow means corners will cause plenty of roll, and understeer is apparent early if pressing on.
It's no hot-shoe, but, with well weighted steering and pretty good balance for a small upright car, the Trax has an alive feel we were not expecting. In all, it's a pretty good drive.
Braking: Ventilated front discs and rear drums do not make for an inspiring stopping package. We also found pedal feel to be inconsistent, too eager at the top of the pedal and too soft in hard stops.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - this model scored 35.18 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: Six airbags, dual front, side and full-length head airbags. Height adjustable front seatbelts with load limiting pretensioners, adjustable head restraints and three-point seatbelts for all seats, collapsible pedals, ABS brakes with brake assist and Electronic Stability Control.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000km
Service costs: HoldenWise capped price servicing covers the first four services up to three years or 60,000km for $185 per service every 9 months or 15,000km. Some terms and exclusions apply, consult your Holden dealer.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Peugeot 2008 Allure Auto ($29,990) - Just as the Barina begat the Trax, Peugeot’s 208 platform climbs on stilts in the 2008. There’s no AWD option, and the automatic is an antiquated four-speed unit.
Power and torque are down, but so is vehicle weight. There’s an impressive equipment list with a panoramic roof and dual-zone climate, but nav is optional.
It’s a nimble handler, but not as comfy as the Trax. There’s also that small wheel/high instrument driving position that won’t suit all tastes. (see 2008 reviews)
Nissan Juke Ti-S ($32,190) - And now for something completely different, and not just in the way the wild Juke looks, but also the powertrain which includes a turbocharged 1.6 litre engine, AWD and a CVT transmission.
It asks for a lot more money, but the powertrain covers the difference, plus there’s plenty of equipment.
Rear space is a little tighter, ride comfort is maintained, handling is quite fun and official fuel consumption is just 0.2 litres worse than the Trax. (see Juke reviews)
The floodgates have only just opened, soon the compact SUV category will be joined by the likes of the Renault Captur, Ford EcoSport and there’s plenty more on the way or in development. TMR will bring you more info once Australian pricing and specifications have been confirmed.
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Holden’s Trax is a surprising little car. Equipment is generous as is passenger space, ride comfort is excellent and, for a lot of people, that covers most bases.
We’d be happier if the interior were a little better crafted and the brakes a touch smoother. Perhaps we'd also ask for the turbo 1.4 from the Cruze if we’re making demands.
But that said, in all honesty the package 'as delivered' is well up to most tasks that will be thrown at the Trax.
The tall driving position and compact dimensions will be sure to win hearts, as will the pugnacious styling and value for money. Well worth a look against the opposition.
Pricing (excludes on-road costs)
- Holden Trax LS Manual - $23,490
- Holden Trax LS Automatic - $25,690
- Holden Trax LTZ (Auto only) - $27,990