August 14, 2014
What’s Hot: Improved driveability, more equipment, quality ride
What’s Not: Price, 1.4 turbo not available in LS grade.
X-FACTOR: At last, the Trax gets the engine it deserves and adds mountains to its appeal
Vehicle Style: Compact SUV
Engine/trans: 103kW/200Nm 1.4 turbo petrol 4cyl | 6sp auto
Fuel Economy claimed: 6.9 l/100km | tested: 7.3 l/100km
Holden has given the Trax a freshen-up... and it's more than just a skin-deep nip and tuck.
There are subtle changes to the standard equipment list for the range-topping LTZ model, but it’s the addition of a 1.4 litre turbo engine that’s the biggest news of all.
Available exclusively with a six-speed automatic, it’s the same engine/gearbox combo that sees service in the Cruze Equipe, but with a shorter final drive ratio in the Trax to give it more go.
The naturally-aspirated 1.8 litre which soldiers on alongside the new (for the Trax) 1.4 turbo is not one of the better ones out there, so the introduction of the torquier turbo engine is a welcome one.
However, it’s only available at the top-end of the Trax range, and at $29,990 it’s not cheap for a compact SUV.
But this is a good engine and it transforms the Trax on road.
- Standard features on LTZ 1.4 iTi: Sunroof, manual air conditioning, power windows, front foglamps, trip computer, reversing camera, dusk-sensing headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, driver’s fold-down centre arm rest, cruise control, 18-inch alloys.
- Infotainment: Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, MyLink connectivity suite with 7-inch colour touchscreen, internet streaming apps including Pandora, Stitcher and BringGo sat-nav, Siri Eyes-free compatibility.
- Cargo capacity: 356 litres minimum, 1370 litres maximum.
The interior is pretty much identical to last year’s model, and that means broad swathes of charcoal grey surfaces which lacks appeal at this price.
But to its credit, the Trax does have exceptional headroom, a high hip-point that makes entry and exit easy, and an SUV-like seating position that gives a good view of the road ahead.
And for 2015, LTZ owners also get a fold-down driver’s arm rest, as well as a sunroof in the 1.4 iTi model.
Heated front seats are a carry-over feature, and were definitely welcome given the chilly weather in Melbourne during the launch.
The back seats are commodious for something with such a compact footprint, and two adults will enjoy the plentiful, head, leg and footroom on offer.
Luggage space is also good, with 356 litres of seats-up cargo capacity which puts the Barina-based Trax on par with many small hatchbacks.
And then there’s Holden’s MyLink infotainment system, which features a 7-inch colour touchscreen and enables an integrated sat-nav system when paired with a phone loaded with the BringGo navigation app.
The Trax LTZ 1.4 iTi justifies its high pricetag with a decent spread of equipment, but though its cabin is relatively spacious against competitors like the Ford EcoSport, larger cars like the Honda CR-V offer more space for less dosh.
ON THE ROAD
- 103kW/200Nm 1.4 litre turbocharged petrol inline four
- Six-speed automatic with manual mode
- MacPherson strut front, torsion beam rear suspension
- Disc brakes at front, drum brakes at rear
- Electronic power steering
The LTZ 1.4 iTi’s turbo four-pot makes 103kW of power, which is the same as the 1.8 litre atmo engine it’s sold alongside.
However, with 200Nm of torque it’s got vastly improved tractability and decent fuel economy to boot.
While the 1.8 puts out 175Nm of torque at 3800rpm, the new 1.4 iTi engine develops its 200Nm peak torque figure from 1850rpm all the way up to 5000rpm.
That means there’s more pulling power, more of the time.
When carrying passengers, heavy cargo, or just motoring up a hill, it’s the turbo’s greater torque output that makes a huge difference to how the Trax drives..
The engine doesn’t need to work up as much of a sweat, and thanks to the 1.4 iTi’s ability to generate more torque with fewer revs, fuel economy benefits.
Holden claims an average fuel consumption of 6.9 l/100km for the 1.4, against the 7.6 l/100km required by the auto-equipped 1.8 litre.
Our average figure on the launch route was 7.3 l/100km, which is appreciably close to the factory claim.
The gearbox calibration definitely favours higher gears, but confront the Trax 1.4 iTi with a steep hill and it will quickly shuffle down through the ratios to find the best gear.
No hunting, no fuss. It’s not the sportiest-feeling transmission, but it doesn’t need to be.
Ride and handling is basically unchanged, with the MY14’s springs, dampers and power steering tune carrying over to the updated Trax range.
This is a good thing, for the Trax never had many issues with ride comfort, handling or steering feel.
Even on the LTZ’s 18-inch alloys there’s good compliance over rough roads, and though the short wheelbase means the Trax tends to porpoise over undulating pavement, it’s a comfy ride overall.
And it actually turns in quite keenly, thanks to the locally-tuned power steering and grippy Continental tyres.
It corners better than you’d expect a tall quasi-SUV to do, and you have to push it pretty hard before it starts to give up grip.
Brake feel is probably the only complaint we’ve got, with a pedal that’s too grabby at the top of its travel yet not grabby enough during panic stops.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - this model scored 35.18 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: Dual front, 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,ABS, EBD, brake assist, traction control and stability control.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Technically a 'small SUV' but in reality a size smaller than segment leaders like the Nissan Qashqai and Hyundai ix35.
The Trax counts other compact SUVs like Nissan’s Juke and the Ford EcoSport among its rivals.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
It’s currently the best-selling pint-sized SUV in Australia, and there’s good reason for that. However, the turbo’s high pricetag limits its appeal and knocks a half-star off its rating.
A base LS variant with the 1.4 iTi engine would address that, but if you’re looking to spend $30k on an SUV there’s no shortage of bigger, more powerful options out there like the Mazda CX-5 Maxx and Honda CR-V VTi.
The Trax is still deserving of a look-in, but at the $30k end of the market there’s no shortage of competitors.
PRICING (excludes on-road costs)
- Trax LS, 1.8 litre manual - $23,990
- Trax LS, 1.8 litre automatic - $26,190
- Trax LTZ, 1.8 litre automatic - $28,490
- Trax LTZ, 1.4 litre iTi automatic - $29,990