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Holden Trax LTZ 2014 Review

EXPERT RATING
8
Joshua Dowling road tests and reviews the Holden Trax LTZ iTi turbo, with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.

The Holden Trax is one of the few new cars on sale today that has divided expert opinion. There are those who don’t like it, and those who really, really don’t like it.
 
I, however, am a fan. I happen to think the Trax is one of the best cars in the Holden line-up.
 
It may have unusual looks (if I had a magic wand, I’d replace this version with its identical twin-under-the-skin, the much more stylish European equivalent sold by Opel -- which, incidentally, comes out of the same South Korean factory) but it is hugely practical and spacious inside.
 
The Trax is one of a new niche of cars: city-sized SUVs. It has the tall driving position of a large SUV but fits in the same size parking space as a Holden Barina.
 
And it’s a faux-wheel-drive: its engine drives only the front wheels, not all four. More cars just like it are on their way as SUVs continue to fill every nook and crannie of the market.
 
The Trax went on sale a year ago and received a mixed welcome from experts who rarely buy cars, but actual paying customers have warmed to it.
 
The Trax hasn’t exactly set sales records (it’s the sixth best-selling Holden in the line-up) but it has brought new faces to Holden showrooms.
 
We’re revisiting the Trax one year on because Holden has just introduced a new top-of-the-line LTZ iTi model powered by a turbocharged engine, which aims to address some of the criticisms of the regular model’s bland 1.8-litre engine (which, incidentally, I happen to think is fine).
 
VALUE
 
The Trax has really only sold in numbers when Holden has discounted the price by about $3000 to, for example, this week’s offer of $23,990 drive-away.
 
Which is why it is particularly brave of Holden to increase prices from $23,490 to $23,990 plus on-roads for the five-speed manual LT model, and from $25,690 to $26,190 plus on-roads for the auto, and then from $27,990 to $28,490 plus on-roads for the top-line LTZ.
 
All of the above models come with the basic 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine; the Trax LTZ with the 1.4-litre turbo tested here (and matched with an automatic only) is $29,990 plus-on road costs.
 
Then there is the dearest metallic paint option among the mainstream brands: $550. Translated: this version of the Trax is not cheap, so be sure to haggle hard (aim for $29,990 drive-away, which is where the price will eventually settle to, if history is a guide).
 
At least the Trax’s running costs are among the best in class at $185 per service (four times over three years, every nine months, for a total of $740).
 
TECHNOLOGY
 
All Trax models come with Holden’s MyLink system which includes built-in internet radio apps such as Pandora and Stitcher which use your phone’s data to stream from the web.
 
Meanwhile, the digital speed display takes the guesswork out of analogue dials and gives you an exact readout of your velocity. This is a welcome addition given that speed cameras will zap you for just a few km/h over the limit in some states in Australia.
 
DESIGN
 
This is the Chevrolet version of a global General Motors model, but Detroit recently decided to withdraw Chevrolet from Europe and leave Opel as the sole player in that market.
 
So there is a chance there will eventually be only one version of the Trax. In the meantime, we hope Holden introduces the Opel Mokka (yes, it’s real name) as a facelift for the Trax (but keep the Trax name, please).
 
Where the Trax really shines, though, is on the inside, with massive storage cubbies in the doors, dash and console.
 
There’s also ample room for heads, shoulders, knees and toes and plenty of cargo space. I suspect buyers are sold on the Trax once they realise how roomy it is. It’s a four-wheeled Tardis.
 
SAFETY
 
Six airbags, stability control (which can prevent a skid in a corner), a rear-view camera and a five-star safety rating. Tick.
 
There are two ISOFIX child seat attachment points on the outer two back seat positions (for when ISOFIX is formally approved for Australia, 17 years after it was introduced in Europe).
 
DRIVING
 
The new 1.4-litre turbo petrol engine has given the Trax a welcome boost. It’s smoother, more powerful and more refined than the 1.8-litre four-cylinder version.
 
The Trax 1.4-litre petrol engine may be small compared to the regular model’s 1.8-litre non-turbo, but it has the same power and 14 per cent more torque. It’s also more economical, using 9 per cent less fuel than the 1.8-litre.
 
Holden prefers you use premium unleaded fuel, but it will happily run on regular without voiding your warranty, the company says.
 
On the road, the Trax Turbo feels light on its feet (well, tyres). The steering is light yet precise and there is confidence-inspiring grip from the 18-inch Continental tyres.
 
The only blot on an otherwise impressive report card is that the brakes felt slightly underdone. The front discs (and rear drums!) lack the bite of other cars in this class. 

But this could be due to the way the brakes were bedded in during the pre-delivery process -- or it could be a trait. Judge for yourself and test out the brakes in a quiet back street during your test drive.
 
I love the cabin of the Trax, with its ample storage and good visibility. The dashboard materials are a bit hard to the touch but it’s a practical design.
 
The rear-view camera image is a bit cloudy and not as sharp as others, but it’s better than no camera at all.
 
Although you may read contrary views elsewhere, I still rate the Holden Trax and the 1.4 turbo has made it even better.

Pricing guides

$12,990
Based on 143 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$7,900
Highest Price
$17,888

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
LS 1.8L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $9,990 – 17,888 2014 Holden Trax 2014 LS Pricing and Specs
LTZ 1.8L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $9,998 – 16,998 2014 Holden Trax 2014 LTZ Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8