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Holden Trax LTZ turbo 2014 review

EXPERT RATING
7

About a year ago, Holden introduced the boxy Barina-based Trax compact SUV with a noisy, coarse 1.8-litre naturally-aspirated engine. It was a huge shame because, despite some cynical, preconceived notions about the car, it turned out to be otherwise quite good.

Now the Trax has dropped in the 1.4-litre turbo that usually does duty under the bonnet of the Holden Cruze and the warm-hatch Barina RS. It could just be the making of the weirdo Trax.

VALUE

The Trax range has but one turbo model, the top-spec LTZ. The 1.8 LTZ asks $28,490 with the 1.4 adding $1500 to take the price to $29,990.

Your money buys you a fake-but-not-unpleasant leather interior (still with that toothpaste-coloured stitching) air-conditioning, power windows all round, remote central locking, auto wipers, rear-vision camera and rear parking sensors, cruise control, hill descent control (!) and leather multi-function wheel (real cow this time, apparently).

There's even a 240-volt power socket in the back.

DESIGN

The 1.4's only obvious distinction from the Trax LTZ 1.8 is the '1.4' badge on the tailgate. It shares the absurdly deep bumpers that scrape on driveways, big 18-inch five spoke alloys, plenty of chrome bits and pieces and a large Holden badge set in a gaping grille.

The bodywork is pumped in various places to give it that rugged off-road look, belying its actual on-road intent. From some angles the detailing is awkward, but from the front three quarter it looks chunky, almost cool.

You also get a split-level glovebox and a sunglasses cubby on the dash top, along with four drink holders between the front seats, small, medium and large storage slots in the doors and vertical slots either side of the screen that can take papers, lollies and phones.

SAFETY

ANCAP has awarded the Trax range five stars based on EuroNCAP testing.

To get there, the Trax has six airbags including full-length curtain bags, ABS, traction and stability control, brake assist, front seatbelt pretensioners and load-limiters.

Perhaps front parking sensors would be more helpful than a pointless off-road frippery like hill descent control.

TECHNOLOGY

The brilliantly simple GM MyLink system does duty with a 7-inch screen in the centre of the dash. It really is very good in this version (as it is in the Barina, less so in Malibu and Commodore), with high-res graphics, sensible inputs and easy setup. Plenty of far more expensive cars could learn from MyLink.

If you plug your phone in, you can also run apps like Pandora, Stitcher and the BringGo sat-nav app.

The six-speaker stereo is fine but the USB port is in the top glovebox. There's nowhere to let the cable out, which is immensely irritating. We felt like geese driving around with the glovebox hanging open to avoid crimping our phone's cable. Seems like a small thing, but the virtually identical Barina interior has a little notch out of the plastic to avoid the kink.

ENGINE / TRANSMISSION

The turbo 1.4-litre pumps out the same 103kW as the 1.8-litre, but another 25Nm of torque boosts the figure to a welcome 200Nm. Driving the front wheels only is a six-speed automatic transmission with a silly manual rocker switch on the selector.

Holden claims 6.9L/100km in the combined fuel consumption cycle. We could only manage 9.9 with careful driving, a big difference.

DRIVING

The Trax is neither the first nor last word in dynamic excellence but the 1.8-litre engine in the other versions borders on ghastly. Despite sharing the same power output, it always felt like a bucket of bees was trying to escape when you put your foot down.

And you had to do that a lot because the torque is way up in the rev range where you can't get at it while avoiding tinnitus.

The new engine transforms the Trax. It's a far more flexible engine and is also significantly quieter. You can drive the turbo with your big toe in most conditions, which is a revelation. The drive-by-wire throttle is better tuned to the 1.4 and actually feels connected to the engine, a feat Hyundai is yet to master.

The 1.4 isn't especially economical, but the small penalty is worth it - we just dipped under 9.9L/100km while consciously driving the way most people would.

Some old problems remain - the steering is vague and needs a lot of correction which is tiring on long trips, but is countered by a good ride and quiet cabin.

The front seats are reasonably comfortable but even with adjustable steering column, the relationship between helm and pedals is not quite right, forcing taller folk to lean forward to reach the wheel in exchange for not driving as though astride an elephant.

Passengers get a good view out, you can squeeze three across the back and the shopping in the boot all at once. Seats down you have a handy small van, too.

It's no hot hatch but it feels better than the basic Barina when you're out on the road, and copes admirably in urban and suburban driving. There's quite a bit of body roll in hard cornering, so it's best to sit back and stick with a relaxed approach to driving.

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
7
Peter Anderson
Contributing journalist

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