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Holden Trax 2014 review

Holden's range has had a few gaps in recent years. As soft-roaders boomed and bloomed into new sizes and shapes, there was no answer from the General for longer than the company was comfortable.

Then Captiva arrived from the GM Korea, then Colorado from Thailand (via Brazil and a bust-up with Isuzu) and now Trax.

Oddly, the Trax is kind of a first-mover for Holden - it arrived around the same time as the rather good Peugeot 2008 and beat the weirdo Nissan Juke by a few months. Again from GM Korea, the Trax draws its inspiration from Chevrolet's Tracker rather than Opel's Mokka and is, interestingly, front wheel drive only.

Value

The Trax is available in two trim levels, LS and LTZ. There's just one engine, the 1.8-litre petrol with 103kW and 175Nm. A five-speed manual in standard in the LS, with an optional six-speed automatic that is standard on the LTZ.

The LS manual kicks off the range at $23,990, with the LTZ adding almost $5000 to the price.

There's little between the two in the cabin, with the LTZ gaining some plastic "Sportec" leather on the seats with bright green stitching. Both have Holden's excellent MyLink system, (the good one from the Barina and now Colorado), air-conditioning and power windows front and back. There's even a 240 volt power supply in the back for devices up to 140W - laptops, iThings and portable DVD players yes, power drills no.

The stereo is a six-speaker unit with decent sound and the Bluetooth phone connectivity is good as long as MyLink doesn't forget to link to your phone.

It's easy to pick them from the outside - while both have roof rails, alloy wheels and powered mirrors, the LTZ's wheels are bigger and the chrome flashes lift things a little.

Design

It's a chunky little thing. It looks nothing like the Barina it's based on, with a distinct two-box look, bluff front end with deep front spoiler that'll tag a gutter if you're not careful and a range of accoutrements that make it look like an SUV even if its two-wheel drive powertrain will surely keep it away from the mud.

The interior is well-executed but is let down by detailing. The plastics are hard and snappy and the LTZ's fake leather is slippery and felt a bit too much like vinyl for my liking. Everything fits but there's a couple of silly decisions, like putting the USB port in the upper glove box, meaning you have to drive around with it open if you want to be plugged in but not forget your phone.

Again belying its Barina base, the cabin is very spacious and will fit three skinny kids across the back without too much drama and the floor is close to flat. You can also fold the seats down and the bases tip forward for an almost flat load area.

As an added bonus, it's a very simple car to step in and out of - we think a lot of Trax buyers will be empty-nesters or retirees with failing hips and knees and the Trax is just right for most heights.

Safety

Both are identically specced for safety - six airbags including full-length curtain bags, ABS, brake assist and, bizarrely, hill descent control.

Technology

The 1.8-litre four cylinder petrol is adequate for the job. It's buzzy at high revs and with just 103kW, a bit on the slow side. The torque figures are okay, but the extra weight of the otherwise excellent six-speed automatic further dulls the performance over the five-speed manual.

As it's front drive only, there's no four-wheel drive system, just traction control and a pointless hill descent system for picking your way down a steep rocky slope.

Yeah, that's a bit odd.

Driving

The Trax's brief is a simple one - give the punters what they want. It might be a cliché, but the vast majority of soft-roaders don't ever see much worse than a gravel driveway, so the Trax dispenses with heavy, costly, fuel-eating four-wheel drive.

So, basically, it handles like the jacked-up hatchback that it is. The steering is a little too light, needing constant correction, but the fundamentals are right. The body will lean over when you turn the wheel, but the tyres hang on until falling into gentle understeer.

The ride is on the firm side, but won't trouble too many medical professionals. The driving position is a little odd, you have to scrunch your legs up a bit (we found we could reach the pedals with our hands with little effort) but with a good adjustment in the steering wheel, easy to work out.

Road and wind noise is reasonably well-damped, but there's rustling around the wing mirrors and a bit of tyre roar.

Verdict

The Trax is pretty clever - it's a decent-sized box to put kids and stuff in, drives well enough and is nice and high for the "it makes me feel safe" brigade. With the trick MyLink system, reasonably good pricing (helped by Holden's addiction to good deals) and it chunky looks, the Trax is a winner.

The 2008 and Juke are both good cars, but both have downsides the Holden exploits (deliberately or otherwise). It's not brilliant, but it's good and makes good on Holden's dual promises of more cars in more segments and, crucially, no more crappy cars.

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
Peter Anderson
Contributing journalist

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