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With no end in sight to the SUV boom GM Holden has added to the choices in the compact segment with its all-new Trax – a five-door, five-seat, high-riding and handsome wagon that is as much about media technology for savvy city slickers as it is engines and drivetrains.
Trax is a global SUV sold in the US as the Chevrolet Trax and elsewhere as the Opel Mokka. Holden opted to not bring in an AWD version after market research found buyers top three priorities when buying a compact SUV were styling, cost and manufacturer.
GM Holden's Australian engineers were involved in developing Trax for local conditions in South America, Africa, Australia and New Zealand with suspension and steering tuning made to suit local roads.
The compact Trax SUV fills a void in Holden's line joining big brothers Captiva 5, Captiva 7 and Colorado 7. Trax is based on the Opel Corsa/Holden Barina platform with the powertrain from Cruze.
Australia is getting the 2WD drive version powered by the same 1.8-litre in-line four found in the current Holden Cruze. It comes in two specifications, LS and LTZ with prices ranging from $23,490 to $27,990. Buyers have the choice of either a five-speed manual transmission or a six-speed auto in the LS and auto-only in the LTZ.
Key competitors are Nissan Dualis 2WD ($25,990) , Mitsubishi ASX 2WD ($25,990) and Hyundai ix35 2WD ($26,990) which gives the Holden a significant price advantage. Later in the year Trax will find more competition from Ford's EcoSport. Trax will be in Holden showrooms from mid-September.
Trax has a distinctive shape with a bold, rising shoulder line and diving roof line, but the front of the vehicle is unashamedly brash – being designed for the US market. Those who designed the front though were from Australia. Holden's chief designer (who did not design the Trax) said the car had perhaps more road presence 'than it deserves' implying that it actually looks a lot tougher than its performance. There is nothing new in this with soft-roader Jeep and Dodge product taking the same design strategy. Having said that Trax is a handsome SUV that should appeal to buyers, young and not so young.
With technology from smart phones also booming, the Trax is fitted with MyLink technology that features embedded apps for music and navigation. MyLink supports Pandora, Stitcher, Tunein and BringGo navigation as well as Siri Eyes Free Mode.
In a sign of the times the centre stack does not include a CD slot with the majority of people using Smartphones as their source of music. MyLink allows audio and phone streaming via Bluetooth for Android while iPhone connectivity is via cable. As well the system allows people to view images and movies while the vehicle is parked using USB storage connected via cable.
There is also USB and auxillary input and voice control via Siri eyes free integration. Also, Trax has a 240 volt three plug outlet rated to 150 watt, for charging items such as laptops while driving - the only vehicle we know of that has this convenience.
On the launch we used the BringGo navigation that costs 99 cents to try and $65 to buy which uses your smartphone GPS to navigate through the car's 7-inch screen. We also used Pandora for our favourite music and listened to our preferred Gold Coast radio station on Tunein while testing the Trax in Victoria.
As the Trax was being launched Holden was advised the vehicle had been given a 5-Star ANCAP safety rating with high points. Standard equipment includes a reversing camera, rear parking sensors, stability control, ABS brakes, traction control, hill start assist, electronic brakeforce distribution, six airbags, and three child seat anchors.
Our Trax first drive took us through the Melbourne CBD to Berwick, down to the Mornington Peninsula in both specification levels and including one manual variant. The ride is comfortable but a little stiff over uneven surfaces causing a small amount of twitchiness.
The steering is light and perhaps a little vague, but as a city car this is almost irrelevant. As a high-riding vehicle Trax has some body roll on corners – as do all the SUV's in this compact segment. One thing we liked was the low NVH (noise vibration harshness). We also like the large digital speedometer read out in these days of prolific speed cameras.
It is a five seater, but with a narrow body line the car is best suited to four adults - and possibly a small child from the rear centre seat. The core strength of Trax is in the technology and the practicality along with sharp pricing. Even though Trax is relatively small, the interior does not feel cramped and the vehicle does not drive like a compact car. It feels sturdy and solid.
The interior is littered with storage bins and there's a handy storage drawer under the passenger seat to hide valuables including laptops away from prying eyes. The rear seat has a 60/40 split and with a fold and tumble function folds flat to create a good size cargo bed. With all seats in use the cargo area is still impressive with 356 litres of usable space.
The Holden Trax is priced sharply, and is bristling with modern connectivity and convenience features. Its practical interior will win it many friends, and despite its modest dimensions, has a feeling of solidity akin to larger SUVs. The Trax is likely to sell like hotcakes.