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- Highs Attractive styling, spacious cabin, technology rich.
- Lows Yawn-inducing performance, harsh ride, fully loaded versions are value-challenged.
- Verdict If only the Trailblazer’s punchy style and solid practicality were enough to make up for its sluggish performance.
Subcompact crossovers like the Chevy Trailblazer are the Labrador Retrievers of the car world: ubiquitous, affable members of the family. The Trailblazer is the smaller and more affordable alternative to Chevy’s Blazer, offering a spacious cabin in a package that’s easy to park. A 137-hp turbocharged three-cylinder is standard, while a 155-hp three-banger is optional. Front-wheel-drive models come with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), but all-wheel drivers come exclusively with a smoother nine-speed automatic. Unfortunately, both powertrains move the Trailblazer with as much urgency as a stubborn Great Pyrenees. Front-drive Trailblazers with the less powerful engine return an EPA-estimated 33 mpg on the highway. That’s lower than more affordable subcompact SUVs such as the Kia Soul and Nissan Kicks. With five more cubic feet of interior space than the recently discontinued Trax, the Trailblazer’s high roof comfortably accommodates adults in the rear seats. And for people with big projects (or big dogs), the front passenger seat folds forward to help maximize the utility provided by the Trailblazer’s flat load floor.
Where This Vehicle Ranks
What's New for 2023?
Chevy doesn’t make any dramatic changes to the Trailblazer for 2023, but it’s added new paint colors including Nitro Yellow Metallic, Fountain Blue, and Sterling Gray Metallic, as well as an optional Iridescent Pearl Tricoat roof color.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
With a starting price of just over $25,000, we think the Trailblazer LT is the one to get. It comes standard with the less powerful three-cylinder. But for $2000, we'd upgrade from the 1.2-liter to the 1.3-liter and add all-wheel drive, which also brings a nine-speed automatic transmission. Selecting the Adaptive Cruise Control package adds a host of desirable features, including the aforementioned driver assist, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, and a rear center armrest. It also requires the Convenience package (automatic climate control, auto-dimming rearview mirror, extra charging ports, a larger touchscreen, etc.) and either the Confidence II package or the Driver Confidence package. Opting for the latter brings a blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, and rear parking sensors.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
As with the Encore GX, the Trailblazer offers two different turbocharged three-cylinder engines, a 1.2-liter and a 1.3-liter. The former produces 137 horsepower and the latter generates 155 horses. The 1.2-liter engine comes only with front-wheel drive and is equipped with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), while the 1.3-liter offers optional all-wheel drive. Opting for the all-wheel drive system also replaces the standard CVT with a well-coordinated nine-speed automatic. The acceleration of a 1.3-liter all-wheel drive Trailblazer failed to impress during testing, where it loped to 60 miles per hour in a leisurely 9.4 seconds. Around town at slower speeds, the Trailblazer feels peppier than its test results suggest, but merging onto the highway or executing high-speed passing maneuvers require planning. While the Trailblazer doesn't offer a particularly athletic chassis, it handles curves ably enough—but its ride is often harsh over road imperfections.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
The most efficient Trailblazer, according to the EPA, is the front-wheel drive model with the larger 1.3-liter three-cylinder, which earns ratings of 29 mpg city and 33 mpg highway. Upgrading to all-wheel drive reduces those numbers to 26 and 30, respectively. We tested an all-wheel drive model and it delivered 31 mpg over 200 miles of highway driving. We haven't run a Trailblazer with the smaller 1.2-liter engine and front-wheel drive on our highway test loop, but the EPA fuel economy estimates for that model are 29 mpg city and 31 highway. For more information about the Trailblazer's fuel economy, visit the EPA's website.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
The cabin's design isn't as cheeky as the exterior's, but it's spacious, functional, and outfitted with plenty of convenience items in the upper trims. The driving position is a high, SUV-like perch and there's plenty of space for two adults to be comfortable in the rear seat. Although most of the interior is rendered in black plastic, everything wears an attractive texture to avoid appearing cheap. Upper-level models add colored trim pieces and chrome embellishments that provide a more upscale look. Behind the rear seat is a generous cargo bay, and the Chevy provides not only fold-flat rear seats but also a folding front passenger seat to create space for extra-long items.
Infotainment and Connectivity
The Trailblazer will be equipped with Chevy’s newest infotainment system, which will allow you to connect two Bluetooth devices at the same time. A 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system is standard but an 8.0-inch unit is optional. It will have available Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration as well as Sirius XM satellite radio and opting for the Technology package allows for wireless connections to the two smartphone interfaces. A four-speaker stereo is standard on the base L but upgrading to higher trims brings either a six-speaker setup or a premium Bose stereo with seven speakers.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
Chevrolet equips every Trailblazer with a set of basic driver-assistance technology and makes more advanced tech, such as adaptive cruise control, optional.
For more information about the Trailblazer's crash-test results, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) websites. Key safety features include:
- Standard automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection
- Standard lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist
- Available adaptive cruise control
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
Chevrolet's standard warranty coverage is dead average when compared to many of the Trailblazer's rivals. Looking for something with a longer warranty? The Hyundai Kona, the Kia Seltos, and the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport all offer up to 10 years or 100,000 miles of powertrain coverage. The Trailblazer's first scheduled maintenance visit is complimentary, which is unusual among competitors, but the Hyundai outdoes the Chevy here with a free three-year maintenance plan.
- Limited warranty covers three years or 36,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers five years or 60,000 miles
- Complimentary maintenance is covered for the first visit
2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer RS AWD
front-engine, all-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door wagon
PRICE AS TESTED
$30,580 (base price: $27,895)
turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 12-valve inline-3, aluminum block and head, direct fuel injection
82 in3, 1338 cm3
155 hp @ 5600 rpm
174 lb-ft @ 1600 rpm
Suspension (F/R): struts/torsion beam
Brakes (F/R): 11.8-in vented disc/10.4-in disc
Tires: Hankook Kinergy GT, 225/55R-18 98H M+S TPC SPEC 3139 MS
Wheelbase: 103.9 in
Length: 173.7 in
Width: 71.2 in
Height: 65.7 in
Passenger volume: 98 ft3
Cargo volume: 25 ft3
Curb weight: 3323 lb
C/D TEST RESULTS
60 mph: 9.4 sec
100 mph: 31.9 sec
Rolling start, 5–60 mph: 10.2 sec
Top gear, 30–50 mph: 4.8 sec
Top gear, 50–70 mph: 7.0 sec
1/4 mile: 17.1 sec @ 80 mph
Top speed (mfr's claim): 130 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 174 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad*: 0.83 g
Standing-start accel times omit 1-ft rollout of 0.3 sec.
C/D FUEL ECONOMY
Observed: 31 mpg
Highway range: 400 miles
EPA FUEL ECONOMY
Combined/city/highway: 28/26/30 mpg