The 2021 Chevy Trailblazer marks the return of the SUV name from the 2009, but that’s about it. Though some new SUVs, like the Ford Bronco, chose to go retro, the Trailblazer did something different.
It’s more modern and much smaller, but regardless it’s still roomy and quite easily one of the better compact SUVs Chevy has built in years. Here’s why.
Marketed as a subcompact SUV, the Trailblazer is much smaller than the Equinox — similar to the size of the Trax — while still offering seating for five (well, actually more like 4 people). It comes in four different trim levels — LS, TL, RS and ACTIV. The ACTIV trim Trailblazer was delivered to us for a full week of driving around on pavement and off, and we were pretty impressed by the little rig.
At just 173.7 inches long (close to 14 feet) and 71.2 inches wide (close to 6 feet), it has the visual appearance of a Mini Cooper. Plus, the Zeus Bronze Metallic exterior paint on our model along with the white top and white coverings on the mirrors helped reinforce the Mini Cooper connection.
However, unlike the Mini, the interior was quite roomy.
Even though it is one of the smallest SUVs in Chevy’s lineup, the 54.4 cubic feet of cargo volume makes the interior feel quite large. Plus, the front passenger seat is designed to fold flat allowing for longer items (skis, 2×4 wood, Kayak, etc.) to be laid flat from the rear cargo hatch to the front of the dash. There are even hard plastic coverings on the rear of the passenger seat to avoid damaging the seat when doing so.
Speaking of the rear hatch, we were pleasantly surprised when our golf clubs could fit without folding down a second-row seat. We also carried around a full load of groceries with no issues.
With a sporty look aided by the ACTIV trim’s exclusive 17-inch tires, improved ground clearance and underbody shielding, we found a lot to visually like about it.
On the road, it provided more to like.
Our test model’s 1.3-liter turbocharged engine (1.2-liter optional) producing 155 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque isn’t going to win any drag races. However, the fact our test model was paired to the 9-speed automatic transmission (continuously variable transmission is optional as well) allowed the power to be delivered in just the right amounts resulting in a smooth propulsion sensation along with a sense of more power on demand when needed.
This powertrain also helped the 2021 Chevy Trailblazer sip fuel pretty well. During our week of spirited driving, we saw MPGs in the mid-20s. Officially, the EPA listed our model at 26/30/28 city/highway/combined estimated MPG.
On the road, we found the Trailblazer to hold an on-center driving position without any issues, the steering to be well balanced for the size of vehicle and the braking to be acceptable. In short, this isn’t a sports car nor is it a lazy driver.
Off road, the ACTIV’s “uniquely tuned dampers,” according to Chevy, provide a surprisingly smooth ride. While washboards are rough on every vehicle, we found them to be fairly muted when hitting our favorite country-road spots.
Chevy has also provided four different drive modes — Normal, Sport, Snow and AWD — for changing road conditions. However, the placement of the drive mode selector buttons past the shifter and down out of the way likely means they will be forgotten more often than utilized.
There is a 7-inch diagonal color touchscreen that will be utilized quite often along with stereo controls behind the hand placement spots on the steering wheel. This touchscreen uses Chevy’s latest infotainment program and is fast and responsive to the touch. Depending on your model and features, it also can come with a slew of options like built-in Wi-Fi, Apple Carplay and Android Auto.
There is also Bluetooth wireless audio streaming for two devices, multiple USB ports and available wireless charging on ACTIV and RS trims.
Finally, Chevy offers its Teen Driver technology, which makes a lot of sense on this sub-$20k starting price SUV, which allows parents to check up on their teen’s driving habits and set boundaries.
Finally, there are a variety of different standard and available safety and driver assistance features along with front, knee, seat-mounted side-impact and head-curtain air bags, which provide a good amount of peace of mind while driving.
With its fun exterior design, roomy interior and decent powertrain, the 2021 Chevy Trailblazer is a solid offering and should be strongly considered by those shopping for a new, affordable SUV with good fuel economy.
While it isn’t for every family size or person, it hits such a wide variety of different needs, it wouldn’t surprise us if this becomes one of Chevy’s top-selling vehicles.