There's a lot to like about the revived Trailblazer.
Chevrolet ruffled a few feathers when it brought back the Blazer as a crossover to compete with the Ford Edge, rather than a body-on-frame SUV to take on the Bronco and Jeep Wrangler. But the angry cries from enthusiasts were quickly drowned out by strong sales, and General Motors saw an opportunity to bring back another nameplate from its past in the form of the 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer.
Instead of positioning the Trailblazer as a mid-size SUV (like the previous generation that departed in 2008), this new model sits in the subcompact segment above the Trax and below the Equinox. The Trailblazer rivals options like the Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-30, and Kia Seltos, and after driving the sporty RS trim, the Chevy makes a strong case for itself. Based on sales numbers alone, the Trailblazer already seems like a hit. Here's what we loved (and hated) about after a week of testing.
We have loved the infotainment system in every General Motors vehicle that we've tested recently, and the Trailblazer is no exception. Our RS model packed the larger eight-inch touchscreen display, which features Android Auto and Apple CarPlay as standard. The Trailblazer is also among the first cars to have wireless Android Auto and CarPlay as part of a $1,720 Technology Package, so you no longer need to plug your phone in to use these features. Chevy's infotainment system also includes Amazon Alex integration, which offers intuitive voice commands and connectivity to your other Amazon devices.
The Trailblazer comes with a choice of two turbocharged three-cylinder engines, neither of which thrusts you back into your seat. But with 155 horsepower and 174 lb-ft from the larger 1.3-liter engine, the car doesn't feel too sluggish. The engine isn't the most refined in this segment, but our bigger gripe lies with the nine-speed automatic transmission. We've sampled this gearbox elsewhere in the GM portfolio, where it pairs well with a larger four-cylinder engine that produces plenty of torque.
In the Trailblazer, though, the nine-speed transmission often feels lost, having to sort through too many gears in a hurry. Only the 1.3-liter engine with all-wheel-drive uses this gearbox, while all other Trailblazer models use a continuously variable transmission. We recently tested a front-wheel-drive version of the Trailblazer's platform-mate, the Buick Encore GX, and preferred the smoothness of the CVT to the clunkiness of the nine-speed.
The Trailblazer is small, but it has more clever storage areas than most large SUVs. Chevy knows that drivers want plenty of places to store their various items, so the Trailblazer is filled with large cubby areas. A storage bin ahead of the shifter also includes a wireless charger and even he cupholders contain a handy slot for your phone. Behind the shifter, another storage area can fit larger items with room for more in the armrest. There's also a clever cubby in front of the passenger seat and plenty of storage in the door pockets.
While the Trailblazer comes covered in "RS" badges, it doesn't feel very sporty. RS stands for Rally Sport, but the three-cylinder engine doesn't provide enough pep to justify all of the red accents and aggressive styling. The handling is just ok too, with steering that feels light and less enjoyable than the Kia Seltos or Mazda CX-30. We also thought the Encore GX rode better, which might come down to the suspension tuning on the Trailblazer or specifically the RS.
It may only sit in the subcompact crossover segment, but the Trailblazer maximizes its space. The back seat offers an impressive 39.4 inches of rear legroom, which is more than many midsize crossovers. Behind the second row, the trunk boasts 25.3 cubic feet of storage (more than the Honda HR-V), with a removable floor to open up additional space. Folding down the seats offers 54.4 cubic feet, which is less than the HR-V or Seltos, but Chevy adds a foldable passenger seat to you can squeeze in longer items like skis, boxes, or even a kayak.
The Trailblazer name may have worked wonders for sales, but we think the badge could have been better used elsewhere. Chevy offers a more rugged ACTIV trim level on the Trailblazer, but we doubt too many owners will ever take it beyond the grassy parking lot of a soccer field. The Trailblazer name sounds tough and capable, which this subcompact crossover clearly isn't. Chevy should have saved the name for the Wrangler rival that enthusiasts clamor over, but at the end of the day, the numbers don't lie.