THE popularity of SUVs in Australia continues to grow with figures for new vehicles sold in January showing that the sports utility accounted for almost 30% of sales. It is little wonder then that manufacturers are so keen to add the SUV - in every size - to their stables in the hope of capitalising on the that trend.
The Holden Trax has joined the Captiva and Colorado 7 in Holden showrooms, a sub-compact SUV designed to capture the imagination of trendy, tech-savvy young people as well as those looking to downsize.
The Trax is built on the Barina platform and is offered here as a front-wheel drive with General Motors opting to confine the AWD option to overseas markets.
We were surprised by the spaciousness of the Trax, with a tall roof and high seating position allowing for more than adequate leg and headroom.
Of course the backseat is better suited for two than three but the seats themselves are comfortable and fairly supportive. Storage solutions are ample and clever, with the designers making good use of otherwise dead space.
The boot, at 356 litres with the 60:40 seats in position and 1370 litres when lowered, is capable and can deal easily with a small weekly shop.
The interior, on the whole is run-of-the-mill, with simple fittings which are easy to decipher. While the dash is well set out, there is little to rave about other than the useful digital speedometer. A few soft touch surfaces would help mellow the hard plastics.
On the road
The Trax is powered by the 1.8-litre engine first seen in the Cruze and is mated to either a five-speed manual or optional six-speed automatic transmission.
It is a unit that is perfectly adequate on the inner city roads for which the Trax was designed and can hold its own should highway driving be more your preference.
It certainly handles well. There is some body roll to contend with and the steering offers minimal feedback but that seems to be par for the course these days.
With suspension tuned to Australian conditions, the Trax offers an easy, comfortable ride even when the roads are wanting.
The manual was the pick for us, changes were smooth and holding it in a lower gear a tad longer seemed to maximise performance.
The automatic was sometimes a bit noisy for us, especially when the car was pushed and battled to find its range quickly.
What do you get?
The MyLink infotainment system, borrowed from the Barina, is one of the best inclusions.
The touch-screen tablet-like interface is easy to navigate and designed to work with your smartphone. It includes apps like Stitcher, Pandora, Tunein and BringGo navigation. The latter is available from Itunes or Google Play at 99c for a trial and $65 for a total commitment.
The entry-level LS comes with auto headlights, reverse camera and sensors, 17.7cm touch-screen, six-speaker audio system with Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control and a 230v powerpoint at the bottom of the centre console. The LTZ adds 18-inch alloys, heated front seats, illuminated mirrors and a trip computer. Safety is five-star and highlights include six airbags, ABS brakes with stability control and brake assist, hill descent control, adjustable head restraints and three point seatbelts.
This new sub-compact SUV segment is all of a sudden pretty crowded after Holden was the first to enter the genre. There is competition from the Nissan Juke (from $21,990), Ford EcoSport (from $20,790), Peugeot 2008 (from $21,990), Fiat Panda (from $16,500), Mitsubishi ASX (from $24,990) and Suzuki S-Cross (from $22,990).
The Trax makes good sense for those who want a small car but still value space. Ride height is good for visibility but is also a boon for older people getting in and out and for parents settling kids into car seats. The three-pin 230v plug is a nice addition and will allow you to charge a laptop if need be. Thick pillars do hinder visibility a bit so you have to be sure to check your blind spot.
Official figures put fuel consumption at seven litres/100km for the manual and 7.6L/100km automatic. Holden offers a three-year/100,000km warranty and a capped price servicing schedule for the first four services up to three years or 60,000km.
The Trax is eye catching with its trademark Holden grille and sharp lines. The front end, at least, was designed for the US market and that is evident in its bold and chunky features. The rising shoulder line and a complementary rear design makes for a vehicle that thankfully looks somewhat different from the competition.
The Trax has a lot going for it. It handles well, is roomy, has embraced technology and is attractively priced. Sure, it is not an SUV in the true sense of the word but we doubt that is really going to matter.
What matters most
What we liked: Spaciousness, looks, easy drive.
What we'd like to see: Better interior, more powerful engine option.
Warranty and servicing: Holden offers a three-year/100,000km warranty with fixed-price servicing for the first four services up to 60,000km. Service intervals are at nine months or 15,000km at $185 each.
Model: Holden Trax.
Details: Five-door two-wheel drive sub-compact SUV.
Transmission: Six-speed auto or five-speed manual.
Engine: 1.8-litre DOHC 16-valve four-cylinder petrol generating maximum power of 103kW @ 6300rpm and peak torque of 175Nm @ 3800rpm.
Consumption: 7 litres/100km (combined average, manual); 7.6L/100km (auto).
CO2: 164g/km (manual); 179g/km (auto).
Bottom line: LS (manual), $23,490, LS (automatic), $25,690, LTZ (auto only) $27,990.