Car reviews - Holden - Trax - LS
Impressive cabin packaging, standard infotainment system, sharp steering, nippy handling, intelligent automatic
Room for improvement
Terse ride quality, coarse engine lacks refinement, low-rent cabin feels cheaper than pricing indicates
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28 Mar 2017
Price and equipment
HOLDEN has not followed Mazda’s lead and offered a $20,000 base Trax, but nor has it taken Toyota’s approach and stacked its entry LS with equipment for a near-$30,000 ask. The Trax LS starts from $23,990 plus on-road costs (manual) and tops out at $26,490 (automatic), up $300 from before.
Oddly, the six-speed manual retains the 1.8-litre that pre-dates Noah’s ark, but the six-speed auto nabs the 1.4-litre turbo formerly reserved for the Trax LTZ – that now rises by $500 to $30,490 but remains the range flagship.
Equipment is hardly enticing, though. On the outside 16-inch alloy wheels elevate this Holden slightly above base expectations, while a leather-wrapped steering wheel does the same job inside. Auto on/off headlights, cruise control, a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity, reverse parking sensors and a rear-view camera round out the adequate level of kit.
However, even a cheaper $24,390 CX-3 Maxx matches the Trax for equipment and further adds integrated satellite navigation, while a $1030 safety package buys low-speed autonomous emergency braking (AEB), blind-spot monitor and rear-traffic alert – the last two functions of which Holden reserves for the pricey Trax LTZ. AEB is not available on any model.
A fresh dashboard design more closely aligns the Holden small SUV with the brand’s new small Astra hatchback. Although respectively, the Trax is a Chevrolet-based design produced in South Korea, and the Astra is an Opel-derived vehicle made in Poland, the two similarly priced distant cousins now share a similar look around their dashboard vents, which flank an identical centre touchscreen.
Unfortunately, the similarities end there. The Trax feels cheap inside, with hard and shiny plastics in the same places where the Astra provides textured soft-touch materials, while the air-conditioning controls, rubbery doorhandles and budget cloth trim all appear downmarket.
The LS lacks a digital speedometer and a digital radio, both of which are standard in the $23,740 Astra R Plus that further adds rain-sensing wipers, auto-dimming rearview mirror, lane-keep assistance and forward collision warning with AEB over the $2750-dearer Trax.
If the Astra small hatchback comparison seems odd given that the model tested here is a small SUV, then it is especially worth noting that the 356-litre boot of the LS is 4L smaller than its sibling, although the Trax excels for rear amenities – the bench sits high to afford great visibility, there is a powerpoint for rear riders and plenty of legroom all within more parking-friendly body dimensions. This Holden is also more spacious than a CX-3, if not quite to HR-V standards of roominess.
Engine and transmission
All 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engines are not the same, as the Astra versus Trax comparison continues to prove. Where the former gets a newer design with 110kW/240Nm, the latter model tested here produces 103kW at 4900rpm and 200Nm at 1850rpm.
Allied to an excellent six-speed automatic transmission that cleverly holds gears up hills and subtly shifts back a ratio when braking downhill or slowing for a corner, the Trax offers fine driveability and decent performance. Its kerb weight of 1376kg leaves it 72kg heavier than the Holden hatchback, but that is no great issue it feels good for a sub-10-second zero to 100km/h sprint.
Where this small SUV is much less impressive than its sibling, however, is in terms of refinement. The engine is loud and buzzy, punctuated by vibrations through the cabin when accelerating. It is enough to make the drivetrain feel less pleasant than it should be.
Without idlestop technology found with the newer Holden engine, the claimed combined cycle fuel consumption sticker of 6.7 litres per 100 kilometres ascended to well over 10L/100km around town, and only falling to an overall 8.7L/100km following a freeway and country road stint.
Ride and handling
Holden has not made changes to the locally tuned steering and suspension of this latest Trax, and the set-up highlights what was once competitive in 2013, is now in 2017 less stellar.
Sharp steering helps this small SUV feel nimble at all times – although the overly light weighting feels odd off the centre position – with excellent Continental tyres aiding its poise through corners that rarely twist the Trax into a knot. Its dynamics were good against the likes of the dour Ford EcoSport and Mitsubishi ASX four years ago, and they continue to impress today.
The trade-off comes with ride quality that never feels truly comfortable or settled. Over country road corrugations and undulations taken at speed, this Holden displays the control expected from a brand that has not reached deep into rural areas. Despite being shod in 70-aspect tyres that should contribute to a silken ride, however, the Trax bangs, thumps and jolts constantly around town.
Some issues centre around the suspension noise itself, which along with the loud engine and reasonably high level of coarse-chip road roar, points to a lack of sound deadening measures. Particularly for the price, this small SUV lacks dynamic resolve.
Safety and servicing
Six airbags (including dual front, front-side and full-length curtain protection), ABS and switchable electronic stability control (ESC), rear parking sensors with rear-view camera came with our test car.
Euro NCAP tested the Holden Trax in 2013 and it scored five stars with 35.18 out of 38 points.
Holden’s lifetime capped-price servicing plan costs just $229 for each of the first four annual or 15,000km dealer check-ups.
The likeable Holden Trax needed a proper mid-life facelift, not merely a tweak of its visual cues, and the presence of the new Astra in showrooms only casts harsher light at this ageing small SUV.
This Holden in some ways gets the ‘big ticket’ items nailed – such as solid engine and automatic response, a competitive infotainment system, a roomy cabin particularly in the rear, and other interior amenities that rise above base level.
It is not, however, the most affordable contender in the segment and it also lacks crucial active safety equipment even as options.
All of which leaves the Trax LS as a competent but sorely ageing contender within an increasingly dense and popular class. It may have been one of the first small SUVs, but it is no longer a top pick.
Mazda CX-3 Maxx from $24,390 plus on-road costsGreat value, terrific cabin, but small boot and lacks torque.
Toyota CH-R from $28,990 plus on-road costsQuirky newbie is more expensive than most, but packed with kit.
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