2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer First Drive Review: Blazing a New Trail

by Paul Strauss
2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer First Drive Review: Blazing a New Trailzoom in

    2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer AWD LT

  • Engine: 1.3L Turbocharged 4-cylinder
  • Horsepower: 155
  • Torque (lb-ft.): 174
  • Transmission: 9-Speed Automatic
  • Drive Configuration: AWD
  • City/Hwy/Combined MPG: 26/30/28
  • Wheelbase (in): 103.9
  • Total Length (in): 173.5
  • Width (in): 71.2
  • Ground Clearance (in): 8.0
  • Base Price (USD): $25,600
  • Price as Tested (USD): $28,180

When Chevy first announced that the new Trailblazer would be a small crossover rather than a mid-size SUV, die-hard fans of the original were up in arms. And while the new Trailblazer might not have the heft of its namesake, it’s a very good vehicle in its own right, and a much better representation of what people look for in a car today. The 2021 Trailblazer is compact, fuel-efficient, versatile, and a lot of fun to drive. Besides, if you want a bigger Chevy SUV, there’s always the Traverse.

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On looks alone, the new Trailblazer borrows heavily from its bigger brother, the Blazer. Up front, it inherits the sharp and bottom-heavy look of a Camaro, while in profile, its sharp angles and slightly sloped roofline look a bit like a miniature Range Rover Evoque. Sizewise, I rather like where the Trailblazer sits in the Chevy lineup, being significantly more substantial than the Trax was, and much bolder and more visually appealing than the Equinox. The L, LT, and LS trims shoot for the middle of the style fairway, while the top-end ACTIV and RS trims aim at the more outdoorsy and sporty ends of the market, with the ACTIV rocking a white roof and 17″ sport terrain tires, and the RS getting black bowtie logos, a mesh grille, 18″ sport rims, and a flat-bottom steering wheel.

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There are several drivetrain variants of the new Trailblazer, so your experience might vary from mine, but configured with the 1.3-liter turbo-4 and 9-speed automatic, it’s rather entertaining, punching above its class with 155 horsepower and 174 lb-ft. of torque along with all-wheel drive. The standard 1.3-liter is a front-wheel drive setup with a continuously variable transmission (CVT), while the 1.2-liter turbo base model makes a bit less power, at 137 hp and 166 lb-ft. of torque. I can’t speak to the other drivetrain configs, but I really enjoyed the combo in the Trailblazer LT AWD I drove.

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Beyond its energetic little engine and gearbox combo, the Korean-designed and built Trailblazer feels nicely connected to the road, offering a far more engaging drive than I expected. The suspension does a nice job keeping the cabin comfortable, while the insulation is well executed, blocking out road noise and vibrations, and reducing wind noise pretty well at highway speeds. I was also pleasantly surprised by the auto stop-start system, which is far less obtrusive than some others I’ve experienced. And Chevy gives you the option to disable this fuel economy feature if you don’t want it on.

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The interior of the Trailblazer isn’t quite as dramatic as its exterior, but it’s thoughtfully designed, with a clean and streamlined look, and nice soft-touch surfaces. The dashboard isn’t overwhelmed with buttons or knobs, and the touchscreen interface for the infotainment system is quick and intuitive to use. A 7″ screen comes standard, with an 8″ version available. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard on all models, though if you go for the ACTIV or RS trims, you can upgrade to¬† wireless versions of these phone-to-car operating systems.

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The LT trim seen here has comfortable and supportive cloth seats as standard, along with 10-way power adjustments for the driver’s seat, including a lumbar support control. Heated front seats come standard on the LT, ACTIV, and RS trims as well. If you jump up to the ACTIV or RS, you get leatherette seat trim. I was also pleased to find both USB and USB-C charging ports for both the front and rear seats, as well as a 120VAC outlet in the back row, though this setup requires you select the optional Convenience Package.

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One of my favorite things about the interior of the Trailblazer is its exceptional cargo capacity for its size, offering up 54.4 cubic feet of storage with the seats folded. Plus, the front passenger seat is capable of folding flat, giving the Trailblazer the ability to carry items up to 8.5 feet long inside of the cabin. This really came in handy when I needed to pick up some 2x4s for a deck repair project.

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I was also impressed with rear seat legroom. In most compact crossovers, I find my 6-foot frame crammed into the second row. But that’s not the case in the Trailblazer. Even with the front seats in a comfortable position for my height, my knees didn’t come close to the seatbacks. The Trailblazer is roughly 10″ shorter than the Equinox, but the passenger area seems just as spacious. Headroom is good throughout the cabin as well, though I’m not sure if you’d lose any if you opt for the available dual-pane sunroof.

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The Trailblazer LT AWD with the 1.3 turbo and 9-speed automatic starts at $26,595, and if you fully trick out an ACTIV or RS, you can hit about $32k. But if you simply like the looks and layout of the Trailblazer, you can get into a base L model with the 1.2-liter, CVT, and front-wheel drive for as little as $19,995.

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Between its fun driving characteristics, surprisingly spacious and comfortable interior, and versatile cargo handling, the 2021 Trailblazer is a winner for Chevrolet. Targeting a more active and style-conscious audience than the Equinox, it’s a very appealing little crossover, and a welcome addition to the Chevy lineup.

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