Road Test: 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer AWD RS


Spacious Interior with Best-In-Class Rear Legroom

The all-new 2021 Trailblazer joins the Chevrolet family of crossover SUVs. Smallest to largest, this growing brood are the Trax, Trailblazer, Equinox, Blazer, Traverse, Tahoe and Suburban. Chevrolet has joined other manufacturers in carving-up the crossover segment, with the Trailblazer adding one more option.

2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer RS AWD
Smaller, but ready to do battle in a new segment

The Korean-built Trailblazer’s base engine, a 1.2-liter three-cylinder delivering 137 horsepower (hp) and 162 pound-feet of torque (lb.-ft.) comes with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) driving the front wheels. Clean Fleet Report took the keys of a Trailblazer with the optional 1.3-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine. This little-bit-larger power plant puts out 155 hp and 174 lb.-ft. of torque, while offering all-wheel drive and a nine-speed automatic transmission.

The EPA rates the 1.3L Chevrolet Trailblazer AWD at 26 mpg city/30 highway/28 combined. Over 394 miles our combined average was 30.2 mpg, but on the freeway with the adaptive cruise control set at 65 mph, we achieved 32.6 mpg over a 130-mile run. The 1.2-liter engine is rated at 28/31/29 for the FWD model; the 1.3-liter delivers 29/33/31 in the FWD version.  Fuel economy reported by Clean Fleet Report is non-scientific and represents the reviewer’s driving experience. Your numbers may differ.

Driving Experience: On the Road

The Trailblazer, 1.3L and the nine-speed automatic, turned 0 – 60 times around 9.4 seconds, which felt no faster than it sounds. The 7.2 seconds it took to go from 50 – 70 mph, which is a very common freeway merging experience, was also not fast. There was a bit of stumbling upon initial acceleration from a stop, but otherwise the engine and transmission were smooth. The only engine noise inside the cabin came when tromping on the accelerator, but that went away once up to cruising speed. If you pop the hood when idling, the 1.3L has a rattle which is common for three-cylinder engines.

2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer RS AWD
Another member of the 30 MPG AWD Club

There are three drive modes, selectable by the driver. Sport delivers higher revs and a heavier steering feel, but the performance difference it made was negligible. Snow mode controls wheel spin when things get icy, and the AWD system can be turned on and off by the driver, which aides in fuel economy.

The Trailblazer AWD RS comes with 18-inch, 225/55 Hankook Kinergy GT all-season tires. Handling was agile and the ride was stable, but the suspension was soft. There was controllable understeer and noticeable body roll when hard charging the corners, reinforcing that it’s not what the Trailblazer was designed to do. The more I drove the Trailblazer the more I came to like the overall handling and ride. It is a well-balanced crossover with little wind noise.

Brake pedal feel was firm for the four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and brake assist. The suspension and stability control were tuned nicely, helping for straight stops.

Design

2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer RS AWD
Design leads the way

The Trailblazer has a fresh, sharp design. If the size is familiar, it shares a platform with the Buick Encore GX. While Buick has a history of reserved styling, Chevrolet is the complete opposite, more open to taking chances. Clean Fleet Report’s Trailblazer was painted in an eye-catching Scarlet Red Metallic, with a contrasting black roof and power and heated outside mirrors. The roofline, with a power sunroof, racks and side rails, was near-flat, leading to an integrated wing over the power, hands-free rear liftgate. The LED tail lights, with a dog bone light signature, boldly square-off the backend. A restrained use of chrome, the RS lettering, black Chevy Bowtie badges, and the dual chrome-tipped exhaust tips round out the Trailblazer RS design.

2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer RS AWD
Style to the end

Up front, the black Trailblazer RS grille is divided into three sections, with the top two being functional for air intake. The upper grilles are separated by a chrome bar that runs side-to-side, similar to the nose on other Chevrolet trucks and SUVs. The front lights are stacked, with the turn signals and the LED daytime running lights up top, one step down are the LED headlights, and then LED fog lights are deep-set in the bottom fascia.

The dark tinted side and rear glass, the eight-inch ground clearance and the 18-inch, high-gloss black machined aluminum wheels made for a great side look.

Inviting Interior

Clean Fleet Report tested the Trailblazer RS, which is the highest of five trim levels, and was pretty much fully optioned. The heated front seats (power 10-way for the driver with lumbar; manual four-way for the passenger) are functional and supportive. The rear seat splits 60/40, providing for ample storage space. Lay down the rear seat and the front passenger seat, and the Trailblazer RS can accommodate an eight-foot item. The rear cargo area, with a 120-volt power port, has a two-stage system where the floor can be removed, and then replaced about an inch lower so as to accommodate taller objects. Thanks to the high roof design, the rear seat head and leg room was excellent for two adults. Convenient USB A and C charge-only ports for the rear passengers were a nice touch.

Two notes about the interior:

  1. Lacking a dead third pedal for the driver to rest his/her left foot was odd, but minor.
  2. Not so minor was the lack of vision out the quarter panels behind the rear doors. It was a good thing our Trailblazer RS came with the optional Driver Confidence Package that include lane change and side blind zone alert, as we relied on it when changing lanes.
2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer RS AWD
All functional, except for a missing knob

Everything in the interior is within easy reach for the driver. The center dash in our Trailblazer RS housed an 8.0-inch diagonal color touchscreen, for the Bose seven-speaker audio system with wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, AM/FM HD radio and Sirius/XM. The USB A and C, AUX ports and memory card slot allowed for connected devices and curated playlists. The Bluetooth worked very well for voice recognition with most of the entertainment controlled by switches on the heated, leather-covered, flat-bottom steering wheel. We wish Chevrolet would have added a knob to control the radio channels.

The Trailblazer RS is well-equipped with convenience features, including wireless phone charging, 4G LTE Wi-Fi Hot Spot, remote keyless entry and start, power windows with express up and down, tire fill alert and pressure monitor, automatic single zone air conditioning, keyless push button on and off and OnStar.

A note regarding OnStar: a simple push of a button connects you with a friendly General Motors representative to handle emergencies, directions and general assistance to make your driving experience safer and more enjoyable. This is one area where GM is the industry leader, and after the initial service plan expires, it is well worth renewing.

Safety

The Trailblazer comes with an extensive list of standard and optional safety features. Since some of the features are available on higher trim levels and through packages, we advise getting your car with as many advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) as possible. This may be the best and wisest investment you will ever make.

2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer RS AWD
A capable carrier

Features available on the Trailblazer RS include front, side, knee and head airbags, forward automatic emergency braking and collision warning, stability control, rear cross traffic alert, rear park assist, HD rear vision camera, vehicle stability management, traction control and a theft deterrent system. Check-out the Teen Driving technology that offers parents some peace of mind.

The 2021 Trailblazer has earned a US Government National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) 4 out of 5 Stars Overall Vehicle Score. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has not rated the Trailblazer.

Pricing and Warranties

Clean Fleet Report’s Trailblazer AWD RS, with $4,445 in options and the $995 destination charge, had a MSRP of $32,350.

The 2021 Trailblazer comes with these warranties:

  • Bumper To Bumper – Three years/36,000 miles
  • Powertrain – Five years/60,000 miles
  • Scheduled Maintenance – One year/One visit
  • Roadside Assistance – Five years/60,000 miles
  • Corrosion – Three years/36,000 miles
  • Rust-Through – Six years/100,000 miles
  • Courtesy Transportation – Five years/60,000 miles

Observations: 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer AWD RS

The last we saw a Chevrolet Trailblazer, in 2009, it was a midsize SUV, with an optional V8 engine. Twelve years later it has returned as a much smaller compact crossover, and the engine options have lost five cylinders along the way. Different times and driver needs have made the compact crossover the fastest growing segment in the auto market.

2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer RS AWD
Chevy’s crossover/SUV dance card is full

Chevrolet is making sure its two small crossovers, Trax and Trailblazer, offer a utility vehicle that people want to buy. This is a good thing as the competition includes the Buick Encore GX, Nissan Kicks and Rogue Sport, Honda HR-V, Jeep Renegade and Compass, Kia Seltos and Niro (in hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric versions), Hyundai Venue and Kona (in gas and electric versions), Toyota CH-R, Mazda CX-30, and the Subaru Crosstrek.

The 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer, beginning at $20,900 (including the $995 destination fee), should be popular with small families and empty nesters looking for a vehicle that can get all their tasks done around town, and then head out on a road trip. If you need more traction for inclement weather, the Trailblazer has an all-wheel drive option, but it should not be considered a hard-core off-road vehicle.

The Trailblazer, with exterior styling inspired by its big brother Blazer, is one of the best-looking compact crossovers, and is especially sharp in the RS trim. Visit your Chevrolet dealer and take a look at all five models to compare the features and options for what may lead to a Trailblazer in your garage.

Whatever you buy, Happy Driving!

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Story by John Faulkner. Photos by John Faulkner and Chevrolet.

[See image gallery at cleanfleetreport.com]

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Disclosure:

Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

The post Road Test: 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer AWD RS first appeared on Clean Fleet Report.



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