Car Reviews

2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer: You need to know about the tech inside and under the hood

A surprising little crossover with a lot of stunning technology.

I love a good crossover.

And so does the rest of America, it seems: The crossover makes up more than 40 percent of the new car market, and there is a genuinely absurd amount of choice.

If you want something sporty or off-road capable, or economical, or some mixture of the three, there's a crossover explicitly designed for you. And there's one at every different price point, too. You can spend hundreds of thousands on an Aston Martin DBX, for example.

Or you can spend $33,145 on my test car this week, the surprisingly sporty and well-equipped Chevrolet Trailblazer Activ. (Perhaps not having an “e” on the word Activ saves costs.)

The Trailblazer has an enormous panoramic sunroof.Chevrolet

The Trailblazer, a subcompact SUV and not the larger old Trailblazer that was discontinued more than a decade ago, starts in the low-$20,000 range and rises rapidly from there, as you add all sorts of features, make this vehicle a nice place to be.

The top-tier, off-road-kind-of Activ trim has all manner of neat innovations that I like to have in any car I drive. In fact, the Trailblazer has basically every trait I look for these days, though you do have to load up with option packages to get all of them.

It has a teeny, tiny 1.3-liter turbocharged engine making an astonishing 155 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque. My first new car, a 2011 Mazda3, had an engine with almost twice as much displacement and made 148 horsepower and 135 lb-ft of torque. What a difference ten years of engine development (and a turbocharger) makes.

Look at all the off-roading you can do with your Activ!Chevrolet

Chevy has also tucked all the features into a series of relatively reasonable packages. The aptly named $1,770 Sun and Liftgate package includes a roof-filling panoramic sunroof and a power liftgate.

The $1,620 Technology Package is a must-have, adding wireless phone charging, a Bose stereo, and adaptive cruise control. That last one is a charming thing to find in a Chevy vehicle (though it's still buried on a top, albeit affordable, trim) since GM has been hesitant as a company to offer advanced driver safety tech as anything but a luxury feature.

Other brands, Toyota, for example, offer their complete safety suites as standard, not as a $345 Driver Confidence Package which includes rear parking alert, rear cross-traffic alert, and blind-spot monitoring like the Trailblazer has.

Finally, a $620 convenience package tosses in automatic climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a 120-volt residential power outlet, and USB ports for the rear-seat passengers. All in, those $5,150 in options bring you to a sticker price of $33,145.

The floating white roof available on some colors is especially nice.Chevrolet

Six or eight months ago, I would have said you could probably negotiate that price down a bit because there's so much choice on the market.

There's the Hyundai Kona, the Honda HR-V, the Mazda CX-3, and CX-30, the Nissan Kicks, the Jeep Renegade, and on and on and on. Except the car market is broken. Now you're lucky to get a car for the price on the sticker, without any "market adjustments," otherwise known as a dealer jacking up the price on an in-demand car.

That sort of adjustment is standard practice on something like a limited edition Mustang or Corvette, not on a Toyota RAV4. But these are strange times. Several friends have received trade-in offers on vehicles a year or two old that were more than they paid.

The interior is well-designed, with plenty of cubbies for storage.Chevrolet

This means that it's a seller's market, and if you are in dire need of a vehicle, you might be paying a lot of money. There's a lot of choice in this segment, and I would probably look at the competition from Hyundai, Kia, and Mazda in particular before the Trailblazer.

But, now that I've driven it, I'd put it right up there with those other vehicles — especially if you can't find those others or the pricing is out of whack.

The Trailblazer looks terrific on the outside, especially with the floating white roof, and it's smartly laid out and well-considered on the inside. Fold-down the 60/40 rear seats, and there's a ton of cargo space (it's almost wagon-esque that way), and four people can fit comfortably for reasonable-length journeys. And for a couple, it's a perfect city car.

With everything folded down (even the front passenger seat!), there’s tons of cargo space.Chevrolet

It has wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a 4G LTE wireless hotspot from AT&T, ten airbags, and a solid price.

Unless you have a big family, it's easy to make the argument that a subcompact SUV like the Trailblazer is all the car you need. Maybe that's why folks are buying so many of them.

One Cool Detail: Wireless CarPlay

Notice the battery indicator at the top left, a key giveaway that this is wireless Apple CarPlay.Jordan Golson / Inverse

For some reason, wireless Apple CarPlay makes me unreasonably happy. A lot of cars have gained Qi wireless charging pads in the past few years. But, if you were using CarPlay or Android Auto, you couldn’t use them because you needed to plug into USB.

But now that more cars are getting wireless connectivity, you can throw your phone on that wireless charge pad and still get all the benefits of CarPlay or Android Auto — and on a lower-priced vehicle like this, that’s a huge benefit.

Subscribe to PRNDL, Jordan Golson’s car reviews newsletter, free on Substack. This review is also published in the North State Journal.

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