First Drive: 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer Makes a Comeback

Small yet roomy, this SUV has a few rough edges

2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer front driving

The Trailblazer is another resurrected nameplate from Chevrolet’s past, much like the Blazer that made a comeback last year.

This time around, the comeback moniker is applied to a small SUV that sits above the Trax and below the Equinox in Chevy’s model hierarchy. This relatively new segment of tiny upright SUVs has been expanding in recent years. Customers are attracted to this new breed's manageable size, decent fuel economy, relatively affordable price, and versatility.

The Trailblazer competes with the Honda HR-V, Jeep Renegade, Kia Seltos, Mazda CX-30, and Nissan Rogue Sport.

The new Trailblazer is a corporate cousin to the Buick Encore GX. Both share a platform and powertrains, but each has unique styling in and out. The Trailblazer is designed to have a youthful appeal, and some versions come with a contrasting white roof.

The Trailblazer and Encore GX are built overseas by General Motors’ Korean division. We bought our Trailblazer as soon as we heard reports of production suspension and a shipping pause due to the global pandemic.  

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We chose the LT because it brings a power driver seat and heated front seats. Base front-drive versions come with a 1.2-liter turbocharged engine and a continuously variable transmission. All-wheel-drive versions get a more powerful 1.3-liter and a nine-speed automatic. (Note that AWD versions are delivered in front-drive mode and customers have to press a button to engage AWD mode, which can remain engaged indefinitely.)

If you’re a Consumer Reports member, our initial expert assessment of the new Trailblazer is available to you here. We plan to put it through more than 50 tests at the CR Auto Test Center, including those that evaluate acceleration, braking, fuel economy, handling, car-seat fit, and controls. CR members will get access to the full road-test results as soon as they’re available.

If you haven’t signed up yet, click below and become a member to access this full article and all of our exclusive ratings and reviews for each vehicle we buy and test. Joining also gives you full access to exclusive ratings for the other products our experts evaluate in several categories, including electronics and appliances.

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What we bought: 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer LT AWD
Powertrain: 155-horsepower, 1.3-liter, turbocharged 3-cylinder; 9-speed automatic transmission; all-wheel-drive.
MSRP: $25,600
Options: $965. Convenience package (Automatic climate control, 8-inch color touch screen, satellite radio, rear USB charging ports), Driver confidence package (rear parking sensors, blind spot and rear cross traffic warnings).
Destination fee: $995
Total cost: $27,560

CR’s Take

The Trailblazer looks like a mini Blazer, and its design language embodies the Chevrolet vibe. It provides decent passenger and cargo room for its size. Power is readily available from the small turbo engine, but the driving experience isn't sporty in any way. Ride comfort is commendable, but the cabin is loud and the interior is rather low-rent. Standard automatic emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection, forward collision warning (FCW), and lane keep assistance (LKA) are all standard—rare in this budget-friendly class. All of that makes it a sensible suburban runabout or versatile car for a college student.  

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