2021 Chevy Trailblazer’s style, value and features raise expectations for small SUVs

Credit: Chevrolet/FPI

Credit: Chevrolet/FPI

My notes on driving the 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer are full of exclamation points. That’s not always a good thing. Observations of previous vehicles have included “Terrible headroom!” and “Useless touchpad!”

My Trailblazer notebook is another story: “Attention to detail!” “Value!” “Bose!” “Adaptive cruise control!”

The Trailblazer small SUV consistently had more value and content than I expected, wrapped in an attractive design reminiscent of Chevy’s bigger Blazer SUV.

The Trailblazer competes with small SUVs like the Ford Ecosport, Honda HR-V, Hyundai Kona, Mazda CX-30 and Nissan Rogue Sport. It slots between the bigger Equinox and the smaller Trax in Chevy’s lineup.

Value and attention to detail lift the 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer subcompact SUV to unexpected heights, making it one of the most promising new vehicles launched this year.

The Trailblazer should attract buyers looking for style and SUV height in an affordable and well-equipped little vehicle.

How much?

Trailblazer prices start at $19,000 for a front-drive model with a 137-hp, 1.2L turbocharged three-cylinder engine with a continuously variable transmission. A punchy little 155-hp 1.3L turbocharged three-cylinder linked to a nine is available on upper models and with all-wheel drive.

I tested a well-equipped AWD Trailblazer Activ, the top model. It had the 1.3L turbo and nine-speed automatic – a surprisingly satisfying combination – and features including Bose audio, adaptive cruise control, blind spot alert, panoramic sunroof, power tailgate, wireless Apple CarPlay, wireless charging, 17-in. tires and other features I didn’t expect in a vehicle in this size and price class.

My test vehicle stickered at $31,355. All prices exclude destination charges.

That price is at the high end of the segment, but the Trailblazer’s looks, features and comfort also rank at the top, alongside the CX-30.

The Trailblazer should attract buyers looking for style and SUV height in an affordable and well-equipped little vehicle.

Safety and driver assist features on Chevrolet Trailblazer


  • Front collision alert and pedestrian detection with automatic braking
  • Lane departure warning and assist Automatic high beams
  • Backup camera
  • Rear occupant reminder
  • Teen driver monitoring and restrictions


  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Blind spot and cross traffic alert
  • Rear parking sensors

Driving impressions

The Trailblazer Activ’s 1.3L three-cylinder engine is smaller than the competitors, but it gets the job done. That’s equally thanks to a turbocharger that boosts output to 174 lbs.-ft. of torque at just 1600 RPM and a quick shifting nine-speed automatic transmission that keeps the engine in its power band while also achieving best-in class fuel economy.

The Trailblazer accelerated confidently on the highway and negotiated quick maneuvers in traffic with ease. Its steering is quick and precise. The suspension could be smoother over bumps, but ride is acceptable.

Driver assistance features like adaptive cruise control and lane keeping operate unobtrusively.

Interior comfort and controls

Attention to detail made the Trailblazer Activ’s interior a standout. The materials are not expensive, but creative, tasteful design makes the cabin look like it belongs in a more expensive vehicle.

Among the touches I appreciated:

  • Two-tone dash and seats
  • Accent stitching
  • Fabric inserts in the doors
  • Wireless device charging Wireless Apple CarPlay
  • 7-in. touch screen
  • Multi-position programmable power tailgate
  • Lighted Chevy badge projected on the ground beneath the rear bumper

The front seat has plenty of storage. A ‘phone caddy’ designed to hold your mobile snug is too small for a standard size iPhone 11, but that was the only disappointment.

Rear leg and headroom are good, too. There’s more cargo space behind the rear seat than any of the competition. With the seat folded, only the spacious Honda HR-V tops the Trailblazer.


  • Base price: $19,000
  • As tested: $31,355 (excluding destination charges)
  • All-wheel drive 5-passenger small SUV
  • Engine: 1.3L turbocharged 3-cylinder
  • Output: 155 hp 5600 RPM; 174 lbs.-ft. of torque 1600 RPM
  • Transmission: 9-speed automatic
  • EPA: 26 mpg city/30 highway/28 combined
  • Wheelbase: 109.3 inches
  • Length: 173.5
  • Width: 71.2
  • Height: 65.7
  • Curb weight: 3,289 lbs.
  • Assembled in Bupyeong, South Korea

Mark Phelan is the Detroit Free Press auto critic. He can be reached at mmphelanfreepress.com.

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