Nov 242017
 

At Latino Traffic Report (LTR), the chance for a back-to-back comparison of automotive competitors is rare, but sometimes, lightning strikes. Such was the case with the 2018 Chevrolet Equinox and the 2017 Nissan Rogue. Sharing a similar shade of exterior paint (Cajun Red and Palatial Ruby, respectively), they looked like brothers from another mother, but they were not. They were rivals that distinguished themselves in several ways.

Testaments to the increasing popularity of the small SUV segment, both models are top sellers for their brands. Equinox sales have reached nearly two million units since its launch and it is Chevrolet’s second-best selling vehicle overall, after the Silverado. Similarly, new sales records designate the Rogue as Nissan’s top-selling vehicle in the United States.

The two were nimble for city driving but the redesigned Equinox, also lighter by 400 pounds, felt much smaller compared to the outgoing model. It arrived in the mid-range LT trim as opposed to the Rogue, which came in the top-of-the-line SL AWD trim.

Under the hood, the Equinox offers three engine choices, all turbos—a 1.5-liter, 2.0-liter, and a 1.6-liter turbo diesel (a segment exclusive). I drove the 2.0-liter with 252 horsepower and 260 lb.–ft. of torque.

Rogue SL seats

The Rogue can be equipped with a choice of two four-cylinder engines, a 2.0-liter on the hybrid or a 2.5-liter matched to the Xtronic Continuously Variable Transmission with Sport and Eco mode switches. I drove the latter that produced 170 horses and 175 lb.–ft. of torque, giving the Equinox the power advantage. The Rogue, however, should have been more fuel efficient, with an EPA estimated city/highway fuel economy rating of 25/32 mpg compared to the Equinox’s 22/29 mpg rating. But I averaged 25.4 mpg with the Rogue and 26.7 mpg with the Equinox.

Equinox LT seats.

An SUV earns its stripes with utility, beginning with seating and cargo capacity. Both offer seating for five but the Rogue can also seat seven on lower trim levels with an optional third row. On the test model, the heated, two-tone leather seats elevated the Rogue’s interior, while the Equinox had quilted cloth seats. Both have 60/40 split second-row seats that fold flat. Inside, the Equinox there’s up to 63.5 cubic feet of maximum cargo space with the second row folded but the advantage goes to the Rogue with 70 cu. ft. of cargo room.

These family vehicles are not without safety innovations. Both SUVs equip all trim levels with rearview cameras but the Rogue tops that with its optional and innovative around view monitor on the SL trim. For the 2018 model year, a blind spot monitor will be standard on the Rogue but not on current models.

Rogue dash.

Chevy, however, offers its own signature safety technology, starting with Teen Driver (standard) that allows parents to set controls in order to encourage safe driving habits, even when they are not in the vehicle. The optional and improved Safety Alert seat on the test Equinox buzzed the left or right upper thigh as a warning and the available Rear Seat Reminder, also on the test model, pinged when the ignition was turned off to remind me to check the back seat before locking the SUV.

Equinox dash.

The standard MyLink infotainment system on the Equinox that supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as the OnStar 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, can be matched to a standard seven- or an available eight-inch-diagonal color touchscreen, included on the test model via the Sun and Infotainment Package ($1,995). Other convenience features included cruise control, air conditioning, and keyless start. The Confidence and Convenience Package ($1,945) added a power liftgate, heated front seats, and side blind zone alert.

Nissan Connect with Navigation was included on the Rogue SL along with a seven-inch display, Nissan Voice Recognition for navigation and audio, and a motion activated tailgate. The SL Premium Package ($2,020) added a panoramic sunroof, and the Platinum Package ($770) added intelligent cruise control, among other features.

Available in four trim levels, and FWD or all wheel drive (AWD) combinations, pricing for the next-generation 2018 Equinox starts at $24,525. The as-tested price came to $34,375. The Rogue comes with three trims as well as a hybrid and the all-new Rogue Sport and a choice of FWD or AWD. Pricing starts at $24,795. The as-tested pricing came to $31,365.

Sí The Equinox included innovative safety technology like Teen Safety, OnStar, and Rear Seat Reminder.

The Rogue offered better value, with seating versatility, five or seven, as well as convenience technology like a power liftgate, plus a blind spot monitor that will soon be standard.

No: Important safety technology, like a blind spot monitor, was unavailable on the base trim levels of the Equinox.

The Rogue was less fuel-efficient than expected.

 

 

Jul 142016
 

2016-07-05 20.17.53 HDR

To successfully compete in a popular automotive segment, manufacturers sometimes resort to adding  bling. For 2016, Chevrolet does just that with the the Trax, its small sport utility vehicle (SUV), and the new Midnight Edition package. On a recent weeklong test drive for Latino Traffic Report, the 2016 Trax LTZ displayed continued fuel efficiency and some nice 18-inch black rims. Black Granite Metallic exterior paint complemented those rims, in fact the only changes for 2016 include more exterior colors.2016-07-05 20.16.37-1

Introduced last year, the Trax entered the growing small SUV segment and brought a fuel efficient and versatile option to the Chevy lineup. Powered by an Ecotec 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that’s matched to a six-speed automatic transmission, the Trax should achieve an EPA estimated fuel economy of 26 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 34 mpg on the highway. I averaged 28.5 mpg. The engine’s 138 horses and 148 lb.–ft. of torque proved sufficient but its wheeziness could be overheard above the stereo.

The test model with front-wheel drive is situated one level below the top-of-the-line LTZ with all-wheel drive (AWD). For an extra $1,500, all Trax models can be equipped with AWD.

2016-07-05 20.14.57Inside, the Midnight Edition adds extra design touches like two-tone (gray/black) leatherette seats, carpeted floor mats, and skid and sill plates. A segment leader when it comes to interior stowage, the Trax has 15 interior compartments including a hidden drawer under the passenger front seat and upper and lower glove boxes. For added convenience, the upper glove box has a USB port for concealing a phone or MP3 player while charging.

For a maximum cargo space of 48.4 cubic feet, the 60/40-split rear row of seats deploys easily to fold flat, with a nylon loop to lift the seat up and a red button located near the headrest to flatten the seat back.

Chevrolet’s MyLink Infotainment with a seven-inch-diagonal color touch screen is one of the easiest for programming radio and XM stations, offering a total of 35 channels. Included as standard features OnStar (six-month subscription) and the 4G LTE built-in Wi-Fi hotspot really set the Trax apart from the competition. The Wi-Fi comes with a three-month/three gigabyte data trial (whichever comes first). The LTZ added the Bose premium seven-speaker system with an amplifianer and subwoofer.2016-07-05 20.15.52

Standard safety features include ten air bags, StabiliTrak electronic stability control, remote keyless entry, and a rear vision camera. The LTZ added cruise control, a remote vehicle starter, and rear park assist. More sophisticated safety systems, like a blind spot warning, are not available on the Trax.

Air conditioning, power locks and windows, and programmable door locks are standard. Additional standard features on the LTZ included a six-way power adjust on the driver’s seat and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.

2016-07-05 trax.licPricing for the 2016 Trax starts at $21,195. The as-tested price with the Midnight Edition package ($500) came to $27,525.

Sí: The Midnight Edition ramps up the Trax’s exterior appeal and standard features like OnStar and 4G LTE Wi-Fi really set it apart.

No: The engine is a bit wheezy and safety features like a blind spot monitor are not available.

 

Nov 212015
 

2015-06-03 0Chevytrax

For 2015, Chevrolet opted to add yet another model to its lineup of small sport utility vehicles (SUVs), the 2015 Trax, its seventh small vehicle launch in four years. On a recent week-long test drive for Latino Traffic Report, the Trax put the “f” in functional and fuel-efficient.

Entering one of the fastest growing automobile segments, the Trax joins the Equinox, its slightly larger sibling that shares a platform with the Chevy Cruze. The Trax is built on the smaller Sonic platform, improving fuel efficiency and urban driving compatibility.

2015-06-03 trax.seatsWith seating for five, it has a 60/40 split rear row of seats that fold flat to create up to 48.4 cubic feet of cargo space. It’s a segment leader when it comes to interior functionality with 15 interior storage compartments including upper and lower storage in each door, and upper and lower glove boxes.

Powered by an Ecotec 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that’s matched to a six-speed automatic transmission, the Trax should achieve an EPA estimated fuel economy of 26 miles per gallon (mpg) city and 34 mpg highway. I averaged 30.3 mpg. Unlike its competitors, the Trax doesn’t offer a manual transmission.2015-06-03 trax.dash

Available in three trim levels, the test model was the Trax LT, one step up from the base LS and below the LTZ. While I drove a front-wheel-drive version, all-wheel drive is available on all models for an extra $1,500.

Additional functionality comes with standard remote keyless entry, programmable door locks, and a cargo storage tray.

Chevrolet MyLink Infotainment with a seven-inch-diagonal color touch screen is standard but the real standout is that OnStar, with 4G LTE and a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot, is too, offering even greater appeal to the always intriguing millennial population. On whenever the vehicle is on, the Wi-Fi comes with a three-month/three gigabyte data trial (whichever comes first). The Trax is also the first in its class to offer Siri Eyes Free for iPhone iOS 6, iOS 7 and iOS 8 users.

2015-06-03 trax.screenBecause of its appeal to a population whose parents will probably purchase the Trax for them, it will be a comfort to know that it comes with ten standard air bags, StabiliTrak stability control, and a rear view camera. The test model also included the LT Plus Package ($670) that added a parking sensor, among other features.

Additional convenience features on the Trax include front-passenger fold-flat seats, a USB port for MP3s and iPods, air conditioning, power locks and windows, and an AM/FM stereo (the test model added XM Satellite Radio).

2015-06-03 trax.licPricing for the 2015 Trax starts at $21,195, a little above its competitors. The as-tested price came to $23,815.

Sí: The Trax offers nice functionality, advanced technology unique to its segment, and the security of OnStar.

No: I wish it came with a manual transmission option to improve fuel efficiency even more.

Jan 072015
 

2014-Chevrolet-Spark-035-medium

Consumer concern for fuel economy has sparked the growth of the smallest car segment, the minicar. Car buyers, it seems, are willing to sacrifice storage and leg room for gas savings but at this size, the cuteness factor increases to help balance the scale.

The latest cutie is the Chevy Spark. On a recent test drive in Austin, the little car couldn’t disguise its diminutiveness but it did surpass its estimated fuel economy.

For starters, how can I not like a car painted Jalapeno green? Like the darlingest baby, its oversized headlamps, rounded fascia, and stumpy hood seem to beg for a hug, or at the least a coo.

The five-door hatch offers seating for four (a cup holder divides the rear seat in two) and hides door handles for the back doors cleverly in the C-pillar.

The Spark 2LT model I drove also came with a five-speed manual transmission—a CVT is available for 2014 as well as a four-speed automatic. Matched to a 1.3-liter four cylinder with 84 horses, the manual transmission adds necessary peppiness. Still, the lack of power was noticeable.

2014-Chevrolet-Spark-024-mediumThe EPA-estimated fuel economy is 34 miles per gallon (mpg) in combined city and highway driving with the manual transmission, and CVT. I averaged 38.6 mpg during my test drive.

What sets the Spark apart, however, is the generous supply of technology that comes with or is available on such a small car. Power windows, Hill Start Assist, electric power steering , and air conditioning are standard.

The MyLink infotainment system is standard on the LT trim level and up and includes a seven-inch display screen, Bluetooth, voice recognition, and Sirius Satellite radio for three months. It’s also compatible with Pandora and Stitcher Apps. and BringGo, an embedded app for full-function GPS navigation.

Unabashedly targeted to millennials, the Spark is one of a growing number of Chevrolet products that doesn’t come with or even offer a CD player.

Standard 60/40 folding rear seats expand cargo space to 31.2 cubic feet when folded flat.

At this size, safety concerns crop up but the Spark has already passed one important test—the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety named it a Top Safety Pick. That could be because it comes with important features like StabiliTrak, anti-lock brakes, and ten airbags including front knee and side curtain.

The OnStar onboard emergency and information system with Automatic Crash Response, Stolen Vehicle Assistance, Roadside Assistance and Turn-by-Turn Navigation is also standard for six months.2014-Chevrolet-Spark-023-medium

For 2014, the Spark EV will be added to the lineup but with limited availability, and Jalapeno green is gone.

Pricing for the 2014 Chevy Spark starts at $13,890. The test model 2LT added no options and was priced at $15,795. It also comes with a five-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty.

The unlikeliest of halo cars, the Spark has brought new customers to Chevrolet, more than half of Spark buyers are new to GM.  Apparently, cute sells.