LA Auto Show: Chevy's Trailblazer is back as a stylish subcompact crossover

Henry Payne
The Detroit News

Los Angeles – The Chevy Trailblazer is back, and it’s had an extreme makeover. Abandoned by Chevy as truck-based, V-8 powered family SUV in 2009, the Trailblazer has returned for 2020 as a stylish, unibody-based subcompact SUV that fits into Chevy’s SUV lineup between the subcompact Trax and compact Equinox.

Think of it as the baby Blazer.

Just as the Chevy Blazer offers a sexier two-row SUV to complement the more pedestrian, volume-selling Equinox, so does Trailblazer offer a more stylish (check out the ACTIV adventure trim) is particularly striking., more-contented version of Chevy’s wee entry-level Trax.

2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer RS

If that sounds like the Buick Encore GX (positioned above the smaller Encore) that was also revealed this week at the Los Angeles Auto Show, it is. The Trailblazer will be built in Korea on the same stretched, front-wheel drive subcompact platform as the GX - and share its new, turbocharged 1.2-liter and 1.3-liter engines.

The Trailblazer demonstrates GM’s strategic shift away from sedans to concentrate on SUVs. The compact Cruze sedan is no more – replaced now by three subcompact and compact SUVs: Trax, Trailblazer and Equinox.

The Trailblazer is not alone, competing with other automakers who also see white space between subcompact and compact SUVs. The “subcompact-plus” Jeep Compass, Nissan Rogue Sport, Encore GX, Kia Seltos and Mazda CX-30 have also recently joined the segment — the latter pair also introduced here in Los Angeles.

The Trailblazer will blaze a trail to dealer lots around spring 2020. Pricing is expected to start at under $20,000. Which means its will start cheaper than the Trax despite being bigger. Go figure.

2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer RS

The Trailblazer brings what the market wants – a high-riding seat position and optional all-wheel drive for snow-belt winters. The new ute even wants to live up to its name with an ACTIV trim that is tricked out with muscled shoulders, Hankook Sport Terrain tires, higher ground clearance and shock tuning when traveling off-road.

Its youthful white "turret top" will draw immediate comparisons to Mini Cooper.

The Trailblazer also comes with an urban chic RS badge, trimmed out with black grille and wheels just like the bigger Blazer. “This is my sexy-mom car,” thrills a woman in one of Chevy’s signature “real people” ads. The RS and ACTIV trims will likely start in the mid-$20,000 range.

The two turbo engine options are mated to a sippy, continuously variable transmission or nine-speed automatic.

2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer RS

Inside, Trailblazer sports a suite of standard and optional safety equipment - first introduced on the pricier Equinox - and not found on the Trax: forward-collision alert, automatic emergency-braking, auto high-beams, lane-keep assist, rear-seat reminder and more. Options include adaptive cruise-control and blind-spot assist.

Rear passengers enjoy more legroom than the tight Trax thanks to a stretched wheelbase. Front passengers enjoy an armrest and deep center console storage. The interior is also wonderfully configurable - the rear seat reverses the traditional 40/60 split so that the passenger and second-row seat can be flattened to fit a surfboard or long boards.

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at or Twitter @HenryEPayne.