2017 Holden Trax
Michael Westlake finds the Holden Trax twice as nice in his latest review for Bartons
CAR reviews are generally easy things to write.
The ingredients are simple: You take a great new car, drive it around, and tell everyone what you like about it.
It is not too much of a daunting task, until I was asked to drive the new Holden Trax.
It sounded easy enough: Take out one of the best cars available in one of the hottest sectors of the Australian car market and find out what has made it one of the most popular models in Holden’s fleet.
The challenge was not in working out whether the Trax was any good. It’s fabulous. But sitting down to actually describe what makes it so good proved a little more challenging.
In the old days, someone in my position would have been sitting at a typewriter, ripping out sheets of paper in frustration, and then scrunching them into little balls before shooting them into the nearest bin.
The modern-day equivalent is hitting Control-A and then delete: Selecting all the words you have written on your computer, deleting them all and then starting again.
It was not until my 54th attempt at an introduction that the metaphorical lightbulb came on, and I worked out the reason for my writer’s block.
I had been sitting down to write one simple review for the Trax.
The answer to the problem was, the Trax actually needed two reviews.
The Trax has a split personality in the nicest sense of the term.
On one hand, it is a sensible, reliable and good-looking small car. On the other hand, it is also a funky and dynamic SUV built for a new generation of drivers.
There was the problem. One review simply would not do the Trax justice.
So, to fix the problem, here are two reviews for the new Holden Trax.
Meet the Trax, the pretty little thing of Holden’s small car range.
The Trax has been around for a couple of years now, but a wide-range of upgrades has acted as more of a revolution rather than a quiet evolution.
It’s a little like comparing George Clooney from his days in the TV show E.R. to the George Clooney we saw swanning around in Ocean’s 11.
The early model was fine, and very popular. But the later model just went to a whole new level.
First and foremost, the Trax is a real treat to drive.
The steering is sharp, sensitive and responsive, and the 1.4-litre turbo-charged engine is a lot of fun when you are poking it through some demanding corners and asking it to have a go.
Realistically though, the Trax is most often going to be tasked with handling the day-to-day demands of normal life, and it handles this role with aplomb as well.
One of the key areas is in fuel economy, which is of high importance in the small car market for Monday to Friday drivers.
The Trax is smooth and comfortable for a peak-hour commute to the city, with a practical and pleasing interior, comfortable seats and excellent high driving position to give you first-rate visibility all the way around the vehicle and – most importantly – on the road ahead.
The ride height really is the jewel of the Trax’s crown.
While it still retains its small car feel and dynamics, not feeling that you are sitting down with the wheels of big trucks in traffic adds to the feeling of safety and confidence when there are lots of other cars on the road.
But that feeling of safety is not just an optical illusion, either.
As you would expect from Holden, the Trax comes with the highest possible five-star ANCAP safety rating.
There are a host of airbags and, more importantly, even more technology built-in so you hopefully never have to find out how good those airbags are.
Traction control, stability control, brake assistance, electronic brakeforce distribution and anti-lock brakes are just some of the features built in to keep you on the straight and narrow.
With all the worry taken away, all you have to do is enjoy the drive.
From the business seat, that is an easy thing to do.
The driving position is very comfortable, even on longer trips, with a six-way adjustable seat and armrest for the driver that makes it easy to settle in.
The steering wheel puts your audio, telephone and cruise control at your fingertips.
The seven-inch touchscreen is easy to navigate as a control centre for your entertainment needs, and a crisp and clear screen for your reversing camera as well.
That camera, and the Trax’s pert rear-end, electronic sensors and excellent visibility, make parking an absolute breeze even in the tightest of spaces in those extortionately priced CBD carparks.
If you are looking for a small car to handle city traffic as well as life in the suburbs, the Trax has everything you are looking for.
Meet the Trax, Holden’s baby SUV that is making a big noise in the small soft-roader market.
The Trax is tailor-made for drivers looking to find a bit of fun on the weekend after the daily grind.
While the Trax looks perfectly presentable with its shirt buttoned up and on its best behaviour, it is when you ask it to let its hair down that it really comes alive.
The sleek and aggressive front end is set off perfectly by the LED daytime running lights – like Angelina Jolie had added a dab of dramatic mascara.
There is no doubt the Trax sees itself as an SUV, with its high stance and tall riding position. But the Trax has been built for the lifestyle, without any additional bulk.
With the sunroof peeled back, and your favourite music blasting through the speakers, push-button start with smart key technology, the Trax could have been created with a summer at Surfers Paradise in mind.
The car must have agreed, because it took an impromptu trip to the Gold Coast in its stride.
The 1.4-litre turbo-charged engine in my test car was perfectly suited to the task at hand – plenty of power when I needed it, like merging into highway traffic from an on-ramp, but perfectly happy to cruise along once we had got up to speed.
Even at the maximum allowable highway speed limit of 110km/h, which I would not dare go over, the Trax ate up the miles of bitumen comfortably and quietly, sitting sturdily on the 18-inch alloy wheels.
Inside, you never feel cramped. There is plenty of legroom in the back seat if you are taking friends, and the driving position is roomy and comfortable.
If the trip away is a more private affair, the 60/40 folding rear seats open up your cargo capacity enormously.
Steering wheel-mounted cruise control is there for you if your right foot needs a break, but the road trip treasure chest is in the middle of the dashboard with the seven-inch touchscreen.
Linking your phone to the Holden MyLink system is easy with Bluetooth connection, but plugging your phone directly into the USB port means you will enable the Apple CarPlay or AndroidAuto projection software.
This is terrific, because it allows you to use your phone’s apps through the display – putting things like messages, navigation and your contact list all there within easy reach of your left hand.
If you’re on a genuine road trip, the Trax will make those rest stops a little bit more bearable too. By plugging into the USB port, you are even able to watch slideshows or movies through the screen – which should make that 45 minutes in a drive-thru carpark slightly more agreeable.
If your culinary demands are of a higher standard, the Trax has a bevy of beverage holders – six, actually – and plenty of storage pockets to keep your drinks and snacks in check.
On a long drive or a short trip, the Trax is easy and comfortable to drive, with all of the built-in safety features you would expect of a car carrying the top-rated five-star ANCAP safety rating.
The Trax is a lifestyle car. It wants to get out there and have fun, and quite literally wants to take you along for the ride.
So there you have it. The Holden Trax is not just a very good car. It’s two very good cars. The best news is, you don’t have to pay for two cars to get the best of both worlds.