DISCLAIMER *I undertook this review as my current car was in for a service. I was given a loan car and this was my experience after five days of ownership.*
Launched back in 2013, the Holden Trax represented a new area for Holden’s line-up. Essentially a Barina on ’roids, the Trax makes use of the Barina platform boasting an enhanced ride height, greater visibility and emphasis on the SUV acronym (Sports Utility Vehicle) than its sister Barina model could ever deliver.
Facing stiff competition such as the Mazda CX-3, Honda HR-V and Hyundai Kona, the Trax has its work cut out for it. Since launch, it has been a modest sales success for Holden, which often has come at the expense of cannibalising Barina sales in the process.
Fast-forward to 2017, and the Trax had received its first face-lift since its 2013 debut. The face-lift saw the car receive a revised exterior and interior, with the addition of the 1.4-litre turbo across the entire Trax range. Let’s dig in and see how it fares.
Exterior-wise, the 2018 Holden Trax LS looks snazzy. Boasting a revised grille and headlights, it no longer looks like a bulging koala in disguise. If anything, it boasts more grown-up looks, a feat that its animal-interpreted predecessor couldn’t portray. Side on, the 16-inch alloys don’t raise any eyebrows, while a light bum implant at the rear sees a revised bumper and tail-light calibration keeping the Trax in order.
Inside, the cabin has been completely overhauled for the 2018 range. Standard features for the LS include cruise control, leather steering wheel, hill start assist, reversing camera, 16-inch alloys and auto headlamps.
Gone is the old el cheapo motorcycle-inspired digital speedometer, and in its place is a functional and inoffensive speedometer that’s easy on the eyes. Holden’s infotainment system dubbed ‘MyLink’ has been updated, bringing it in line with the rest of Holden’s line-up, boasting a 7.0-inch touchscreen and the inclusion of Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and a decent reversing camera. Replacing the Fisher-Price interior is a nice leather panel on the dash, which does make the interior a lot more comfortable and easy on the eye.
Although, its 2013 origins are still evident, with lower plastic panels and buttons appearing a little too cheap for the money. Sitting higher than your usual hatchback, the Trax provides decent visibility while also having decent seats. Front and rear seat passengers will be spoiled for drink storage too, with not one, not two, not three, but four centre console cupholders on tap.
Jumping to the second row, the Trax boasts comfort for three with bottle storage and overhead grab handles provided. Jumping to the boot, it has a claimed 356-litre capacity, just four litres less than its Astra hatchback stablemate.
On the road, the Trax exhibits excellent handling. With a sharp turn-in, it feels confident through corners and winding back roads. With a revised Aussie calibration by Holden engineers, the Trax really carries the SUV stigma in name only.
While the steering is sharp, the refinement raises questions. Now approaching its sixth birthday, it is starting to get on a bit, and this is where things go south. Coming equipped with standard 16-inch Continental tyres, the chassis feels tired and undercooked. Although it steers well, the chassis mishaps affect the refinement.
Appearing second-grade, the cabin noise is nothing special and the tyres only make things worse, with freeway and bitumen surfaces appearing quite vocal throughout the cabin. Despite having an increased ride stance, the suspension is nothing special, with a high proportion of bumps and potholes shuddering through the cabin, making it a challenge to keep the Trax composed at medium to high speeds.
Turning to the engine, it runs a 1.4-litre turbo with outputs of 103kW at 4900rpm and 200Nm of torque at 1850rpm. On paper, the engine looks sufficient, but it struggles to perform satisfactorily. With a hefty base weight of 1376kg on the base-model LS, it really lacks any notion of the word ‘go’. Acceleration off the mark is decent enough, but any speeds above the 20km/h mark will see the engine turn raucous. The tacho appears confused, with revs wildly moving between 2000–4000rpm instantaneously.
With no consistency in its effort, the Trax’s gearbox is a mess, appearing as frazzled and frustrated as you are reading this, overthinking what its next move should be. Engine noise is rather intrusive in the interior too, with no sense of refinement to help relax the experience for the driver or passengers.
Expect fuel consumption to sit in the 7–8.5L/100km region too, both highway and urban driving. Any notion of a turbo engine underneath the bonnet has disappeared. Replace the 'Turbo' engine badge with 'Anchor', and that sums up the Trax’s engine sadly.
Overall, the Trax is a complex car to digest. On one hand, it boasts a mature exterior, an interior that is versatile and comfortable for a family of five, while providing crisp handling. On the other hand, an ageing chassis, hefty weight, indecisive gearbox and an undeveloped engine pull the Trax to a grating stop.
For a select few, the Trax will suffice for an A to B car. But for the majority, there are more mature cars – not just in looks, but refinement, performance and execution – elsewhere.