2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer ACTIV AWD

Consumers today would have to go back to 2001 in order to remember the first generation Chevrolet Trailblazer.
Consumers today would have to go back to 2001 in order to remember the first generation Chevrolet Trailblazer.

by Jon Pangindian | October 14, 2020


Consumers today would have to go back to 2001 in order to remember the first generation Chevrolet Trailblazer. In production until 2009, it was a sales hit for the bow tie brand until SUVs began to make the transition away from truck based platforms. This platform was known as the GMT360 and served double duty on several other General Motors brands with success. With the rise of small crossovers, Chevrolet decided to bring back the nameplate of a brand favorite. Upon hearing the announcement of a new Trailblazer, fans were eager for its return to market. Enter the 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer ACTIV AWD that is in the garage here.

To say that previous Trailblazer owners were gobsmacked seeing the new example would be an understatement. Gone was the massive size and powerful engines once associated with the Trailblazer name. This new 2021 model is now given the task to compete in the subcompact crossover segment dominated by the likes of the Subaru Crosstrek (reviewed here), Hyundai Kona and Toyota C-HR. For those keeping score, the Trailblazer sits between the Chevrolet Trax and Equinox in the family hierarchy. This is a whole new ball game and things only get more interesting from here.

Those that owned the original Trailblazer and are looking for similar power will need to look elsewhere as our 2021 Trailblazer ACTIV AWD, has the upgraded engine. This is a 1.3-liter turbocharged three-cylinder, muscling 155 horsepower at 5,600RPM and 174 lb-ft. of torque at 1,600RPM. Expect a not so swift 0-100km/h time of 9.5 seconds. Order a front-drive Trailblazer model and make do with a smaller 1.2-liter engine and CVT. The top two trims, the ACTIV tested here and the RS get a nine-speed automatic. The transmission shifts smoothly but the engine gets quite loud and buzzy when asked to move quickly. Drivers should make sure to plan passing moves accordingly, as 1.3-liter engine does struggle at higher speeds.

The Trailblazer’s Steering feels overly boosted and we suggest potential buyers to determine how comfortable they are with this set up both on both city streets and on the highway.  As a strict urban runabout, it gets the job done very well, easily weaving in and out of heavy traffic. The meaty 225/60R17 tires are larger than average in the segment and help absorb the impacts that the Trailblazer ACTIV’s suspension seems to be challenged with.

Chevrolet has a specially tuned suspension for the ACTIV model and it does work well on smooth surfaces. However, where the Trailblazer needs some work is when road imperfections come into play.  The rear end tends to bounce around more than expected and lacks the road manners and capabilities of more buttoned down competitors such as the Mazda CX-30 (reviewed here) or Hyundai Kona.

A fully loaded 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer comes in at 1,470 kilograms, measures 174 inches in length and 71.3 inches wide. A 2002 Trailblazer tips in at 2.087 kilograms, 191.8 inches long and 74.6 inches across.  Yes, the 2021 is much more compact overall, however the use of space inside is quite impressive in the segment. Occupants in the front and rear won’t feel like they have been stuck inside a penalty box.  Getting in and out was a breeze for my rather tall frame, shoulder room is excellent and legroom is better than expected.

Those looking to haul gear or groceries will not go wrong with the 2021 Trailblazer as the cargo area swallows a massive 716-litres worth of cargo, sublime for the subcompact crossover segment. Drop those rear seats and owners will get 1,540-liters which drops it more in line with major competitors.  Effectively, if you have passengers in the rear and need to haul the most amount of cargo possible, the Trailblazer fits the bill more than most other entries in this class.

The interior is where Chevrolet should take pride as the eight-inch infotainment screen is crystal clear, the user interface is quick to react and the high-definition rear camera is impressive. Our Trailblazer ACTIV also includes wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay which is a first in the segment. Also standard are features such as wireless phone charging, 4G LTE Hotspot, a fantastic Bose sound system, panoramic sunroof and power liftgate. Seats are adorned with leatherette and a denim-like material, not unlike the Hyundai Venue (reviewed here). They are reasonably comfortable just lacking in thigh support for my longer legs. The design suits the overall look of the interior which is a mix of hard and soft materials.

Chevrolet’s exterior front end design falls in line with the rest of their crossover and SUV lineup but they have attempted a more youthful and rugged look.  You can decide for yourself on Chevrolet’s level of success, which is undeniable. Depending on the Trailblazer model selected, buyers can choose up to seven premium colors that add some pop along with a different roof color for that two tone-look.  Our Trailblazer ACTIV was equipped with a Summit White Roof along with Zeus Bronze Metallic paint.

On the safety front, the Trailblazer has owners covered even on the base model. Features such as Automatic Emergency Braking, Forward Collision Alert, Front Pedestrian Braking, Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning are standard across the board. Our upper-trim ACTIV model adds Lane Change Alert with Side Blind Zone Alert, Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Rear Park Assist.

Chevrolet Canada rates the fuel economy at 8.9L/100km city and 7.8L/100km highway, for a combined rating around 8.4L/100km. During my week of mostly city driving, I averaged 9.0L/100km combined, and the generous fuel tank can hold 50-liters of 87-octane. As our test vehicle was new and still in its break-in period, we would expect fuel economy to improve substantially with time.

Pricing starts at $23,798 for the base 2021 Trailblazer in front-drive form. Move up to the ACTIV model and this price jumps up to $30,398. With the added options such as Technology Package ($1,995); Zeus Bronze Metallic ($495); Sun & Liftgate Package ($1,995) and Convenience Package ($695) the final price comes to $35.578. It’s not exactly chump change but still in the same ballpark as its competition, with the Hyundai Kona and Kia Seltos being right around this mark.

While the 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer ACTIV AWD may not resemble the previous vehicle with this nameplate in any shape or form, Chevrolet hopes to attract new buyers into the brand with a fuel efficient and practical subcompact crossover loaded with the safety and technology that first time buyers are looking for. With subtle improvements to the suspension and a more powerful engine available, the Trailblazer would become a segment leader. As it stands though, it’s still a fine entry into the segment that offers its potential buyers plenty.

See Also:

2020 Hyundai Venue Trend

First Drive: 2020 Kia Soul

2020 Hyundai Kona 1.6T Ultimate

Vehicle Specs
Engine Size
Horsepower (at RPM)
Torque (lb-ft.)
Fuel Efficiency (L/100km, City/Highway/Combined)
Observed Fuel Efficiency (L/100km)
Cargo Capacity (in L)
Base Price (CAD)
As-Tested Price (CAD)
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About Jon Pangindian

Staff Writer

An experienced detailer and diehard car guy, Jon brings a creative eye to his new vehicle road tests. Aside from writing, Jon spends most of his time tinkering with new detailing products and experimenting with ceramic coatings.

Current Toy: ’13 650i Gran Coupé