Even though 2020 hasn’t been the best of years for many, Chevy is having a banner year with the Chevy Trailblazer CUV. The Trailblazer is all-new for the 2021 model year and is the fastest-selling new car in 2020, according to research from iSeeCars.com. Their research shows that new Trailblazers are on U.S. dealer lots for just 19 days in 2020 compared to the industry average of 96.9 days.

The COVID-19 pandemic has reaffirmed that Americans want their freedom to travel with the security and peace of mind that only a privately owned vehicle can bring. Public transportation is a necessity in a lot of areas, but nothing can beat having a personal vehicle to fall back on in times like this, and the strong sales of vehicles in 2020 is proving that the idea of private ownership of vehicles isn’t going anywhere.

Chevrolet is well poised to capture this demand with the all-new 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer, and the new Trailblazer ACTIV. This isn’t the body-on-frame Trailblazer of days gone by, but instead, a responsible compact CUV that in ACTIV trim promises to help owners live their outdoor lifestyles to their fullest.

Chevy Trailblazer ACTIV – Exterior Styling

The 2021 Chevy Trailblazer ACTIV AWD has the same boldly sculpted styling as the standard Trailblazer, but adds a unique grille treatment as well as a front and rear fascia optimized for better ground clearance. The suspension has been lifted slightly and the underbody given shielding to protect it from obstacles while off the pavement.

Off-road traction is improved by way of 17-inch Hankook “sport terrain” tires that are essentially all-season tires with an aggressive sidewall pattern. These tires are designed to optimize on-road noise levels and driving with slightly better off-road capability than standard all-season tires.

Ground clearance is increased from the standard 7.0-inches on the base Trailblazer to 8.0-inches on the Trailblazer ACTIV AWD.

This isn’t a rough and tumble off-roader like the Jeep Wrangler, but the Trailblazer ACTIV certainly looks beefy compared to the other trim levels of Trailblazer. Most owners will do just fine getting owners to the hiking trails and camping sites of their choice.

Chevy Trailblazer ACTIV – Interior

The interior of the Trailblazer ACTIV is a comfortable place to spend time for both driver and passenger, while rear seat passengers will have a harder time being comfortable if they are over six-feet tall.

The cabin is well organized and features room for drinks, phones, wallets, and a few other accessories without cramping up the cabin. Optional Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come by way of a $1,720 Technology Package which also adds wireless charging, LED headlamps, Bose 7-speaker audio system, adaptive cruise control, HD Vision rear camera, and a 4.2-inch multi-color display in the gauge cluster.

The center infotainment/navigation screen is large and easy to use, with fast response times when navigating through screens. HVAC controls are very simple to use thanks to a pair of knobs and hard buttons for all functions.

Interior materials quality are generally good, though there are definitely large areas of hard plastic throughout. Chevrolet has done a nice job of dressing up the Trailblazer ACTIV to look upscale even if it doesn’t always feel upscale.

Our tester was equipped with the $1,770 Sun and Liftgate package which adds a dual-pane panoramic sunroof and a power rear liftgate. The panoramic sunroof does a great job of making the smaller Trailblazer cabin feel much larger than it is.

Chevy Trailblazer ACTIV Cargo Space

Cargo space in the Trailblazer ACTIV is managed with a 40/60 split-folding rear seat, and a front seat that folds completely flat to accommodate longer objects. Overall cargo capacity is 54.4 cubic feet with the rear seat folded down.

Chevy Trailblazer ACTIV Driving Impressions

Our Trailblazer ACTIV AWD tester came equipped with the 1.3-liter turbo ECOTEC engine which produces 155-horsepower and is mated to a 9-speed automatic transmission. This transmission is a much better driving experience than the CVT transmission found in the Trailblazer’s platform-mate, the Buick Encore GX. Shifts are smooth, and the transmission doesn’t constantly hunt for the right gear ratio like the CVT does.

The Trailblazer does get out of its own way when pushed, and is surprisingly agile when tossed through traffic at highway speeds. The “sport terrain” tires are slightly louder than a regular all-season tire, but not intrusively so.

The Trailblazer ACTIV AWD system works like that in all GM Crossovers in that AWD has to be manually engaged vs. being full-time AWD like in other brands. In the world we live in, CAFE and EPA numbers are everything. Because the EPA only tests in a vehicle’s default startup mode, the numbers are higher in FWD only vs. AWD mode due to the lack of powertrain drag. It’s kind of annoying to have to remember to engage AWD in rainy or loose road surface encounters, but fuel efficiency is everything.

On the matter of fuel economy, the Trailblazer ACTIV is EPA rated at 26 mpg city/30 highway/28 combined. In the week of mixed highway/city driving, our observed fuel economy was a respectable 27.3 mpg.

Chevy Trailblazer ACTIV Final Impressions

2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer ACTIV

While the Trailblazer ACTIV certainly isn’t a hardcore go-anywhere off-roader, Chevrolet has given the vehicle a bit of trail credibility by increasing ground clearance and beefing up the looks. The Trailblazer ACTIV is a handsomely sculpted vehicle inside and out while providing a lot of technology and utility for the price.

As far as direct competitors, the Honda HR-V and Toyota CH-R are also very popular vehicles in the segment but not nearly as quick to sell as the Chevy Trailblazer. If consumers are seeing the same things I’m seeing, the Trailblazer has just a bit more personality all around than the competition. With a price-as-tested of $32,350, the Chevy Trailblazer ACTIVE also provides a lot of value to go along with the personality.

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Zerin Dube