Late in 2013 we took some of SA’s most popular SUVs to Botswana for a vehicle safari through the Khwai Conservancy. We’ve posted reviews of all the vehicles that accompanied us over the last few weeks. You can read our travel article about the trip here, and you can find all the other vehicle articles under the “Driving Impressions” category.
No regular reader of this magazine needs to be told that the Trailblazer finds itself in a segment that’s wholly dominated by a certain Japanese competitor. Has Chevrolet bitten off more than it can chew by entering this hotly contested market?
Ironically, when it comes to the local bakkie-based SUV market, the Trailblazer isn’t really a trailblazer at all. In fact, it’s a little late to the party. Toyota, Ford and Mitsubishi have all had vehicles in this segment for ages. Moreover, Toyota’s Fortuner has a rather fearsome stranglehold on the segment, which makes releasing a bakkie-based SUV in SA a daunting proposition.
But it would be a mistake to dismiss the Trailblazer simply because it has only just arrived on the scene. In fact, Chevrolet’s SUV is a very impressive vehicle.
When you start looking for an SUV that combines daily usability with true off-road capability, the Trailblazer stands out.
Bakkie-based SUVs are popular because they offer good value for money, but usually they also demand some sacrifices. These vehicles typically aren’t as plush and well equipped as other full-sized SUVs. The Trailblazer, though, has upped the ante in the segment, offering a startling array of features and equipment.
Safety features include multiple airbags, electronic stability control, panic brake assist, hydraulic brake fade assist, traction control, hill start assist, hill decent control and trailer sway assist.
Inside the cabin, the Chevrolet is equally well equipped. It has leather seats, Bluetooth connectivity, a mini USB port, climate control, cruise control, four 12V sockets, eight speakers… and 11 cupholders.
Under the bonnet, the Trailblazer has a lovely 2,8-litre four-cylinder oilburner that pushes out 132 kW of power and 470 Nm of torque. It is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission (a five-speed manual is also available).
And off the beaten track? As shown here, the Trailblazer is a capable off-roader, equipped with low-range gearing and a decent amount of ground clearance. Unfortunately, the Chev doesn’t have a rear diff lock, but it does have a rear limited slip diff, which gets the job done pretty well.
The Trailblazer might have been late to the game, but it has already shown itself to be a real contender. It offers just about everything you could ask for in a bakkie-based SUV.