Trailblazer: A Blazer but smaller
With Blazer styling but in a more Korean and Chinese friendly size, the Trailblazer ACTIV is an attractive and fun city car that is slightly larger than the Trax.
Setting the ACTIV apart from the rest of the Trailblazer lineup is a unique front end. The grill has a different style mesh, and the front bumper features a plastic bash plate and higher clearance for better off-pavement capability.
Lighting up front is divided into three segments. Up top are the daytime running lights and signals, in the middle sit the actual headlights, and down low are the fog lights that actually function as fog lights and can be turned on with just the running lights on.
Attracting younger buyers are various paint schemes and our tester came in Zeus Bronze Metallic with a white roof and mirror caps. Adding to this are black accents and 17” black and machined aluminum split 5-spoke wheels.
Protecting those wheels are 225/60R17 Hankook Dynapro AT2 tires, which have just the right amount of off-road grip and on-road ride quality for the ACTIV.
Moving down the side we see a slightly more boxy shape than the Blazer and a really short rear overhang for a great departure angle. The body is full of curves and creases which make it much more attractive without the need for plastic trim pieces to break up the body panels.
Around the back, the body flows to create wide hips with a skinny top. Dual exhaust ports add to the aggressive looks and sportiness.
Inside the Trailblazer Activ
The interior of the Trailblazer ACTIV is a mix of modern luxury and entry level sedan. There are heated leather seats and steering wheel, automatic climate control, 8” touchscreen, and plenty of steering wheel controls. On the other side of the spectrum, there are a lot of hard touch points and many of the bits have a cheap plastic feel to them.
The layout is simple, easy to use, and easy to reach. Everything you need is clear and simple to adjust with physical buttons for the most often used functions, like climate and audio controls.
For powering devices there are two USB ports and a wireless charging pad up front. In the rear there is a 110 volt outlet along with two additional USB ports.
For powering the humans on board there are 8 cup holders; one in each of the four doors, two in the front center console, and two in the rear fold down armrest.
There is plenty of room in the front seats, however the rear seats are a little tight. Larger rear facing car seats will require that the front seats be moved forward a bit. People over 6-feet tall may run into head room issues depending on how they sit. Finally, fitting three car seats in the rear isn’t going to be possible unless the seats are really small. The same goes for fitting three adults.
The cargo area has a decent amount of space for the size of the vehicle. There are four anchors for securing gear if needed. Pockets on either side of the cargo area behind the wheel wells and a significant amount of storage under the cargo floor around the spare tire add needed capacity. Of course the rear seats fold down for additional storage when necessary.
It’s clear that city driving is what the Trailblazer ACTIV was designed for. The small exterior size and peppy 1.3-liter turbocharged 3-cylinder make zipping around in traffic a breeze. Helping get the 155 hp and 173 lb-ft of torque to the wheels is an excellent 9-speed automatic transmission.
When turning and driving on windy roads, the CUV remains flat and stable. The drawback is that the ride can be a little stiff when hitting bumps and holes in the road.
Moving to the open highway the story changes a bit. The 1.3-liter seems to run out of steam at higher speeds. It still has the ability to pass slower moving vehicles, but it requires more forethought and effort. The ride is still a little stiff, but it’s less noticeable at highway speeds than around town.
The whole idea behind the Trailblazer ACTIV trim is to add some off-pavement functionality to the otherwise city going crossover. To do this Chevy uses a clutch based power take off unit. Think of it as a center differential, to add power to the rear axle when AWD is engaged.
In our high speed off-road section the suspension quickly runs out of travel making both big bumps and big dips hit fairly hard. Our normal goal for the course is 20mph for a decent off-roader, and the Trailblazer comes in at about 17mph. This is on par with most vehicles in this class.
Performance on the small articulation hill was quite good. The brake based traction system works well in sending power to the wheels with traction. The downside to this type of system is that it requires a lot more engine torque than something with a limited slip or locking differential.
On the steep hill climb, the Trailblazer ACTIV was unable to make the hard line. While it performed well on the articulation hill, adding in the steep grade while lifting a wheel or two off the ground becomes too much for the system to handle. It is capable of making it up the easy line and even clears the breakover at the top. This puts it right on par with nearly every other AWD vehicle in this class.
Our 2022 Trailblazer ACTIV AWD had a base price of $27,200. Adding in the destination charge and various options like the Technology package ($1,620), Trailering package ($650), and Convenience package ($520), brought the total MSRP to $32,155.
Wrapping Up the Trailblazer ACTIV
The market initially moved from sedans to crossovers and is now transitioning to more off-pavement capable crossovers. The general population now wants good fuel mileage with the capability to leave pavement every now and then. The Trailblazer ACTIV fits this bill nicely. It’s an excellent city car with decent fuel mileage and some off-pavement capability. Pricing falls right in line with the competition, as does it’s AWD capability.
Matthew Barnes is an experienced towing expert. He works as a mechanical engineer and his day job involves testing a variety of vehicles while towing trailers of all types and sizes. Matt shares his knowledge by writing for automotive news outlets in the evenings. When he’s not working he can be found spending time in the great outdoors with his family. He enjoys camping, hiking, canyoneering, and backpacking. Whenever possible he spends time riding in or on any power sports vehicle he can find and claims he can drive anything with a motor, which probably isn’t true.