JUGGERNAUTS don't come much bigger than sports utility vehicles.
Sales in Australia have grown seven-fold since 2005 and SUVs are leaving showrooms at a rate 10% higher than the total market which is tracking 4% above last year.
Now, get set for a new breed of SUV small in stature yet big on value and appeal that will further strengthen the dominance of the high-riding wagons.
Holden is the first to launch in what will become the compact SUV genre. Trax will reach showrooms mid-September, ahead of other newcomers including the Nissan Juke, Renault Captur, Ford EcoSport and Peugeot 2008.
The Korean-made Trax comes Down Under following strong success in Europe (wearing the Opel Mokka badge) and North America (under the Buick Encore and Chevrolet Trax monikers).
Holden has equipped its sub-small SUV with strong technological features at a price which demands attention.
Broad appeal sets a solid foundation for the Trax.
Its high-riding position makes entry and exit simple, which will be appreciated by older owners or those loading kids in the back.
Despite its compact dimensions the Trax is surprisingly big inside. Excellent head, leg and knee room delivers four adults comfort.
Interior styling is close to the Barina, with hard plastics across the door-tops, while the driver has a combination of digital (speedo, fuel gauge, trip computer) and analogue (tacho) instruments.
Base model LS is basic in cloth trim yet is inoffensive, but the LTZ with its leather trim is a refined step up. Both specs have a modern 17.7cm touch-screen.
Holden has improved the technology across its entire range and we think this is the most attractive execution with tablet-like ease of use. Highlighting its tech-focus, there is no CD player.
On the road
Using the same platform as Barina and the 1.8-litre petrol engine used in the Cruze, the Trax is pitched at a metro market.
Yet it boasts quiet on-road smarts with limited tyre or travel noise at 100kmh sitting comfortably between 2500-3000rpm.
Those who want rapid-fire acceleration might find the four-potter underwhelming, although around town it's more than capable and does the job efficiently in either automatic or manual guise.
Steering feel is direct and reasonably well weighted.
What do you get?
Standard equipment includes a 17.7cm touch-screen with MyLink
embedded apps that can also play movies and photo slideshows, rear view camera, 16-inch alloys, rear parking sensors, six airbags, Siri hands-free support to things like your calendar and to-do list on your phone, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, USB and Aux ports, cruise control, along with five-star safety.
You get leather trim in the LTZ, along with bigger 18-inch alloys, heated front seats and fog lamps.
Tech-savvy fans will love the apps which can stream near limitless genres of music and digital radio.
A new addition is BringGo, a "low-cost" sat nav system. The full system costs about $65 to download the app to your phone, and then runs through the touch-screen system using the downloaded maps and doesn't require constant data downloads.
A full-size spare is a no-cost option, but you do have to go without the CD player.
For those who want some more external bling, there are some cool track stripes for the bonnet and roof available for $390.
A tow bar with 1200kg capacity is among the accessories.
Both the auto and manual should achieve fuel usage of less than eight litres for every 100km.
Servicing costs are capped for the first four trips back to the dealer, and shouldn't be too expensive after that point. Insurance should also be reasonable.
Holden also has one of the best dealership spreads available in the country, so support is never far away if you get into trouble.
Hydration is never an issue in the Trax with four cup/bottle holders in the centre console, along with two more in the fold down arm rest in the rear. Each door can also hold a bottle.
Storage spaces are good, with a dual glove box and another bin with a lid on the dash, while there are some interesting nooks either side of the touch-screen that can house a phone along with a space in front of the shifter.
One cool feature is the three-pronged power socket in the back to power your laptop, phone charger or DVD player.
The rear pews also fold flat, once you flip up the seat bases, which provides a useful load space.
From the back the Trax can look a little gawky, yet from the front and other angles it has a muscular and chiseled stance.
What matters most
The good stuff: Cool apps and tablet-like stereo system, interior space for four adults, 240-volt plug.
What we'd like to see: Less interior plastics, centre armrest or console, CD player for older buyers.
Warranty and servicing: Three-year/ 150,000km warranty. Capped price servicing for first four services of $185, schedule is every nine months or 15,000km.
Model: Holden Trax.
Details: Five-door front-wheel drive compact sports utility vehicle.
Engine: 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol generating maximum power of 103kW @ 6300rpm and peak torque of 175Nm @ 3800rpm.
Transmission: Five-speed manual or six-speed automatic.
Consumption: 7.0 litres/100km (combined average, manual); 7.6L/100m (auto).
CO2: 164g/km (manual); 179g/km (auto).
Bottom line: LS (manual) $23,490, LS (automatic) $25,690, LTZ (auto only) $27,990.
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