Well judged but ultimately uninspiring to drive. The Canadian mules get a 138bhp 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine mated to a rather quaint six-speed automatic gearbox. This configuration will come to the UK, but not until 2014. Step-off enthusiasm around town is sprightly (thanks to a cricket pitch-even 148lb ft of torque from 1850 to 4900rpm) but lacks much gumption elsewhere.
The vocal motor won’t power the entry-level model in the UK – that’s left to a 114bhp 1.6-litre petrol engine and a five-speed manual ’box – but, given its power handicap, we wouldn’t recommend that either. The cherry-pick (and doubtless popular option) is the worthy 128bhp 1.7-litre diesel that already appears in the Cruze.
With a six-speed manual ’box, it’ll deliver a highly competitive 221lb ft of torque, 120g/km of CO2 and 62mpg economy aboard the Trax. There’s also the faint hope that an extra 70-odd pounds of peak twist will add some muscular verve to the SUV’s progress.
Such optimism is not completely unfounded: Chevrolet reckons that the European versions, thanks to structural differences, airbag subtraction and the elimination of the spare wheel, will save around 100kg on the lardy Canadian car.
A dynamic bump would be useful. The North American model is competent and undemanding, but beyond its plodding, well insulated march at 55mph it begins to feel unreasonably cumbersome – as if you’re already dynamically working the car over rather than gently pushing on a bit.
Chevrolet will say that its EU retune will see to all this, but, although better rubber (it's all-terrain all round here) and steering heft will help, there is a concern that by revising the dampers, bushings and mounts, the engineers may handicap the compliancy on a ride quality already occasionally lumpy in remedying poor road surfaces.
Fortunately for the Trax, driver appeal always comes a distant second to usability in this segment, and here it’s clear that the developmental homework has been done. The interior, unsurprisingly, has for the most part been pinched from the Aveo, but a revamp and rescale has added a much-needed maturity to the layout.
It’s not half bad, and, better still, spaciousness seems suitably enhanced. Adults will fit in the back of the stretched wheelbase, and, with families in mind, there are no fewer than eight different seating configurations to play with, including the potential for folding forward the front passenger seat.
Chevrolet has also laced the cockpit with a rabbit warren of storage bins and kept the boot capacious enough to swallow 356 litres of additional items. Added to all that is the option (or standard feature) of the MyLink infotainment system. The seven-inch touchscreen is the focal point of the dashboard, and with a smartphone attached its interface, function and app potential (including a superb sat-nav carry-over) is a full generation ahead of any of its rivals.