Crossover SUVs offer the space and ride height of an SUV in a much smaller package with all the handling dynamics of a regular car. They are vehicles meant to fill every role a family needs, even if they may not excel in any one area. They remain popular for what they don’t offer as much as for what they do. They offer comfort without opulence, speed without thrills, and space without excess. They remain uncomplicated and reliable, which is exactly what most people are looking for. Not everyone wants a white-knuckle thrill ride for a simple drive to work. Not everyone needs a car that can climb a mountain to drive on an unpaved parking lot. To that end, let’s check out two affordable crossovers that the average buyer may be eyeing: the 2021 Chevy Trax vs 2021 Ford EcoSport.
The Trax styling is neat and trim, keeping a nice balance with flowing lines around the instantly recognizable Chevy grille. The front end of the Ford could be seen as overly fussy for such a small car. The lines jut away from a grille that seems a bit too big for the car it resides on. As if someone removed the grille from a Taurus and transplanted it without any thought as to how it would work with the rest of the vehicle. The Chevy has slightly larger wheel wells, making the car look slightly less tall and the whole appearance a little more capable if the road gets tough. The Ford, meanwhile, looks a little more streamlined.
However, with the smaller wheel wells on the EcoSport, the wheels appear a little too small, giving the whole car a tall, tippy look from the side profile. From the back, the Chevy’s rear window is curved slightly at each side, giving someone sitting in the driver’s seat those precious few extra inches to make sure their way is clear. The Ford offers two small windows just behind the C pillar on either side, but there are two black trim pieces just after them, making any extra benefit they might have given moot. The Trax avoids such needless decorations, instead focusing on giving drivers the all-around visibility they need to stay safe on the road.
Both crossovers have seating for five plus cargo room, as that aspect is very standard across this type of vehicle. The rear hatch is a point of contention, however, between these two. The Chevy features a conventional liftgate that swings upward, allowing both sides of the rear cargo area to be accessed no matter how it is approached. Ford offers a rear hatch that swings open like a huge door. This may be handy for people who often use low-ceiling garages, but for everyone else, this style of cargo door can make accessing the storage area quite inconvenient. It makes unloading cargo harder to do if one is parked against a curbside on the driver’s side because one must be mindful of what is in the path of the door once opened. While both offer a similar amount of overall cargo room, the Trax makes getting it out all the easier.
Rear storage is important, but there’s also another area where Ford seems to have put looking “stylish” over giving occupants usable space. That area is the glove compartment. Looking at the Ford, there is a dashboard that slopes downward away from the windscreen, ending in a small, seemingly useless grab handle. While something like that would make sense in a rough and tumble off-roader, it looks a bit out of place in a small city-focused crossover. This baffling design feature means that the glove compartment is of a smaller, more triangle shape.
Looking across from this, one will see something rather strange. Molded into the steering column of the Ford is a huge, useless, blank circle. The car is equipped with a push-button start, as is the Trax. However, it would appear this yet another oversight by the designers at Ford. It looks as if that circle could be used to house a regular ignition barrel… or perhaps the push-button start. No, Ford designers chose to mount said button on a slanting plane of the dashboard just to the side of the steering wheel. This wouldn’t be so bad, if they had only changed the steering column to look like it wasn’t just an afterthought.
Both cars use a similar style of transmission; a six-speed automatic. Chevy offers one engine in the Trax, a 1.4-liter four-cylinder that gives drivers both good fuel economy and decent power for both city and highway driving. Unfortunately, it would seem the Ford buyer would need to choose one or the other between Ford’s two engine choices. The base engine is a 1.0-liter turbocharged three-cylinder borrowed from the subcompact Ford Focus sedan. While it offers amazing fuel economy, such an engine is not suited to highway driving, especially when stressed with a full load of cargo. It seems a strange choice to be used in a supposedly capable crossover SUV. The next option is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that offers adequate power for city and highway driving… as long as one is willing to take a hit in fuel economy. Chevy gives you exactly what you need, with no need for compromise in powertrains.
Both Ford and Chevy offer you peace of mind with similar safety features for both the Trax and EcoSport. These include Rear Cross Traffic Alert (a system that works in conjunction with your backup camera to alert drivers when there is an object crossing behind your vehicle) and Side Blind Zone Alert (allowing the car to alert you to vehicles in your blindspot). However, only Chevy gives you the option of Rear Park Assist. This useful system lets you know exactly how far away you are from the objects behind you, taking the guesswork out of tough parking jobs.
The Full Picture
The crossover is here to stay, and with so many on the market, it can be hard to determine exactly what each offers without a side-by-side comparison. While both Chevy and Ford offer great cars, it’s clear that Chevy offers consumers more of what buyers want. Neat, crisp styling, a functional cargo hatch, a more balanced powertrain, and safety features that make driving safer and easier. While subcompact crossovers may not be the most exciting vehicles on the road, Chevy did a great job giving drivers everything they need in the 2021 Trax.
While the base model Trax is more expensive than the base model EcoSport, that is because the Trax is a more capable vehicle. And once you fully equip the EcoSport with everything you desire, it will probably end up costing more than the Trax. That’s something to keep in mind when looking at these crossovers. Price isn’t everything. When the market is this hot, one needs to go over the models offered with a fine-tooth comb. It would be a shame to buy a car without doing one’s research, only to find out you’re missing features or styling choices that were on offer if only you’d known about them.