CHEVROLET’S foray into the local motoring market has been made all the more luminous with the addition of yet another feather to its cap.
By Ngoni Muzofa
Autoworld, the local GM Motors dealership, unveiled the Chevrolet Trailblazer a seven-seater SUV with a wild streak, at its Chisipite showroom last week. Apart from Chevrolet, Autoworld also represents Isuzu trucks and light vehicles.
Chevrolet has been steadily making inroads in the African market over the years culminating in the establishment of an African operation centre based in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
This renewed interest in the sub-Saharan market has not been without its rewards with the American carmaker being among the top selling brands in sub-Saharan Africa.
The local market is no exception with the marque faring well with the Utility and Sonic, among others. The Trailblazer’s introduction, however, signals an upping of the ante in joining the SUV fray currently dominated by the Toyota Fortuner and Mazda CX9, among others.
With an uncanny resemblance to the Fortuner, the Trailblazer is bound to provoke comparisons with its Japanese counterpart currently ruling the roost in its class. Added to this their somewhat similar price tags, hovering in the mid to above US$50 000, ensure comparison will be unavoidable.
Very little seems to separate the two. The Trailblazer delivers 132kW at 3 800rpm and a strong 470 Nm of torque to the Fortuner’s 120 kW at 3 400rpm and 343 Nm of torque.
Ultimately the Trailblazer seems to marginally edge the Fortuner not least because it is a newer product. The debate on which one is better is bound to continue and can only be resolved with the passage of time.
The Trailblazer is available in the 2,5l 4×2 manual pegged at US$47 995, 2,8l 4×2 automatic at US$53 995, 2,8l 4×4 manual at US$57 995 as well as the 2,8l 4×4 automatic transmission at US$59 777 while the 3,6l V6 4×4 automatic, at US$59 995 is available as per request. Except for the 3,6l V6 all the versions are diesel.
The exterior colour scheme includes Oceanic Blue, Sizzle Red, Sapphire Black and Summit White to mention but a few. The grille bears the typical Chevrolet insignia and design whose end result is an assertive, compact look. With power folding side mirrors the Trailblazer can navigate nooks and crannies without the fear of having them dislodged.
As would be expected of a vehicle of its stature, the Trailblazer’s interior, although not likely to bowl over, is adequately equipped to cater for the demands of a family.
It is always the little things, so they say, that win over or pique car lovers and the Trailblazer’s interior speaks of an attempt to achieve the former.
For instance the sun visors are illuminated, probably for the benefit of the missus, climate control for the second and third row of seats is made possible by ventilation outlets in the roof, which ensure no one in the car is left out, while four 12V sockets mean chargers and appliances can also be brought along for the ride. Up to eleven cup holders and even a sunglass holder add to the Trailblazer’s road trip-worthiness.
The second and third rows of seats can tumble forward creating room for the carrying of large objects. With the exception of the entry level 2,5l 4×2 version, the interior is garnished with a light leather finish as well as a chrome gear knob.
While the cockpit is tidy and generally aesthetically appealing, the dashboard is a tad too rudimentary for a supposedly tech savvy vehicle. The infotainment system has auxiliary and USB inputs as well as Bluetooth which allows hands-free phoning.
It is also WMA and MP3 compatible. Six speakers mounted around the car are designed to create a “home theatre” ambience.
With all the talk of family friendliness the Trailblazer is quick to assert its off-road credentials such as hill start assist, hill descent control as well as a traction control system.
On the safety features front the Fortuner trumps the Trailblazer with a rear parking assist camera while the later only has rear sensors. However, panic brake assist, electronic stability control as well as four channel ABS brakes with electronic brake force distribution, redeem the Trailblazer’s safety credentials.
Across the Trailblazer versions airbag protection for the driver and front passenger as well as curtain side airbag protection for rear seat occupants is standard.
While Autoworld is yet to afford motoring journos a test drive, the Trailblazer’s independent suspension link system has won rave reviews for the handling particularly in treacherous road conditions Zimbabwean drivers know only too well. According to the manual, the independent front suspension setup allows either side wheel to react to road imperfections with minimal effect on the opposite side.
A towing capacity of 2 950kg, as well as a roof loading capacity of 100kg, stand the Trailblazer in good stead considering the Fortuner barely exceeds the 2 000kg mark.
In keeping with the value-for-money reputation Chevrolet has built, the Trailblazer has a five-year 120 000km warranty with the Bluffhill-based service centre available to nip any niggles that may arise in the bud.
Apart from the Chisipite showroom, Autoworld has a second dealership in Bulawayo as well as Paza Buster along Seke Road.