2024 Chevrolet Trax test against Subaru Crosstrek, Kia Seltos and Buick Invista: Cheap but fun
In the age of expensive cars, new or updated small four-wheel drive vehicles are some of the best values on sale.
Cheap cars have changed. Small, breathless, feature-lacking sedans and hatchbacks (Most) things of the past, replaced by affordable, high-tech SUVs that are one size smaller than a Toyota RAV4. In many cases, it represents the entry point into a car manufacturer’s lineup.
thisSmall churros It’s one of the busiest segments in the industry, with 15 small SUVs starting at around $25,000 or less. Of the 15 cars, most remain unchanged as of 2023. The four cars assembled here – Buick Invista, Chevrolet Trax, Kia Seltos and Subaru Crosstrek – represent the latest models in their class. Each has been completely redesigned or significantly updated for 2024.
In this corner…
Since its introduction in 2013, the little Subaru Crosstrek has delivered all the outdoor vibes and great off-road capabilities we’ve come to expect from its automaker. However, from the start, the Crosstrek was plagued by a whistley engine, disappointing technology, and a noisy, cheap interior.
Subaru has a chance to change all that with the redesigned 2024 Crosstrek. Naturally, a generational change like this brings new design – in this case, a predictable evolution in line with the recently updated Forester, Outback and Ascent models – but also changes to the driving experience, infotainment system and a number of important improvements to driver assistance technology. . Subaru adds noisilyWild version, also.
Kia launched the Seltos in 2021 as a more conventional all-wheel-drive alternative to the quirky Soul. Despite some unpleasant plastics and a rough dual-clutch transmission, its sharp styling, rich feature content, and ample cargo space quickly won us over. A mid-cycle refresh for 2024 brings revised sheetmetal, a larger screen, a new eight-speed conventional automatic gearbox, and an off-road-style X-Line variant for the best Crosstrek impression.
In the past ten years,Chevrolet Trax Cruise America’s roads like a comfortable, self-propelled, road-legal Little Tyke coupe. Our reviews were not kind at all. Interior space is okay, and compact exterior dimensions mean it’s easy to maneuver, but bland styling, a disappointing powertrain, plastic cabin and poor driving dynamics make it easy to recommend alternatives.
But Trax got it2024 will shine brightly. A new design language influenced by the Blazer and Camaro gives it a sporty and youthful quality that it did not have in the past. Plus, even in the very affordable base model (about $21,000), there’s a standard turbocharged engine for low-end grunt and a great instrument cluster/infotainment system.
Then there’s the newcomer: Buick Invista. The Envista fills the gap left by the Buick Encore and shares its underpinnings with the Trax. Along with the Encore GX, this is the first Buick model to feature Encore-inspired stylingStunning 2022 Wildcat concept. The Invista’s roofline tapers toward the rear, a look rarely seen on cars under $50,000. This is the best looking Buick in at least a decade.
The Seltos’ interior has always been a strength, and it’s easily the best cabin in the range. Our example is the range-topping SX Turbo model, which unleashes a killer green hueFaux leather interior This option is available for the dashboard and door panels. The evergreen seats with patterned perforations look particularly distinct, and the geometric speaker grilles give the Seltos some bold flair. We also found that Kia equipped the key fob with a conveniently sized compartment to keep the cup holder open for cups.
Kia’s compatible infotainment system and dashboard display are elegantly integrated into the dashboard in a way that would have made Mercedes-Benz blush five years ago. We like the inclusion of physical controls for climate, volume and adjustment, and fortunately (most of them) are present across the board here.
The Seltos also has the best rear seat space in its class. While it offers the least legroom in practice, headroom is plentiful, and rear passengers enjoy the same funky green-patterned leather seats and cool speaker grilles, plus a pair of USB-C charging ports. Rear seat passengers will also appreciate the central climate control vents and a fold-down armrest with several cup holders between the seats, but Chevy and Buick rear passengers aren’t so lucky.
Naturally, Trax and Invista are cheaper than their counterparts across the Pacific. This is most noticeable in the back seats, where it’s clear you’re traveling in economy class. These effects are mitigated by impressive leg and headroom, the latter particularly impressive given these vehicles’ sloping rooflines. Both minivans have a pair of rear USB charging ports.
Up front, the two cars are essentially identical, differing from the contrasting blue stitching on the seating surfaces of the Buick and the gray seats with yellow accents of the Trax. Chevy’s oversized round air vents come straight from the Camaro, and the cabin achieves the big Hot Wheels look that the designers probably wanted. We found the Envista seats to offer more support.
Buyers will notice the most significant difference between the two cars inside the door panels. The Envista does a good job of differentiating the color and texture of the plastic, while the Trax is more uniform and cheaper. We also unfortunately discovered that the Chevy’s door armrests lacked any padding, and became tired after only 30 minutes of driving. No matter which GM pickup you choose, the climate control knobs feel cheap and wonky.
Both GM cars have the same 8.0-inch digital instrument cluster and 11.0-inch infotainment screen, but the design isn’t as good as the Kia’s. The two displays share a continuous bezel, but as senior features editor Christine Lee points out, there appears to be as much bezel as the screen. In both cars, the design gives the impression of an unbreakable children’s tablet.
The infotainment system itself is the most intuitive of the group, but we were disappointed with the digital gauges. The screen itself is fine, but the three available screen layouts are almost indistinguishable from each other. This seems like a case of GM installing a display not because it benefits the driver, but to save cost on the analog speedometer and tachometer.
When we sat down, the Subaru’s cabin immediately felt comfortable. The plaid cloth seats may not look luxurious, but they have a nice softness, and the cloth ventilation kept our backs and butts cooler, even cooler than the rare ventilated seats in the Seltos. However, we found ourselves wishing for a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
The infotainment package looks impressive at first glance, but it’s our least favorite of the four on offer here. Subaru’s 11.0-inch vertical touchscreen has permeated its entry-level SUV lineup and is reminiscent of similar systems found in higher-end Ram and Ford products. However, the screen is slow to respond to touch input, and some commonly used functions (including Suburu’s X mode) are boxed behind menus, which can take your eyes off the road.
The Subaru’s sound system also sounds much smaller than others in its class. Buyers who prefer punchy bass and a fuller sound should opt for the higher-end Crosstrek model with the Harman Kardon setup.
The Subaru’s back seat falls somewhere between the Kia and GM, with less space than an American car but more amenities. People in the back may still feel warm (there are no air vents), but thankfully there’s a center armrest, large cup holders, and USB-A and USB-C charging ports.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Subaru’s cargo area. While we appreciate its hard plastic inserts that can be easily removed and cleaned after a muddy weekend of camping, space behind the rear seats is noticeably less than in the Trax or Seltos, and even more so than in the Buick Small Coupe.
We know that acceleration and handling may not be high on the list of small car buyers’ priorities, but some of these minivans are more comfortable to drive than their counterparts. The Subaru Crosstrek is appreciated for making huge improvements. Subaru’s previous small car had a hollow, noisy and cheap feel on the road, but the redesigned model gets rid of those undesirable traits. The Crosstrek is the quietest of its competitors around town and on the highway, and its ride quality is excellent. We were also impressed by the confident assist in lane positioning. This is no longer an entry-level punishment box, but a three-quarter scale model of the Outback with a quiet, comfortable driving experience.
Until you press the travel pedal.
When I put my foot on the gas, my jaw dropped. The entry-level Crosstrek’s engine is a non-turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder making just 152 horsepower, giving Subaru the worst weight-to-power ratio of the group and performance that feels worryingly sluggish. The Subaru needed 9.1 seconds to reach 60 mph, and its lack of low-end torque worried us when we parked it on a short highway on-ramp. Fortunately, once accelerating, the CVT automatic responds quickly to throttle inputs, and the Subaru placed second in our 45-65 mph traffic speed test. However, we recommend buyers choose the CrosstrekDecorate with a larger motor, or at least drive this car in the more accessible Sport mode.
Although we didn’t take these vehicles off the pavement, Subaru’s standard all-wheel drive, X-Mode, and 8.7 inches of ground clearance (1.5 inches more than a Kia or Chevy) mean it’s likely the furthest vehicle ever . The Road.
Kia’s entry comes with a more powerful engine option, a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, offering far more power and torque than any of its three competitors. The Seltos’ 0-60 mph time of 7.3 seconds is more than a second quicker than its closest competitor. However, the turbo four-cylinder is also the thirstiest, returning 25/27 mpg City/Highway. Relatively abundant power, good body control and an easy-to-operate drive mode knob (read: turning on sport mode) provide some fun on winding roads.
The Kia’s driver-assistance features provide solid lane-centering on the highway and maintain following distance faithfully, but the driving experience also leaves a lot to like. It’s the noisiest of the group and by far the stiffest, and we noticed the eight-speed’s occasional responses around town. Power delivery is far from linear.
Chevy and Buick use the same engine: a 1.2-liter turbo three-cylinder that produces less power but more torque than Subaru’s engine. Both cars ride the same way, with enough low-end grunt to make you feel brave around town, but losing power at speeds above 50 mph or so. Their driver aids are the most limited of the lot, with available but unresponsive adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assist that ping-pong between the lines rather than focusing between them. Subaru and Kia’s systems can handle gentle curves, while Buick’s and Chevy’s systems can’t come close.
Unlike competitors here, the Trax and Invista are only available with front-wheel drive. This may seem like a drawback, but even when exploring the limits of grip on twisty tarmac, we rarely found ourselves needing more traction. If you often find yourself driving in slick mud or deep snow, the Crosstrek and Kia’s all-wheel drive systems may offer advantages; But keep in mind,Correct tires Because the conditions are more advantageous.
What the tires can’t fix is the excessive body roll of its GM siblings. Once leaned into and out of a corner, both cars feel relatively stable, but the suspension definitely travels more than the Kia or Subaru. Fortunately, this smoothness leads to a comfortable ride. We also found that the six-speed automatic transmissions in the Chevy and Buick were a little too eager to downshift, leaving us with a lack of power in some shifts.
Which one to buy?
We were pleased to find that none of these vehicles were bad cars. Building a competitive SUV is a huge challenge, and even more so when the price is more than $15,000 less than the average purchase price of a new vehicle. All of these vehicles offer great value, and although they have compromises, none of them are deal breakers. There are different winners here for different buyers with different priorities, but after spending time with all four and arguing with colleagues over a hearty lunch, we know which models we easily recommend.
The success of the Buick Envista lies in the fact that it offers an attractive appearance, modern technology and a comfortable driving experience at an affordable price, which may bring new customers to the brand. However, we wish the driver assistance features were more fully implemented and the rear seats were better arranged. We also prefer driving the more dynamic Chevrolet Trax.
Kia stands out for its premium, feature-rich cabin and torque-rich turbocharged powertrain. Advanced drivetrains further enhance its appeal, but unstable power delivery dampens driving enjoyment, and the Seltos is the most expensive and least efficient of the group.
That leaves us with the 2024 Subaru Crosstrek. Yes, it’s slow, and we still recommend buyers look for the more powerful 2.5-liter engine, but this is the most composed and well-rounded submodel in our class. The new Crosstrek is nearly as efficient as the GM, has all-wheel drive, is quieter and more comfortable than its peers, offers a smoother ride than the Kia, is one of the most affordable cars on the market, and is an easily recommended car.