Chevrolet's smallest SUV is heading to its biggest markets.
The Chevrolet Trax will go on sale in the U.S. and China early next year. General Motors Co. unveiled the 2015 model Tuesday evening ahead of the New York International Auto Show.
GM thinks young buyers and downsizing Baby Boomers who like the Chevy Equinox and the Honda CR-V will go even smaller, as long as they can still sit up high. The Trax, which shares a platform with Chevrolet's Sonic subcompact, is the same length as a Volkswagen Beetle — 168.5 inches.
The compact SUV's dimensions (and engine, for that matter) are the same as GM's new Buick Encore, which has seen stronger-than-expected sales since it went on sale in January 2013. Encore sales more than doubled in the first three months of this year compared with the same period last year. The Trax has been sold since 2012 in Canada and Mexico. It is sold as the Chevrolet Tracker in Russia , South America and other markets.
In terms of size, the Mitsubishi Outlander and Nissan Juke are close competitors, but there aren't many others. The Trax's body style is unusual in the U.S., where the smallest SUVs tend to be around 175 inches or longer.
But that's changing. The Jeep Renegade SUV, a Fiat-based subcompact revealed last month in Geneva, goes on sale in the U.S. at the end of this year. Honda has teased an upcoming small SUV. And other automakers that sell tiny SUVs elsewhere could quickly bring them to the U.S. if customers demand them. Chevrolet forecasts global small SUV sales will jump 80 percent by 2016.
Gas prices in the U.S. could dictate how well subcompact SUVs sell. The Energy Department expects gasoline to average $3.45 a gallon this year, down from $3.51 a year ago. The agency expects the average to fall to $3.37 a gallon in 2015.
The Trax for the U.S. market will be built in South Korea and Mexico.
INSIDE: The Trax promises some higher-end features, including a standard keyless entry, standard rear-view camera and optional OnStar 4G cellular and WiFi hotspot capability. It has 48.4 cubic feet of cargo space and flat-folding rear and front passenger seats for more flexibility. It also has 10 standard air bags, including knee air bags and the segment's only rear seat-mounted thorax air bags.
OUTSIDE: It's wide and solid despite its small size. Sixteen-inch wheels are standard on LS and LT trim levels. The LYZ has 18-inch aluminum wheels. All-wheel drive is available.
UNDER THE HOOD: Trax is powered by the Ecotec 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which is expected to get 138 horsepower. It's mated to a six-speed transmission.
GAS MILEAGE: 26 mpg city, 34 mpg highway
PRICE: Not yet released, but it starts at around $17,000 in Canada.
CHEERS: GM is at the leading edge of a big trend with the Trax, which appeals to both young buyers and Baby Boomers who want to downsize but still want to sit up high.
JEERS: Buyers are bypassing subcompact cars as gas prices stabilize. They may do the same with tiny SUVs.