The Numbers

1796cc, 4cyl petrol, FWD, 103kW, 175Nm, 7.0L/100km, 164g/km CO2 0–100km/h n/a, 1356kg

The Topgear Verdict

Ticks most boxes for its target market of toddler-hauling mums: and
whoever pays the bills will be loving the price.

2013 Holen Trax LS

I was lead to believe that the Holden Trax would be a gutless mums’ taxi that handles like a tuk-tuk on stilts and looks like it was designed by animators Pixar forABug’s Life 3. Turns out only one of these things rings true. Okay, maybe two...

“Mum’s taxi” are Holden’s words, not mine. And there’s no shame in that: moving toddlers is big, important and profitable car-making business. And few SUVs smothered in the fat grey cloud called ‘small SUV’ offer the kind of Swiss Army sprog-hauling utility for anything like the base LS manual’s Ginsu-sharp $23,490 ask.

Nor is it styled to woo your 13-year-old niece. The exterior is buff enough for the most insecure blokes to be seen in, yet homogenised enough to appeal to penny pinchers of any age, sex and gender persuasion. You can also cost option orange racing stripes for school-zone grands prix.

It’s a shame, then, that it pulls itself out of bed slower than a supermodel. Ours gets what’s essentially the Holden Cruze’s 1.8-litre petrol four...without a turbocharger in sight. It boasts 103kW and 175Nm, but talks more and delivers less than a prime ministerial election candidate.

Sure, Mum won’t likely notice. But the Trax neatly dodges the feistier 103kW/200Nm 1.4-litre turbo petrol four and the 96kW/300Nm 1.7-litre turbo diesel the same car gets elsewhere wearing Chevy, Buick and Opel badges. Opel, remember them?

No matter, because design, price and tech sell little family trucksters, and for the latter Holden name-checks Steve Jobs – smartphone architect-cum-saint – for inspiring the minimalist dash design. Gone are the rash of buttons, replaced by a very handy seven-inch touchscreen that does everything via phone apps. How? I have no clue. But there’s wow factor aplenty to brag about at mothers’ club meetings.

You’ll struggle with a toddler and crèche crap, but four large adults fit comfortably in the cabin thanks to generous headroom and rear-knee room. There are plenty of cubby holes for losing loved ones in; there’s even a 240-volt power socket in the back for kids’ DVD players or lap-tops (in fact, I’m writing this from the back of a Trax right now).

Handling? Bloody competent – exceptional even – for a small SUV. Ride comfort, especially on the LS’s 16s, and isolation from outside noise, too, are top notch for such an affordable jigger. It steers with conviction, there’s a lot of grip in wet or dry from its Euro-suave Continental rubber, and the brakes – though featuring grandpa’s axe drums on the rear – are strong and reassuring.

The Trax mightn’t be the sexiest car out there. And it could do with a swifter kick up the backside. But it delivers small-family-friendly goodness in droves. At such a hot price, Holden will no doubt struggle to keep up with demand.

Reviewed by: Curt Dupriez

Driven: September 12, 2013