Ask Nathan: The Future IS The Minivan, Trailblazer vs. Trax And Top 5 From The LA Auto Show?

Some say the future is the minivan. This is the Buick GL8 Flagship Concept (Images: Buick)

In this week’s Ask Nathan:

  • The future is the minivan!
  • Chevrolet Trailblazer vs. Chevrolet Trax?
  • Top 5 vehicles from the 2021 LA Auto Show

Q: (Email heading) The future is the minivan, TFL!

Hi Nathan. I appreciate the fact that you guys like to look at the future in a positive, and logical way. Same goes for me. I’ve been thinking about all of the future applications that would work with a minivan. You even said it’s one of the most utilitarian vehicles out there. 

So I came to the conclusion that the minivan is actually part of our future. Almost everybody who is talking about automation talks about making passenger comfort a priority. They also talk about making these vehicles fully autonomous. There’s no reason that you would need a driver-centric cockpit for an autonomous vehicle. If that’s the case, you’re simply moving people in their cargo. I know I’m right about that. 

A long time ago, I sent you an email about minivans being the best vehicles for most drivers. I do appreciate the fact that you agreed with me. No I think that mixing the future of electrification with a minivan makes total and complete sense. The question will be if these manufactures can keep it inexpensive.

Do you agree with me? I think that not only is the future electric but the future is the minivan too!

— Douglas F

A: I think you’re on to something there.

Many years back, Roman and I came to the conclusion that the best use of hybrid powertrains were minivans. That’s based on the same idea: it’s about passenger comfort and utility. Now, with a slew of new electric platforms debuting, it seems like a logical step.

The van you’re seeing on this page is the Buick GL8 Concept. It’s a Chinese-market idea, but one that might show up in other markets as well. More importantly, while this is a design study, it could be an example of a luxury EV minivan too.

Look at it this way; the most comfortable seating position(s) are easier to achieve in a box, like a van. It’s also easier to step in and out of, compared to a sedan or SUV. Given that it needs a flat floor, a minivan is an ideal candidate for a “skateboard platform.” That platform is something we’ll see more and more in the near future.

In my mind, the biggest hurdle for designers of the future minivan is making a box look sexy. Still, this Buick concept, and Hyundai’s Staria are good examples of slick minivan design.

It will be interesting to see where automakers go with EV minivans.

— N

The next question comes from a fan who is comparing the Chevrolet TrailBlazer vs. the Chevrolet Trax.

2018 Ford EcoSport vs Chevy Trax

Q(Via: Twitter@NathanAdlen)

Which is better? The Chevy Trax or Trailblazer?

Is there a tradeoff between the two? And why is the Trailblazer more and less expensive? It makes no sense!

— Fairly Traded Tail

2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer RS

A: Good question, and it’s timely too!

I’m sorry I held off on answering this one for a while, but I knew that I would be driving a 2022 Trailblazer during the L.A. Auto Show. As such, I wanted to hold off until I truly and some wheel-time. There will be a review, along with a video review of the Trailblazer RS in the near future.

First of all, according to the website, the confusion over the base Trailblazer and Trax is all cleared up. The base Trax starts at $21,400 and the Trailblazer base starts at $21,600. In the past, there was a slightly less expensive Trailblazer, but now the pricing makes more sense.

As it is, the two crossovers represent the least expensive in the class among General Motors’ offerings.

I like both vehicles as they represent good value propositions. The Chevy Trax has to use the older powertrain, which consists of a turbo 155 horsepower 1.4-liter four-cylinder, and a six-speed automatic transmission. 23 mpg city and 30 mpg highway with AWD, and slightly better with FWD.

Here’s where things get a tad confusing: the larger, more expensive TrailBlazer gets two different 1.3-liter three-cylinder turbo engines. The more powerful of the two three-bangers makes… you guessed it – 155 hp. Paired with a 9-speed automatic transmission – (a CVT comes with FWD models) you can get 26 mpg city, and 30 mpg highway. The more modern setup in the Trailblazer is more efficient overall, but not by a huge margin.

The Chevy Trax has a 48.4 cubic feet cargo area, small back seat and less useable space. On the other hand, the TrailBlazer has 54.4 cu-ft of cargo space, with good back seat space and better overall utility. It also has a smoother ride, and with the “Activ” package, the TrailBlazer is pretty competent on rough terrain.

If every-penny counts, the Trax returns better value. I think that a little more dough gives you a much better vehicle. The Chevy Trailblazer is better in every measurable way.

The last question comes from several people who have asked about significant debuts at the 2021 Los Angeles Auto Show. Here’s five.

Concept EV9 Rendering

Q: (Paraphrased among a few questions) What were the most significant debuts at the 2021 Los Angeles Auto Show?

I included five below:

A: The Kia EV9 is a hint at the future — a three-row SUV:

The 2023 Nissan Ariya debuted, in its production form:

The ElectraMeccanica Solo is one of the least expensive EVs hitting the road:

The Dodge Challenger SRT Jailbreak… and it’s no EV!
Finally, there’s the Lexus LX 600 – which is basically a modern, luxurious Toyota Land Cruiser: