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Chevrolet Trax vs Ford EcoSport: 5 Key Differences

Chris Kaiser

There are a lot of subcompact crossovers out there. We make the job of distinguishing between them easier by examining 5 key differences between the Ford EcoSport and Chevrolet Trax.

The Right Tool for the Job

In the US of A, more is more and bigger is better. We often buy trucks and SUVs whose capabilities greatly exceed our actual need for those capabilities. How many of us are towing horse trailers or going overlanding on the weekends? Far fewer than a snapshot of American roads would suggest. The subcompact crossover makes a compelling argument for vehicles that do just enough, that get us from A to B and meet our basic needs (at a basic price) without all the excess we’ve grown accustomed to. In fact, I would argue there is something downright admirable about their lack of pretension and pomp.

chevrolet.com | ford.com
chevrolet.com | ford.com

It makes sense that foreign automakers like Hyundai/Kia, with the Kona and Soul, are especially good at making these kinds of humble, practical vehicles. The question is, can American car companies succeed in building vehicles so seemingly against the cultural grain? To find out, we decided to pit old rivals Ford and GM against one another to see which of their subcompact crossovers is superior, the Ford EcoSport or Chevrolet Trax.

Specs – People Movers

Speed demons the Trax and EcoSport are not. Their engines are almost comically small. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t surprises to be had when digging into the details of their powertrains.

Chevrolet Trax 1.4L I4 engine - carsforsale.com
Chevrolet Trax 1.4L I4 engine - carsforsale.com

Take the Trax, it runs a 1.4-liter 4-cylinder turbo paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission and makes 138hp and gets 24 city/ 29 highway mpg. And while that doesn’t sound like a recipe for excitement, thanks to the turbocharging, the Trax does produce a decent jump off the line, even if it becomes considerably more sluggish as you shift upward through the gears. The Trax’s max towing capacity is 1,263lbs.

2020 Ford EcoSport 2.0L I4 engine - carsforsale.com
2020 Ford EcoSport 2.0L I4 engine - carsforsale.com

The EcoSport has two options for engines. The first, actually the smallest displacement of any American car on the market, is a 1.0-liter Ecoboost 3-cylinder turbo making 123hp. The 3-cylinder with gets 27city/29 highway mpg with FWD. The second engine is a 166hp 4-cylinder that comes in AWD only. Here you sacrifice some fuel efficiency, down to 23 city/29 highway, but get a respectable 2,000lb towing capacity in exchange. Both engines come mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission. Like the Trax, the EcoSport can be lively from 1st to 2nd but tends to lag, literally and figuratively, from there.

In the kingdom of tiny engines, the two-engine crossover is king. Therefore, we prefer the EcoSport as it offers a choice between better fuel economy or a decent tow rating.

Driving – This Whip’s Got Zip

Even with the small engines, the EcoSport and Trax both make up for their lack of power with accurate and lively steering and maneuverability.

2020 Chevrolet Trax - chevrolet.com

2020 Chevrolet Trax – chevrolet.com  |  Shop 2020 Chevrolet Trax on Carsforsale.com

The Trax possesses light steering and a tight turning radius that allows for in-town driving that, dare I say, borders on fun. A real bright spot was found with the brakes, which are a perfect balance of responsive with out being tight and inspire confidence when you’re tossing the Trax around a corner. Yes, there’s some body lean, but it’s not as bad as similarly sized crossovers. The Trax’s engine and transmission produces smooth acceleration with less lag than the Ecoboost engines of the Ford.

2020 Ford EcoSport - ford.com

2020 Ford EcoSport – ford.com  |  Shop 2020 Ford EcoSport on Carsforsale.com

The EcoSport also has good, accurate steering, and the turbocharging helps put some pep in its step around town. Highway driving is a different story, however. This is where the EcoSport’s lack of power hurts it most, passing situations need to be carefully planned and executed. Like the Trax, the EcoSport offers a high riding position but hampers that visibility with thick A-pillars.

While it’s close, the Trax’s combination of strong steering and solid braking make it a better driver than the slightly more powerful EcoSport.

Comfort – Avoid the Rough Stuff

Comfort ends up being something of a mixed bag with the Trax and EcoSport. We liked the simple, intuitive layout of their cabins, but less than stellar seats, short wheelbases, and unforgiving suspensions make for taxing rides.

As with any entry-level vehicle, when you consider the price of the Trax, the question of where they saved on production cost looms large. The concessions to cost play out with an abundance of hard plastics and a less sound insulation than we’d have liked. The design and layout borrow from Chevy’s other, larger SUVs and the template works well here.

Both the Trax and EcoSport offer lumbar support for the driver, but we ended up preferring the Chevy’s seats to those of the Ford. Trax larger windows and narrower pillars for better visibility than the EcoSport. Ford also skimped on materials in their cabin. And while the Trax’s quality improves when you move up the trim line, the EcoSport lags behind despite extra investment.

Cost of Painting Your Car

Neither vehicle is especially forgiving over rough roads and rear seat space is about what we’ve come to expect subcompact segments. Despite these detractions, the Trax was a clear winner here with a nicer cabin and slightly smoother ride.

Practicality – Cargo Holds, Seat Origami, and Game of Inches

A big reason people have gravitated toward crossovers versus sedans is the added practicality, especially when it comes to cargo carrying. Unlike the middling driving or so-so interiors, where the Trax and EcoSport are fairly equally matched, the case of cargo is different.

First, the raw numbers. The Trax offers 18.7 cu. ft. of space behind the rear seat and a maximum of 48.4 cu. ft. The EcoSport gets better numbers at 20.9 cu. ft. behind the 2nd row and a total of 50 cu. ft. at maximum.

2020 Chevrolet Trax cargo room - chevrolet.com
2020 Chevrolet Trax cargo room - chevrolet.com

The trouble with the Trax isn’t just that it has less capacity than the EcoSport, it’s how you even get to that 48.4 cu. ft. That’s because you’ve got to do some rear seat origami to get there. First, you’ve got to make sure the front seats are far forward, then you fold up the bottom portion of the rear seat vertically, and then you can fold down the 2nd row seat backs. While this is a pain, it means that the Trax does have a much flatter cargo area.

2020 Ford EcoSport cargo room - ford.com
2020 Ford EcoSport cargo room - ford.com

The EcoSport not only has more total storage but it offers a unique access in the form of a side-hinge door. Some folks prefer this set up, eliminating the need to duck when loading, but others, especially those in cities, may find it hard to access in tight parking situations.

Features and Trims – Keep it Simple

Part of the allure of the economy cars like the Trax and the EcoSport is how well they stretch your dollar when it comes to accoutrements. That means the list of standard options is more important than usual in this comparison.

Chevrolet Trax

2020 Chevrolet Trax Premier - chevrolet.com
2020 Chevrolet Trax Premier - chevrolet.com

LS – $21,300
Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard in the infotainment system, which comes via a 7-inch touchscreen. You also get a six-speaker stereo, two USB ports, and a Wi-Fi hotspot. There’s rearview camera, keyless entry, a spare tire (something the EcoSport lacks), and a 12-volt outlet. The LS also has options for cruise control and remote start.

LT – $23,300
Here cruise control and remote start come standard. Packages include the $1,400 Sun and Sound that adds a sunroof and Bose stereo and the $450 Convenience package that adds keyless entry, power seats, and upgraded cloth and leather upholstery.

Premier – $27,600
At the top of the line Trax you get synthetic leather upholstery, heated front seats, an auto-diming review mirror, and fog lights. That’s on top of the features contained in the LT’s upgrade packages. There’s also the Trax’s full complement of safety tech that includes lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, forward collision warning, and parking sensors.

Ford EcoSport

2020 Ford EcoSport Titanium models - ford.com
2020 Ford EcoSport Titanium models - ford.com

S – $19,995
The S trim EcoSport starts you with a Wi-Fi hotspot, four-way adjustable front seat, and a rearview camera.

SE – $23,000
Standard features on the SE trim include a moonroof, heated front seats, keyless entry, and automatic climate control. It also boasts Ford’s SYNC 3 infotainment system, with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay and an 8-inch touch screen.

Titanium – $26,000
The Titanium trim adds a Bang & Olufsen 10-speaker stereo, leather seats, and other interior upgrades.

SES – $27,500
The SES trim is where you get the larger 2.0-liter engine, AWD, and upgraded suspension. You also get blind spot monitoring, a heated steering wheel, and ambient lighting (take that Kia Soul!).

2020 Ford EcoSport ambient lighting - ford.com
2020 Ford EcoSport ambient lighting - ford.com

The Ford EcoSport end up the clear winner when it comes to trims and features. Consider the EcoSport SE and the Trax LT, at this mid-trim level the Chevy is up-charging on packages for the same features that come standard on the Ford. Additionally, Ford’s intuitive SYNC 3 software is a considerable advantage over Chevrolet’s MyLink.

Conclusions – Weigh Your Options

The Chevrolet Trax and Ford EcoSport match up pretty closely. But points of distinction were also clear. We preferred the Ford’s engine options, extra passenger and cargo space, and available options. The Trax won out in drivability and interior quality. Considering the goal of these subcompacts crossovers is to offer economical choices to car buyers, the EcoSport simply offers more bang for your buck than the Chevy Trax.

With that said, car shoppers will do well to consider other options as well. The subcompact segment has been growing of late and the likes of the Hyundai Kona, Kia Soul, and Honda HR-V all make strong showings.

WINNER: Ford EcoSport 

2020 Ford EcoSport - ford.com

2020 Ford EcoSport – ford.com  |  Shop 2020 Ford EcoSport on Carsforsale.com

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Chris Kaiser
Chris Kaiser

Chris’ greatest passions include topiary, spelunking, and pushing aging compact cars well past 200,000 miles on cross-country road trips. His taste in cars runs from the classic and esoteric to the deeply practical with an abiding affection for VW Things, old Studebakers, and all things hybrid-crossover.

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