LANDING the first blow in the sub-compact sports utility vehicle genre, Holden needed some extra punch.
That has arrived in the form of the new, range-topping Trax LTZ.
Customer feedback dictated the change, with the new model adding a turbocharged 1.4-litre engine to the range. It's the same unit found in the Cruze, delivering extra zing and improved fuel economy in the process.
Priced $1500 above the automatic 1.8-litre option, this new turbocharged variant shares all the kit which comes with the LTZ specification but also gains a sunroof as standard fare.
During recent months, Holden has been doing some sweet deals to help get cars moving out of showrooms, including extended warranties and drive-away offers.
Leather trim raises the ambience and a surprisingly spacious interior make for a useful runabout.
There are no qualms with the head, leg and knee room, even with four adults aboard.
Hard plastics across the door-tops and console are expected in this realm of compact offerings, and while things can get dirty and dusty quickly, it's all easy to clean.
Seats offer reasonable support in the right spots, and the high-riding position delivers a great view of the road. This is what's made SUVs so popular, especially with women, while they are also easier to enter and exit.
Mirroring Barina interior styling, we've come to like the driver's instrument set-up. The large digital speedo and analogue tachometer has quick easy reference, while trimming through the trip information can be done by a dial on the stalk.
Modern flair comes via the 17.7cm touch-screen, which has tablet-like functionality and excellent in-built applications.
On the road
The compact steering wheel makes it feel nimble and adds an extra element of fun.
As soon as you get behind the wheel it inspires you to rip into some challenging twisties.
While this powerplant is turbocharged, boy-racers won't be salivating at the performance. It does fill the void in the range with some much-needed extra firepower but the Trax LTZ iTi isn't a sports car.
Power delivery is smooth, with maximum torque coming low in the band.
The 1.4-litre engine will keep working high into the rev range without sounding too thrashy and makes much easier work of steep hills than its 1.8-litre stablemate.
Some additional steering feel would be appreciated at highway speeds, where the Trax can sometimes feel vague, but its comes into its own when the urban jungle envelops, with the little SUV making mince meat of tight car parks an u-turns in narrow streets.
What do you get?
All Trax models get a 17.7cm touch-screen, rear view camera, rear parking sensors, six airbags, Siri hands free, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, USB and auxiliary ports, cruise control and five-star safety, but the LTZ iTi has bigger 18-inch alloys, rain sensing wipers, heated front seats, fog lamps, driver arm rest and sunroof.
Those with a penchant for the latest gear will love the MyLink System, with apps like Pandora and Tunin Radio, as well as podcasts from Stitcher, while for about $65 users can download low-cost sat nav via BringGo. One thing you go without is a CD player, a good move as we can't remember the last time we used a disc.
Suddenly there is a whole heap of competition around. Among them is the Ford EcoSport Titanium ($25,790), Nissan Juke Ti-S ($32,490), Mitsubishi ASX XLS ($31,490), Peugeot 2008 Allure ($27,990) and Suzuki S-Cross GLX ($29,990).
There are three cup holders in the centre console (another pair are in the fold down arm rest in the rear), with useful storage nooks in front of the shifter and on the dash.
Inside the dash cubby hole is the USB and auxiliary ports, while at the back of the console there is a three-prong plug for small electrical devices.
By lifting the rear seat bases the back pews can drop flat into the floor for a handy load area.
Running this turbo model is actually cheaper on fuel than the naturally aspirated 1.8-litre engine. It should achieve fuel economy in the realm of seven litres for every 100km.
Servicing costs are at the lower end of the scale and are capped, although the intervals are at nine months when most other manufactures are now doing 12. Showing how competitive things are nowadays, Holden dealers said they would beat any comparable quote for the first six standard scheduled handbook services by 10%.
An interesting design, the Trax has a nuggetty appearance. While looking thin from the rear it can appear muscular in three-quarter views and they can look especially cool with optional stripes.
Listening to customer feedback, Holden acted quickly to deliver the extra power wanted by drivers. This new and improved Trax addresses the primary concerns when the model was first launched in a category which has rapidly grown in popularity.
What matters most
What we liked: Great city slicker manoeuvrability, interior space, improved performance, compact steering wheel.
What we'd like to see: Longer servicing schedule, improvements in dash material.
Warranty and servicing: Three-year/100,000km warranty, with capped price servicing available for the first four maintenance checks. Servicing intervals are every nine months or 15,000km. Maximum service cost is $185.
Model: Holden Trax LTZ iTi.
Details: Five-door front-wheel drive sub-compact sports utility vehicle.
Engine: 1.4-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol generating maximum power of 103kW @ 4900rpm and peak torque of 200Nm @ 1850rpm.
Transmission: Six-speed automatic.
Consumption: 6.9 litres/100km (combined average).
Bottom line plus on-roads: $29,990.