Sometime back in early August, I offered my take on the Chevy Trax. It wasn’t the most amazing car I had ever driven, nor was it the most well appointed, but it filled a niche nicely, and we found it to be substantial enough to warrant a positive review.
The subcompact crossover segment is an extremely hot one right now. Chevy’s Trax has sold relatively well at 57,707 units through November, and Buick’s Encore continues to push sales along with 61,051 models sold thus far, encouraging GMC to reconsider its take on the scenario. According to a report by Automotive News, in their talks with GMC vice president Duncan Aldred, reporters were able to gather that the truck specialist was indeed moving toward finally releasing its own version of the Trax/Encore.
Slated for being the smallest vehicle in the GMC lineup, this subcompact crossover has been fiercely debated over. “I keep telling everyone, ‘How can General Motors’ truck brand not be in the fastest-growing segment in the industry, an SUV segment?'” Aldred said. He’s got a good point there: Jeep has its playful Renegade, of which we’ve driven and reviewed both the Limited version and the turbocharged Sport model, which would likely be the most glaring competitor for GMC in this segment today. To quote our Senior Editor, Justin Lloyd-Miller, “considering [that] GMC is a profit machine for GM, it doesn’t make sense why GMC? wouldn’t have one.”
Even crazier is the fact that GMC already made a subcompact concept crossover years ago and the whole operation got scuttled due to a perceived lack of interest at the time. Referred to as the GMC Granite, the concept vehicle you see above was slated to duke it out with competitors like the Kia Soul, and the recently released Honda HR-V, but instead, it never emerged. Originally teased at the 2010 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, this sharp looking little urban scrapper was iced because GMC at the time wanted to play it safe and see if this whole “compact crossover fad” would catch on.
Well, subcompact crossovers did catch on, and six years later, with the 2016 North American International Auto Show almost upon us, does GMC finally have what it needs to build a miniature SUV? If so, will it retain any of the styling or engineering from the stillborn Granite? Naturally, it will most likely be based off of the Trax and Encore, but what will GMC do to make it unique to its namesake?
When the Granite was first unveiled as a concept, GM’s PR department said that by “combining a decidedly urban-industrial design aesthetic with functionality aimed at young professionals, the GMC Granite concept takes the brand’s trademark capability in a new, more progressive direction.” If it had made it to market, this concept crossover would have been the smallest GMC ever and sported an early variant of the 1.4-liter force-fed engine found in the Trax.
Utilizing a lot of the design cues we loved in the funky (and now defunct) Honda Element, the Granite featured hinged doors that opened suicide-style, and since there was no B-pillar between the front and rear, getting in and out of the vehicle was incredibly easy. Exterior touches like those clever tail lamps, with their multi-layer appearance and LED lighting technology, and that center-mounted exhaust port will hopefully see production soon. Its lack of chrome trim also set the Granite apart, as everything had either a satin or brushed metal finish in order to further accent its industrial look.
Other noteworthy touches on the Granite that would make for a killer comeback include that interior, which was reportedly inspired by “the design of aircraft-type mechanical instruments and precision tools.” Just look at the dashboard and instrument cluster on this thing: Note the gauges which have been modeled after hand-crafted timepieces, and that nautical-looking compass in the “barrel” surrounding the speedometer. All of these retro touches offer a very fun steam punk spin on modern day transportation, and it just gets better the more you look around.
But probably the most uniquely clever addition rests in the center console with its strange transmission shifter. Rather than having a plain handle that actuates within a conventional gate, the Granite concept utilized a simple, space-saving knob that rotated with clicks similar to what you find on a torque wrench. Match that with some reconfigurable seats that flip up and fold in toward the center console, in order to create a long, unobstructed storage space, and GMC will truly have a subcompact crossover on its hands that resembles a “precision instrument wrapped in a protective, industrial case.”