Editor's note: This review was written in February 2010 about the 2010 Chevrolet Traverse. Little of substance has changed with this year's model. To see what's new for 2011, click here, or check out a side-by-side comparison of the two model years.
As car buyers gravitate away from SUVs and minivans toward three-row crossovers, the Chevy Traverse has become one of GM's biggest successes. Its good looks, winning drivability and interior quality help it compete well with the rest of the class.
For 2010, the Chevy Traverse remains relatively unchanged from the 2009 model reviewed last year, when the crossover was all-new. You can see what's changed between the two here, or read our 2009 review here. For this review, I tested the top-of-the-line LTZ, front-wheel-drive model that starts at $37,985; the base Traverse starts at $29,224. Our tester's MSRP, with options and destination fee, was more than $41,000.
Utility for Families
There's no escaping it: If you're shopping for a Traverse, there's a good chance you have kids. If you don't, well … you're getting a lot of crossover for your friends. But if you're in the parent group, there are a few things you'll definitely want to know before you consider the Traverse.
As the parent of two kids under age 2, the Traverse isn't a perfect fit for my family. The height of the rear passenger seats is a little too much for lifting kids in and out of their child-safety seats. While it's not so high that young families should immediately cross it off their shopping list, there are a number of vehicles that make the task easier — for example, Ford's low-riding Flex.
While the Traverse is available with a second-row bench, my test car was equipped with two captain's chairs in that spot, which isn't as accommodating for child-safety seats as the standard third-row bench. If you have older kids, they'll likely prefer this setup, as it gives them plenty of breathing space. It also allows for an open pass-through to the third row, which is a nice feature often found in minivans. Families with dogs may also appreciate this. The Flex — and the similar Lincoln MKT — don't feature a large pass-through like this, so it isn't as easy to maneuver between rows.
With the captain's chairs, you can seat a maximum of seven. To seat eight, you'll need the second-row bench. There's an acceptable amount of cargo room with the third row in place, but for road trips you'll likely have to fold one or both of the third-row seats flat to make room for luggage.
There's 24.4 cubic feet of cargo room with the third row in place, which tops competitors like the Flex, at 20 cubic feet, and the Mazda CX-9, at 17.2 cubic feet. Its overall cargo volume is a significant 116.4 cubic feet with both the second and third rows folded flat, compared with only 83.2 cubic feet in the Flex and 100.7 cubic feet in the CX-9.
The Traverse is a terrific around-town vehicle. I was really surprised by how easy it was to park the three-row crossover; it handled like a much smaller car. Compared with the Flex and even the CX-9, the Traverse is the easiest to drive and navigate in tight spaces.
The Traverse comes with only one engine option: a 281-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 teamed with a six-speed automatic transmission and either front- or all-wheel drive. Mileage is above average for the class, at 17/24 mpg city/highway with front-wheel drive and 16/23 mpg with all-wheel drive. That compares with 17/23 mpg in a front-wheel-drive Honda Pilot and 16/22 mpg for an all-wheel-drive Pilot. The front-wheel-drive Flex V-6 gets 17/24 mpg, while the all-wheel-drive model gets 16/22 mpg.
When the Traverse's V-6 debuted in the nearly identical Saturn Outlook and GMC Acadia crossovers, senior editor Joe Wiesenfelder noted a serious delay in gear changes when needing to pass at highway speeds. The problem was remedied in a swift recall, but in the 2010 Traverse I still found noticeable hesitation when needing to pass on the highway. Is it dangerous? Not likely, but it doesn't instill confidence and remains a black mark.
There's plenty of power for cruising at highway speeds, but the more people you load in the Traverse the less energetic it becomes. The Flex offers an optional 355-hp, turbocharged V-6 engine that's rather expensive, but it offers a lot of performance and is unmatched in this class in terms of power. It also gets mileage identical to the non-turbo all-wheel-drive Flex. The Flex SEL EcoBoost with all-wheel drive starts at $36,595 and comes with many of the same features as our LTZ Traverse, like standard leather heated seats.
The 2010 Chevy Traverse earned the top score, Good, in front, side and rear crash tests from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. In the past, this would have garnered it Top Safety Pick status, which it had for 2009, but now IIHS requires vehicles to pass a roof strength test as well, to which the Traverse has not yet been submitted. It does have a four-star rollover rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Click here for a full list of safety features.
Traverse in the Market
It's not the cheapest or fastest three-row crossover on the market, but Chevy is winning over customers with the Traverse's styling. Who would have thought?
Add in its utility and relative nimbleness, and there are even more legitimate reasons to consider the Traverse. This class is increasingly competitive, though, and shoppers would do well to cross-shop the Flex, CX-9 and Pilot.
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