Chevy Traverse is a winner, at a price

I test drove a Chevrolet Traverse this week to see if the new big crossover suv from General Motors is all it’s cracked up to be. And honestly, there’s a lot to like about GM’s newest suv. Like its cousins, the Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia and Saturn Outlook, the Traverse is a great suv for a big family. As an aside, why GM sells this vehicle among four brands when it could have a luxury version with Buick and a bread-and-butter offering from Chevy is beyond me. That just underscores GM’s brand soup problem. But I digress.

The traverse is a big crossover at 17 feet long. The three rows are pretty comfortable. The cabin isn’t as swanky as the pricier Enclave. But the cockpit is nicely done. I managed to fit a box for a dryer in the rear and that was with the second row of seats still in use. The Traverse—which Chevy launched anew in December—did well in the snow, and comes with all-wheel drive. But the front-drive system gets pretty good grip. It rides smoothly and the 3.6-liter engine has plenty of juice.

About the only thing anyone can complain about are fuel economy and pricing. The Traverse will dispel the myth that crossovers all get great gas mileage. Only the smallest of them are really efficient and the Traverse is one large suv. The front-drive version is rated at a combined city/highway efficiency of 19 mpg, with 24 mpg on the highway. That’s respectable and certainly better than the 16 mpg combined and 19 mpg highway mileage of a Chevy Tahoe.

Then there’s the big sticker price. The Traverse starts at $29,000 for a base model. That’s pretty good value for the size and spaciousness. But with all the options it can get as expensive as $45,000. I tested one that was nicely equipped with heated seats, satellite radio and a rear-view camera for about $39,000. That’s a lot of cash.

Thrifty buyers who need a big people hauler might opt for a minivan. You can get a Honda Odyssey or Toyota Sienna nicely equipped for around $30,000. So if Americans are entering a new phase of pragmatism and minimalism as so many marketers and product planners think, the Traverse could have a tough time. But on its merits, the suv is proof that GM’s new cars give the company hope.

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