The handling may be dull and the interior cheap, but Neil Vorano finds the Traverse fine for the family.
2010 Chevrolet Traverse LTZ
Recently, I had a chat with a guy here who was lamenting the lack of choice of minivans in the UAE. (Yes, I was incredulous at that statement, too, but different strokes for different folks, I guess.) He has two small children and wanted something larger than a saloon as a family vehicle, but couldn't see the point in owning a big SUV. He wanted room for the wife and kids, plus all the ancillaries that go along with everyday family life. While I found it hard to relate, I sympathised with him, because he's right, but I wish I had driven the Chevrolet Traverse beforehand to tell him about it.
The Traverse is GM's latest full-size crossover, debuting last year in the Middle East during the car maker's most turbulent era. With GM's all-new design flavour, it's a distinctive car on the road, pleasantly. It's difficult to make such a large, utilitarian vehicle look good, but the Traverse's clean lines and GM-family front grille make it look more dignified and svelte than said large SUVs. In fact, it doesn't look like such a large car until you stand next to it and really get a feel for its girth.
Inside, while the dash is a fine-looking affair with coloured accents, the "aluminum" trim is just painted plastic, and like much of the rest of the plastic in the cockpit, it feels hard and cheap, made to an accountant's demands more than a passenger's. Buttons and switches also feel under-par, but the worst is the GPS/information screen in the centre. The graphics have a similar quality as a Space Invaders video game from the 1990s; a rather appropriate comparison with GM's atrocious quality from that era. And not only that, most of its functions are unnecessarily difficult to operate - to turn off the screen is a three-step affair. Really, it's one of the worst setups I've seen on a car in a long time.
But all is not bad; there's a long list of options available, including a panoramic sunroof, separate climate controls for driver and passengers, USB ports, a rear back-up camera and even my favourite - heated and cooled seats. And thankfully, there are nicer materials everywhere you would touch, such as the steering wheel and gear shift. Of course, all the seats are in leather. And it's big inside, too. With a class-leading cargo area and large passenger seats, there's no worry about fitting the barbecue, umbrellas or anything else the family needs at the beach, or anywhere else you're going, for that matter. And it's full of huge storage bins - the one between the two front seats swallowed my arm up to the elbow.
The middle two seats are plushy but a little too low to really sit comfortably. They do fold completely out of the way for easy access to the rear row of seating, which is really just suitable for small children or dwarves - while there is plenty of room, the seats are set almost on the floor, and taller people will become intimately familiar with their knees. But all the rear seats and even the large centre bin fold down cleverly to create a fairly flat cargo area, and it's cavernous. The only problem is that there are large cracks in the floor made by the folded seats, ensuring anything that can get lost in the cargo area will.
A ride in the Traverse will tell you this is a comfortable family car, an important trait in a vehicle intended to haul around the family. Road bumps are swallowed up and passengers are fairly well insulated from uneven surfaces and rough tarmac. Unfortunately, that insulation also goes for its handling. Considering the Traverse's intended use as a family car, I'm almost embarrassed to talk about how it takes the curves, but it's worth noting that this is not a driver's car; if you're looking for excitement, look elsewhere. The steering is vague and unresponsive, the body rolls in corners (belying its more than 2,200kg weight) and, in more excited speeds in roundabouts, the tyres start to squeal their discontent early. But then, someone driving like that with a family in the back should review their parenting standards. Plus, the kids would spill their juice all over the carpet during these manoeuvers.
The 288hp from its 3.6L V6 in this LTZ guise is sufficient; certainly not overbearing. Again, it being a family car, it's not expected to win any stop-light races, and it's well you don't. But it does have enough gumption to pull a trailer. Mated to a six-speed automatic, it actually gives decent fuel economy for its size, especially compared with a 4x4. This Traverse actually has all-wheel drive, but don't even think about doing any serious off-roading with it; this is strictly a city street/country road runner.
Overall, the Traverse is a bit of a hit and miss for Chevrolet. On one hand, it's a nice-looking, large crossover with oodles of space that rivals a minivan and plenty of options and features for a family, and all at a decent price. But the cheap-looking interior and the antiquated GPS/information screen spoil an otherwise nice package. email@example.com