If you're looking for an eight-person transporter that doesn't look like a minivan or a suburban assault vehicle, consider the Chevrolet Traverse.
Unveiled at last year's Chicago Auto Show and delivered to dealers in October, the Traverse fills a niche that General Motors surrendered when it abandoned the minivan market.
Traverse is a crossover — meaning a sport utility body on a car chassis — that is unlikely to be mistaken for a minivan. The GM "Lambda" platform on which Traverse rides is also used for the Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia and Saturn Outlook.
Crossovers occupy the sweet spot between cars and SUVs because they do not seem as fuelish a purchase as, say, the full-size Yukon. With all the uncertainty in the economy these days, who can predict what pump prices will do in the next couple of years?
Covering a reasonable 17 city miles and 24 highway miles per gallon, the front-drive Traverse LS review vehicle seems a safe bet for higher or lower fuel prices. A year of refueling would have cost $3,235 if gas had remained at $4.10 per gallon (the EPA is having a hard time keeping up with current reality).
Bearing a base price tag of $28,255, the Traverse LS seems like a lot of car for the money, and it's loaded with attractive features. Trim levels above LS are LT and LTZ. The crossover is available in all-wheel-drive, as well.
A new 3.6-liter V-6 engine with direct injection is harnessed to a six-speed automatic transmission, which shifts smoothly and efficiently. Double overhead cams operate four valves per cylinder, sending 260 horses to the pavement.
Traverse's long 118.9-inch wheelbase and wide, 67.8-inch track are designed for smooth rides and good handling. However, long wheelbases require more forethought in tight turns, and the handling of the Traverse seems to exude minivan.
Buyers can configure the interior for seven or eight adults, including two front bucket seats, a 60/40-split second-row bench that accommodates three passengers or two second-row captain's chairs and a 60/40-split third-row bench seat.
Cargo space, even with the three rows of seats, is outstanding.
While the LS comes with a nice array of standard features, including front and rear air conditioning, power accessories and AM/FM/CD stereo with XM Satellite radio (free for three months), the option list is hard to resist.
Among the temptations are a rearview camera, remote vehicle start and DVD entertainment system.
Safety equipment is just right for a family vehicle. Accident avoidance measures include antilock brakes and StabiliTrak traction control and tire-pressure monitor. Passive protection comes from front air bags, side-impact bags for the front passengers and head-curtain protection for all three rows.
Despite the horrible economy, families are still being formed and children are being born. One of the memorable milestones of any young couple is the purchase of the first car with children in mind. With its safety features, abundance of storage options, solid power, reasonable fuel economy and extremely reasonable price, the Traverse deserves a place on the shopping list.