General Motors no longer makes minivans, choosing instead to lure families to its large eight-passenger crossovers such as the Chevy Traverse, which shares a platform with the Buick Enclave and GMC Acadia, which we've also driven. The Traverse is the least-expensive of the three and, as a minivan alternative, has a spacious interior.
Appearance: The Traverse has the uncluttered, slightly curvy design of a large station wagon with some body cladding. Up front, the split mesh grille is an attractive focal point framed by swept-back headlights. The rear is understated — some would say plain — when compared with its GM platform cousins.
Performance: The 3.6-liter, 288-horsepower V-6 provides adequate acceleration for the big vehicle with good throttle response, but we wouldn't complain if there were options for more power. The handling is surprisingly nimble for a large crossover, with a ride that errs on the soft side of the spectrum. Our tester had all-wheel-drive, which drops the estimated fuel economy to 16/23. It also came with dual exhaust, which gave it a rich sound. Lyra liked that with the optional towing package, it has a not-too-shabby 5,200-pound capacity.
Interior: Even with the our tester's top-of-the-line LTZ trim package, there's a lot of hard plastic, especially in the door panels and dash, although there are some faux carbon-fiber inserts on the console to add a touch of refinement. The Traverse seats up to eight, but that drops to seven with the second-row captain's chairs in our LTZ trim. (But there is a convenient center pass-through to get to the back row.) The third-row seats are, surprisingly, comfortable enough for adults with adequate headroom. By sliding the second-row seats forward, you can get enough legroom, but that really depends on the size — child or adult — of your fellow passengers. Also, if the front seats are leaned all the way back, it can cramp those in the second row. The third-row seats go flat with the pull of a latch (second-row seats have to be moved up) and reveal a huge cargo space — 116.4 cubic feet. Our LTZ trim came loaded with options that include touchscreen navigation with rearview camera, park assist, Bose premium audio system, rear entertainment system and 20-inch aluminum wheels. Some other nice touches for families: There are 10 to 12 cup holders depending on the seating configuration, rear AC controls and vents, large rear doors for easy entry/exit and a power lift gate. The Traverse also has angular side mirrors that seem too small for a vehicle this size and try to make up for it with fish-eye insets. A blind-spot warning system would help.
Our 3 favorites
Backing up: The park-assist system is needed but it's almost too sensitive.
Statement grille: The mesh really sharpens Chevy's split design.
Seats: Front to rear, they're generously padded and comfortable.
Power outlet for rear seats: Hook up those power-hungry gadgets.
Second row: The seats slide back and forth, and they also recline.
Space: Plenty of room for groceries, even with the third row up.
The bottom line: The Traverse is a solid choice for a family hauler. For 2013, Chevy promises some design changes and interior upgrades, so it wouldn't surprise us to see some good deals on the 2012s.