Last week I was given the opportunity to test drive a Chevrolet Traverse for our trip to Williamsburg. I may have mentioned it. I also may have mentioned, oh two or twenty times, that I currently drive an older model Toyota Sienna, and while it has been good to us, we’re about ready to move on to something new(er).
Minivans are great for a lot of things. They haul lots of people quite comfortably. They haul lots of gear. They allow kids to open their doors without banging the car next to them. They provide privacy to nurse babies and discipline wayward toddlers. They allow you to jump inside and get in out of the rain or cold and move around to buckle all the kids up and get back to the driver’s seat without having to brave the elements. I love those features. But after ten years of being a minivan mom, I’m ready for something different — something sportier and fun to drive.
With a family of five, space and safety are our most important considerations. We’re out of the baby stages and moving into the age of adolescence, so we need a vehicle that can accommodate three growing children, their friends, and their various accouterments. We also do a fair amount of traveling, so we need to be able to pack in large amounts of luggage. Ideally we’ll get something that handles well in wintry weather and off-road conditions, namely the camp road in Maine.
We’re looking at larger crossovers and smaller SUVs, most likely a pre-owned vehicle with low to moderate mileage. The Traverse is definitely a strong contender. It is larger than most other vehicles in its class, and it packs a lot of bang for the buck.
Overall, I found the Traverse comfortable and fun to drive, and the room inside is notably impressive. Chevrolet has truly married the best features of a minivan and an SUV into a very practical family vehicle. The steering is responsive, and the turning radius is admirable for a vehicle of its size. You sit up nice and high, and the dash isn’t too deep like some that I’ve driven. It’s easy to park, although I did find myself opting for larger parking spaces just in case I misjudged.
The inside layout is versatile. There are captain’s chairs in the second row so the kids easily moved between the 2nd and 3rd rows. All of the seats fold down, so we had various storage options. Even with all three rows in their upright positions, we were able to pack the car for a 5-day family vacation without using the roof rack, which was a pleasant surprise.
Acceleration is powerful and smooth when getting on the highway, or on those (rare) occasions when you need to gun it to pull out in traffic, but it seemed a bit confused when shifting between gears at mid-range speeds — just something I noticed; not a deal breaker.
The driver’s seat was quite comfortable, and the ability to adjust the position of the seat and the lumbar support helped make the grueling 7-hour drive bearable. The passenger seat was a little bit stiff, but again, being able to adjust the position helped.
The back window is small, making rear visibility somewhat lacking, so I was thankful for the extra blind spot mirrors on the rear view mirrors. I also love, love, LOVE the back-up camera. It’s built into the rear-view mirror, so the view isn’t quite as clear as it was in the Tahoe that I drove to BlogHer (which had a separate screen on the dash), but it does the job. It’s quite reassuring to back out of my driveway, knowing that there are no small children waiting to be run over. And trust me, that’s a likely scenario in our neighborhood. I have nightmares about it.
There are several convenient storage compartments in the front, and the glove compartment is roomy. The cup holders are easily accessible. The seat belts adjust up and down, which makes it easy to find a comfortable position no matter what your height. Another nifty feature is the sensor for the front passenger seat that detects whether or not the airbag should be activated, depending on the size of the occupant — great for families with children who are big enough to ride in the front seat but not big enough for the air bag to be deployed safely.
Overall, the Chevy Traverse is ranking pretty high on The List at the moment. It’s hard to accurately compare it to cars I’ve driven only for a few miles. Having it for an entire week was definitely a treat, and a great way to judge if I’d like to own one. I’ll be sure to keep you posted on the final verdict.
Disclosure: Chevrolet provided me with a 2011 Traverse for one week as well as a tank of gas to facilitate this review.