Chevrolet Traverse shares its architecture with the Buick Enclave and GMC Acadia. It's built using unit-body construction similar to that of a car rather than bolting the body to a heavy truck frame. Also, it's a front-wheel-drive platform. Traverse is longer but narrower than the Chevrolet Tahoe full-size SUV.
Though large, the Traverse has a soft, sleek, modern appearance.
Up front, the Traverse features an attractive version of Chevrolet's split grille. The headlights start next to the grille and wrap around the front fenders. Horizontal fog lights mirror the headlights about six inches lower. A black air dam below the grille gives the front end a dark lower face. A peak at the center of the hood continues down through the grille and fascia, adding a touch of character.
From the side, the Traverse appears to have short overhangs for an SUV. The window line rises to the rear and that angle increases at the rear windows. A character line is located about a third of the way up each door, and the black front fascia is picked up along the sides by black plastic over the rocker panels. Large wheels and tires keep everything in proportion. Up top, the Traverse has optional black roof rails and an available two-panel sunroof with a fixed rear panel and an opening front panel.
At the rear, the Traverse features dark tailgate glass that dips down toward the center. The tailgate lifts up and does not have a separate opening glass. The center peak from the front is repeated here, as is the black lower fascia treatment. The total design is well thought out, smooth and stylish.
Inside, the Chevy Traverse makes great use of its best-in-class space. It's both a superb people hauler and a terrific cargo hauler.
The front seats are comfortable and supportive, whether trimmed in cloth or leather, with lots of head room and leg room.
The second-row bench seat fits three adults easily and there is plenty of head and leg room. For greater comfort, buyers can opt for second-row captain's chairs; and a second-row center console is available in the LTZ model.
The third row is easy to access because the second row tilts and slides forward. With the second-row captain's chairs, there is a handy walkthrough to the third row. Three children can ride comfortably in the third row, and there is also enough head and leg room for two adults to fit back there. Adults won't be comfortable during long trips, though, because of the low height of the seat cushions.
Cargo space is aplenty. Traverse has more cargo space behind the third-row seat (24.4 cubic feet) than any midsize SUV. Underneath the floor is a handy, though shallow storage bin. With the second and third rows folded down, cargo volume is an impressive 116.4 cubic feet, near the top of the class and almost eight cubic feet more than what's available in the full-size Tahoe. Those two rear rows fold easily, each with the flick of a lever, creating a nearly flat load floor. A strap on each section of the split third-row bench makes it easy to pull the seatbacks upright from the tailgate area. An available power rear liftgate also eases access to the cargo area.
Getting in and out is easy because the Traverse sits lower than traditional truck-based SUVs. Still, the driver is perched higher than in a car and therefore has a clear view of the road ahead. Visibility to the front is generally good, but the Traverse is bigger than it feels, so it can be tough to see over the driver's right shoulder and objects immediately behind might be hidden from view. With this in mind, it makes sense to get the rearview camera. Not only does it add an element of safety, helping avoid the tragic mistake of backing over a child, it also proves to be highly useful in everyday parking situations, making maneuvering in tight quarters easier and quicker.
Up front, the driver is surrounded by an attractively designed dashboard that has nice graining but uses more hard plastics than customers might expect for a vehicle in this price range. The instrument cluster has two deep-set pods with electroluminescent gauges on a black background. It's easy to read and never washes out in bright sunlight.
The center stack features a navigation screen or the radio, plus the climate controls. All of the controls are clearly marked and easy to reach. The standard radio has an audio input jack but no iPod interface. Models equipped with the navigation system and rearview camera show the camera's image on the navigation screen. The rearview camera is available without the navigation screen, in which case a smaller image is shown on the rearview mirror. We've found this type of setup of limited value. In a messy Chicago winter, the camera lens became speckled with dirt and salt, making the image hard to see in the rearview mirror. A larger image on the navigation screen would have been easier to see and more helpful. We recommend the full navigation screen with the rearview camera system.
There is plenty of storage for small items throughout the cabin. The front center console has a deep bin on the bottom and another shallow bin on top. The top section slides forward and back to act as an adjustable armrest. There are cup and bottle holders galore, including two on the center console, one in each front door, and two in each rear door.