Rental Car Review: A Better Traverse?

Did General Motors finally build a better Chevrolet Traverse?

It has been something I have witnessed through a brief foray or two into Chevrolet’s mid-sized, three-row SUV since before its first appearance in showrooms in the summer of 2017. I applauded the fact that it has adult-sized space in the third row, despite having access to it from the passenger side only. I also applauded the fact that it is contemporary enough to fit within Chevrolet’s new design guidelines, along with huge advances to its technology offerings. 

Still, the spacious Traverse received some unwelcomed company. The Volkswagen Atlas melded German engineering with meeting the wants of American consumers. Then came the Kia Telluride – #VOTY19 – which has become the hottest vehicle in this market. The Hyundai Palisade may not have been the final nail in the coffin, but it was extremely well executed enough to sway a lot of customers away from the Ford Explorer and all other rivals. 

The mid-size, three-row SUV market was hot before the COVID-19 pandemic. Even with scaled-down sales, this segment is still holding its own. The Traverse has a customer base rooted in Chevrolet products, which helps in transitioning Impala customers into these family haulers. 

These days, I welcome the rare opportunity to drive any GM product. For the sake of an on-site meeting with the Vantas, I had to rent another vehicle. The Rental Car Roulette rolled onto a GM number – thank you, AvisBudget! Therefore, the Traverse was it. 

Considering the size and segment it plays in, the Traverse offers a mix of handsome and awkward design cues. Perhaps it is the side badging that spells out the model’s name. I never understood the appeal of such a badge work. The lines are otherwise fine, as is the rear end. 

The grille area is another story. The actual grille dominates the entire front fascia. Maybe there is too much grille or that the pattern of horizontal bars just simply gives it that overkill effect. Rest assured, Chevrolet will clean it up for the 2022 model year. 

My rented tester is the LT Cloth model with the requisite all-wheel-drive. The standard 18-inch alloy wheels seem a bit small on this vehicle. Or, perhaps, too "basic." Rest assured, the LT Cloth trim is not the lowest model available in the Traverse lineup. 

Speaking of the Cloth model, I found the seats uncomfortable after a while. The backrest seemed a bit too flat for me. There is some bolstering around the front seats, which was adequate. Second-row space was set by two captain’s chairs, enabling greater access to the third row.

From the back, you have a very expansive cargo hold. It starts from a generous 23.0 cubic feet behind the third row to a whopping 98.2 cubic feet with both the second and third rows folded down. That’s a lot of space for the segment!

My rental had the 310-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 powering this big lug. Connected to a nine-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel-drive, the Traverse had no problem taking on the highways and the mean streets in my care. It returned class-appropriate fuel economy with an average of 22.6 MPG. 

I use the term "big lug" as a term of endearment. It certainly describes the ride quality of the Traverse. It feels wider than anything, which is tough for many parking spaces around town. Handling is stable, but it bore a soft side in terms of lean and roll. 

Steering is actually pretty decent. It is a large vehicle, so the turning radius was expectedly OK. On-center feel was fine, though I found some play in the wheel. Braking is good, however. The pedal feel is solid with good normal and panic stops from the four-disc system. 

If you were to buy one as specified as this Traverse LT Cloth rental, your sticker price as equipped would be $41,020. The Traverse lineup starts at $30,995 and goes all the way up to $54,395 for the top shelf High Country model. 

Having finally got some serious wheel time with the Chevrolet Traverse, I can honestly say that I’ve everything in its class – except one. And, I will leave that elephant in the room for now. 

Compared to the last generation model – the last Traverse I had any time in – this one is a huge leap better. Full stop.

However, there are some that will consider the Traverse over its rivals. I can see why. The space is enormous inside and you do have some smooth power underneath the hood. Yet, there is something missing in the Traverse than can be found in the Palisade and #VOTY19 (you know, the Telluride): That extra bit of better. 

If you buy on the basis of family space, this Chevrolet Traverse just may be your ticket. 

DISCLAIMER: Vehicle was rented by Victory & Reseda

All photos by Randy Stern

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