12 Best Family Cars: 2014 Chevrolet Traverse
Old, but not outdated.
The Chevrolet Traverse SUV has been on sale since the 2009 model year. Its GM siblings, the Buick Enclave and GMC Acadia have been around two years longer. We mention this because you'd think that in this fast-paced industry, a vehicle built on 7-year-old underpinnings would be at a serious disadvantage.
So color us surprised when the 2014 Chevrolet Traverse made the cut. Like the similarly aged Pilot, the Traverse has withstood the test of time primarily because it was so well thought out in the first place. But, unlike the Pilot, the Traverse has benefited from a thorough revamp since its introduction, one that brought new technologies, a refreshed interior and exterior, and numerous other small changes that kept this big SUV in the hunt.
The Chevy Traverse can haul eight passengers, and still carry a good amount of cargo behind the third row. It's second only to the minivans in ultimate cargo space, and there's enough room for all passengers to stretch out, even in the third row. While a new Traverse is in the pipeline -- and this one is definitely starting to show its age in several ways -- it's still a solid family car value.
Key Family Car Strength
Interior space tops the list of our favorite things about the Chevy Traverse. With room for up to eight passengers (only seven in the LTZ trim), the Traverse equals the minivans for passenger-carrying power. It nearly equals them in space as well. There's plentiful headroom for everyone, even in the third row, and the cargo area behind that third row is the largest of any SUV we drove for this family-car test.
Key Family Car Weakness
That interior size unfortunately comes at the expense of exterior bulk. This is a big, heavy SUV, and those characteristics that show up in multiple ways. It's hard to maneuver in parking lots, for example, and the V6 engine is tasked with hauling a lot of weight, which means fuel economy isn't that great. The backup camera and available parking sensors help, but there's no getting around that this is one of the more unwieldy vehicles we drove, even compared to the two minivans.
The 2014 Chevrolet Traverse comes in four trim levels, in front-drive or all-wheel drive. The base Traverse LS starts at $31,670, and includes the 3.6-liter V6 and 6-speed automatic transmission, a touch-screen radio interface, two USB ports, Bluetooth, a backup camera, and front and rear air conditioning. The 1LT model adds rear parking sensors, a remote vehicle starter system, chrome trim and aluminum wheels for $34,885. The 2LT costs $37,740 and swaps in the two captain's chairs (8 passengers is a no-cost option), and adds an upgraded audio system, Chevrolet's MyLink touch-screen radio, and a power liftgate. The top-line $42,130 LTZ trim adds pretty much everything: chrome everywhere, blind-spot and cross-traffic alerts, heated and cooled front seats, a heated steering wheel, forward-collision alert and lane departure warning. All-wheel drive adds $2,000 to the price of any Traverse model, and all prices above include an $875 destination charge.
With near-minivan proportions, it's no surprise that the Chevrolet Traverse SUV offers tons of space for passengers and cargo. Putting a rear-facing infant seat behind the front passenger doesn't compromise front seat room, a definite plus. The LATCH system in the Traverse is easy to use as well, with lower anchors that aren't stuffed too far between the cushions, and an upper tether that's easy to reach, even if you do have to go over the head restraint. We liked the fact that the rear climate controls were easy to reach on the back of the front-row center stack.
A large handle on the 2nd-row seats folds the entire seat mechanism against the first row, making third row access easier, even if the seat is a bit clunky to use. The third row offers no LATCH attachment points, but it does have decent legroom and headroom for smaller passengers. Note that the center position of the 3-person bench does not have a head restraint -- an oversight for a family car in our opinion.
The rear-seat entertainment system in the Traverse is older, offering RCA inputs and a 110-volt outlet if you want to bring your own game system. However, dual headrest-mounted screens are available as a dealer-installed option. Additionally, the Traverse is the only vehicle in our test that's available with its own Wi-Fi connectivity package, which works over the GM OnStar system to allow passengers Internet access as you travel.
Cargo and Storage
There's a surprising amount of room behind the third row in the Traverse, surprising because so many of its competitors lack any space at all there. The Traverse has enough room for several bags of groceries, or a stroller, or both, and there's underfloor storage big enough for eggs and a loaf or two of bread. The third row split-folds easily, opening up cargo space even further. The second row on our 7-passenger version folded also, but the lack of a center position means that cargo items are likely to fall between the middle seats.
Front storage is not quite what you'd expect for such a large vehicle. There are door pockets, cupholders, and a midsized glovebox. There's a tray under the sliding center armrest, and another set of bins under the center console's sliding lid. But there's a hidden storage area under those bins, allowing you to leave something as large as a camera bag in the car, completely out of sight. In the rear, there is the usual array of cupholders and back-seat pockets.
On the Road
The 2014 Chevrolet Traverse provides adequate acceleration, and a reasonably quiet on-road experience except under full throttle. The Traverse is a big vehicle though, so razor-sharp handling and quick reflexes aren't part of the bargain. As a cruiser for long distances though, it's a very willing partner.
Parking lots are a different matter. This big Chevy SUV's bulk makes it hard to maneuver anyhow, and the lack of visibility through the narrow windows doesn't help. We hope that Chevrolet has something like Nissan's Around View Monitor in mind for the next generation Traverse.
This family hauler's big and bulky, but aging gracefully.
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