2012 Chevrolet Traverse Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
January 17, 2012

One of the best big crossovers for families needing seven-passenger capability, the 2012 Chevy Traverse is spacious and safe, though unexciting.

Chevy's famous for its big, tough SUVs, like the Tahoe, Suburban, and the old TrailBlazer. But today's families want something a little more road-friendly, a little less trail-blazing. That's what brought about the Traverse, a seven- or eight-seat crossover that's one of the best vehicles in today's Chevy lineup, thanks to excellent safety scores and good features. It's not a minivan, but it's nearly as functional as one, even without the sliding doors.

The Traverse's styling is inoffensive. It suits the mission, we suppose, but there's not much excitement in the mildly contoured shape, nothing of the flair that you'd find in the chunky, trucklike GMC Acadia and flowing, curvilinear Buick Enclave that share the Traverse's platform. The Chevy's simple, elegant, even spare, and that has its own charm. The design influence from other Chevy products is clear, especially up front where a Malibu-like split grille sits tall. The lack of detail makes the rear end of the 2012 Chevrolet Traverse as forgettable as any minivan, though, and the same holds true for the interior--it's functional, but not exciting, by any means, and the sheets of hard, dull plastic that wrap the dash and doors could use an upgrade.

Performance is quick and competent. There's only one drivetrain offered, a direct-injection 3.6-liter V-6 engine coupled to a six-speed automatic transmission. The 288-horsepower six (281 hp in models with a single exhaust) generates leisurely acceleration and a bit of V-6 grumble at the top of its powerband, but it doesn't really feel anemic unless you've taken on a full load of passengers and chosen the optional all-wheel drive. Chevy's six-speed automatic dithers sometimes when downshifts are requested; it's a bit less on the mark than the Ford transmission that was co-developed alongside it. The Traverse's handling isn't nimble--it's just the predictable norm for its size, with mild steering feedback and moderate body roll when it's pressed to act more like a sport wagon.

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The Traverse's strengths lie in its roomy, comfortable interior. It's almost a minivan in terms of raw space, but the lack of sliding doors does put it at a slight disadvantage in a couple of ways. Front passengers have it best, with plenty of head and leg room, but the second-row seat's nearly as spacious for adults, and seating three across isn't out of the question. You'll want the sliding side doors of a minivan when loading anyone older than 10 in the third-row seat, as it's not easy to clamber in there even when the second row's folded and moved forward, but the third-row seat itself can hold three children while still leaving 24.4 cubic feet of cargo space behind it. Flip down the second and third rows and the Traverse opens up 117.5 cubic feet of space and a just-about-flat cargo floor.

One of the safest vehicles on the road today, the 2012 Traverse earns nearly perfect crash-test scores. Overall, the NHTSA gives it five stars, with a four-star rating for front impacts and five for side impacts. The IIHS names it a Top Safety Pick, too. Along with standard airbags, anti-lock brakes and traction control, Bluetooth and parking sensors, the Traverse can be fitted with a rearview camera, to help with its middling visibility to the rear quarters.

All 2012 Traverse crossovers come with a tilt/telescopic wheel; power windows, locks and mirrors; cruise control; Bluetooth; and an AM/FM/XM/CD sound system. Major options include the rearview camera; a power liftgate; heated and cooled front seats; and a DVD entertainment system. The top-spec LTZ can be equipped with 20-inch aluminum wheels; a rear spoiler; dual exhausts; and a panoramic sunroof.

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2012 Chevrolet Traverse

Styling

Don't look here for flair; the 2012 Chevrolet Traverse is simple and practical inside and out, and it suits the mission.

The Traverse's styling is inoffensive. It suits the mission, we suppose, but there's not much excitement in the mildly contoured shape, nothing of the flair that you'd find in the chunky, trucklike GMC Acadia and flowing, curvilinear Buick Enclave that share the Traverse's platform.

There's clearly a lot of design influence shared with Chevrolet's cars—especially the Malibu—including the tall, horizontally divided grille. But next to the somewhat smaller Equinox, the Traverse is a little less adorned, a little more bland. The three Traverse models—LS, LT, and LTZ—are distinguished mainly by wheels, with top LTZ models available with especially flashy chrome 20-inchers. The lack of detail makes the rear end of the Traverse as forgettable as any minivan, however, no matter which trim.

The same holds true for the interior--it's functional, but not exciting, by any means, and the sheets of hard, dull plastic that wrap the dash and doors could use an upgrade. Take a step farther back, and the functional and simple theme can actually feel refreshing, in a sea of overwrought luxury interiors.

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2012 Chevrolet Traverse

Performance

The 2012 Traverse is no letdown in performance--provided you're expecting a big, heavy family wagon.

Performance throughout the 2012 Chevrolet Traverse lineup is quick and competent; don't expect agility, though, as at no time does it not drive like the surprisingly hefty vehicle it is.

There's only one drivetrain offered, a direct-injection 3.6-liter V-6 engine coupled to a six-speed automatic transmission. The 288-horsepower six (281 hp in models with a single exhaust) generates leisurely acceleration and a bit of V-6 grumble at the top of its powerband, but it doesn't really feel anemic unless you've taken on a full load of passengers and chosen the optional all-wheel drive. With 90 percent of peak torque available from approximately 2,500 rpm to more than 6,000 rpm, there's enough punch to adequately move the Chevy's not inconsequential weight of nearly 5,000 pounds.

Chevy's six-speed automatic dithers sometimes when downshifts are requested, and upshifts can be lumpy on light acceleration; it's a bit less on the mark than the Ford transmission that was co-developed alongside it.

The Traverse's handling, simply put, isn't nimble. It's just the predictable norm for its size, with mild steering feedback and moderate body roll when it's pressed to act more like a sport wagon. With a four-wheel independent suspension and crisp hydraulic-assist steering, control is good for a vehicle of this size and weight—especially when equipped with the range-topping LTZ's optional 20-inch wheel and suspension package, with which Chevrolet's engineers manage to hit a sweet spot between secure handling and comfort. You'll never forget you're driving such a heavy vehicle, but body roll isn't too excessive and brakes are strong.

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2012 Chevrolet Traverse

Comfort & Quality

A very spacious interior, seating for eight, and a smooth, quiet ride make the 2012 Chevrolet Traverse a top pick for families.

The strengths of the 2012 Chevrolet Traverse lie in its roomy, comfortable interior. It's almost a minivan in terms of raw space, but the lack of sliding doors does put it at a slight disadvantage in a couple of ways.

While the Traverse's primary purpose is people-moving, some smart design and engineering show when you fold the seats down—producing a nice, nearly flat cargo floor. Even behind the third-row seat, there's 24.4 cubic feet of space, while folding the second and third rows down yields 117.5 cubic feet. The floor is flat, which makes it especially useful; though it is a bit surprising how high the floor is, making loading a bit harder than for minivans.

Over three rows, there's space for up to eight occupants, with the seats divided into two front buckets and two 60/40-split benches. The Traverse's front seats are plush yet supportive, and the adult-sized second row slides forward to provide access to the surprisingly comfortable (for kids) third-row seats. However, it does take a high step up to enter that back row. Second-row captain's chairs are also available, but they're really not any more comfortable than the bench perches and carrying capacity is then reduced to seven. In all, you might end up wishing for sliding side doors; it's not easy to clamber in there even with the friendly seating arrangement and long rear doors.

Otherwise, the Traverse has a tight, quiet cabin with excellent noise suppression and a remarkably smooth ride. Solid, high-quality switchgear, an intuitive control layout, and clear displays complete this very family-friendly package. The only letdown is that plastics tend to be somewhat dull, with Build quality and switchgear in the 2011 Traverse is superb and equal to or better than most rival imports. Gauges are easy to see, and controls are easy to use. Splashes of chrome brighten things up, and the only disappointment is the plethora of hard, dull plastic used throughout the interior.

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2012 Chevrolet Traverse

Safety

The 2012 Chevrolet Traverse feels solid and sturdy, and that impression is verified with top-notch crash-test scores.

The 2012 Traverse is one of the safest vehicles on the road today and earns nearly perfect crash-test scores.

In crash-testing, it earns top 'good' scores from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), as well as Top Safety Pick status, and the federal government gives it five stars, with a four-star rating for front impacts and five for side impacts.

Along with standard airbags, anti-lock brakes and traction control, Bluetooth and parking sensors, the Traverse can be fitted with a rearview camera, to help with its middling visibility to the rear quarters.

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Visibility isn't great for all drivers, so we recommend getting the rearview monitor, which makes those pesky reverse parking maneuvers a breeze. The Traverse's special blind-spot mirrors also help, however.
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2012 Chevrolet Traverse

Features

The 2012 Chevrolet Traverse LTZ is equipped as a luxury vehicle, but more affordable LS and LT trims fit in as affordable alternatives to minivans.

Three trim levels—LS, LT, and LTZ—as well as either front- or all-wheel-drive configurations span a relatively wide range of equipment, from affordable family hauler to near-luxury vehicle.

All 2012 Traverse crossovers come with a tilt/telescopic wheel; power windows, locks and mirrors; cruise control; Bluetooth; and an AM/FM/XM/CD sound system. The standard OnStar system includes Turn-by-Turn navigation and points-of-interest information. LT models add a few extras, while the top-of-the-line LTZ gets leather upholstery, tri-zone automatic climate controls, a voice-command, screen-based navigation system, and a rearview camera.

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Major options include the rearview camera; a power liftgate; heated and cooled front seats; and a DVD entertainment system. The top-spec LTZ can be equipped with 20-inch aluminum wheels; a rear spoiler; dual exhausts; and a panoramic sunroof. Heated cloth seats were added as an option to LT models last year, and for 2012, most of the lineup now gets heated power body-color side mirrors, with integrated turn signal indicators on some models.
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2012 Chevrolet Traverse

Fuel Economy

The 2012 Chevrolet Traverse is an improvement over traditional truck-based SUVs in many ways, but gas mileage might not be one of them.

The 2012 Chevrolet Traverse gets pretty impressive EPA ratings from its six-speed automatic transmission--mostly because it spans such a wide range of ratios and allows relaxed highway cruising.

But in real-world driving with the Traverse as well as its GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave siblings, we haven't come close to matching the Traverse's EPA fuel economy ratings of 17 mpg city, 24 highway with front-wheel drive, or 16/23 with all-wheel drive.

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Styling 7
Performance 7
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