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Best Minivan Alternatives Of 2018: Chevrolet Traverse

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Step inside. Interior volume is so massive a baby elephant could fit.

Chevrolet and General Motors saw the writing on the wall over a decade ago, and wisely acted fast. Minivans were becoming less popular as consumers favored SUVs and crossovers. Despite all of the complications of its infamous bankruptcy around that same time, a lot of good actually came from that near death experience, namely a dramatic rise in overall vehicle build quality. That was transferred over to the first generation Chevrolet Traverse, which hit the market for 2009.

While not perfect, the original Traverse was a fine example of the so-called 'New GM' and what it was capable of when it invested its money wisely. Gone were the cheap interiors and lackluster build quality. Although this Traverse still didn't quite meet the standards of many of its Asian rivals, Chevrolet and GM were unquestionably on the right track. This brings us to the second generation Traverse, unveiled at the 2017 Detroit Auto Show. In a relatively short period of time, GM has managed to reach a quality level that would have been unheard of just a decade prior. Where the previous Traverse was lacking, be it general refinement or interior space, its successor fixed that and much more besides.

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Now that the old Chevrolet Venture is long gone (deceased: 2005), the Traverse is the minivan replacement. Don't be sad because the old Venture was nothing to write home about. Today's Traverse went on sale for the 2018 model year and it's far more premium inside and out than its predecessor. Gone is the egg-shaped design of the old crossover, replaced by far more attractive SUV-like styling. Chevrolet, like all automakers, collects vast amounts of consumer feedback data, and the results indicated people wanted a car-based crossover that looked like an SUV and offered enough interior space comparable to that of a minivan.

That can also describe the Volkswagen Atlas, but the 2018 Chevrolet Traverse comes from an automaker with vast amounts of truck, SUV, and minivan experience. Why is that important here? Because Chevrolet was in the better position to put that into action. The new Traverse's wheelbase is two inches longer than that of its predecessor, helping it to provide a massive 23 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row, and 58 cubic feet when its folded flat. Compared to its main rival, the VW Atlas, the Traverse is 5 inches longer. What's just as interesting is that the Traverse is now 10.7 inches longer than its GMC Acadia corporate cousin. Previously, the two were nearly identical, save for sheetmetal, interior appointments and badging.

This time around, the Traverse is purposely the grand people hauler. The latest Acadia is still big enough to fit three rows of seats, but there's less interior space. Like with any new crossover of any size on sale today, the Traverse offers fold flat second and third row seats to provide owners with as much storage space and flexibility as possible. Power comes from either the base 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 255 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque and the optional 3.6-liter V6 with 310 hp and 266 lb-ft. Based on our experience with the latter engine in the 2018 GMC Acadia Denali (full review coming soon), hands down this would be our pick, and not just because we have a preference for power.

The fact is, in this case, the Traverse is one big hunk of metal, tipping the scales at over 4,750 pounds. Even in its lightest configuration with the turbo four pot and FWD, you're still looking at a 4,400-pound curb weight. Obviously the optional V6 and AWD add poundage, but the Traverse is simply a big thing to begin with, so you might as well get the V6. Given its size and weight, one may think the Traverse drives like the mighty Suburban. Nope. Thanks to GM's excellent engineers, the Traverse's suspension tuning and steering doesn't make you feel like you're piloting the Titanic. Its electrically assisted power steering system is actually kind of similar to that on the Camaro.

Along with front struts and a multilink suspension in the rear, the ride is plush and void of bumps. You know, like that of a minivan. And if you thought the previous Traverse interior was a big leap forward, then you'll find the redesigned interior to be an outright masterpiece, though it's still not 100 percent perfect. In general, the dashboard is very nicely laid out and the overall fit and finish is solid. However, there are a few instances of cost-cutting, such as the manual, instead of power operated, dual sunroofs. Fuel economy is actually quite reasonable, given the vehicle's size and weight. If you go for the V6 FWD model, you're looking at 18/27/21 mpg, city/highway/combined.

That's actually pretty good, beating its arch FWD V6 Atlas rival, which returns 18/25/20 mpg. The Traverse also undercuts the Atlas for base price, beginning at $29,930, compared to $30,750. A fully-loaded Traverse High Country with the V6 and AWD will cost you around $52,000. If you're seeking the closest thing to a minivan in terms of size and interior and cargo space, the 2018 Chevrolet Traverse is the answer. As you'll soon read, however, its direct competitors, including the Atlas, offer a few attractive things the Traverse does not.