2020 Chevrolet Traverse Review

Ron Sessions | Apr 06, 2020

Introduction

2020 Chevrolet Traverse front and side view

Photo: Ron Sessions

Chevrolet no longer offers a minivan in its lineup, but the spacious, almost-full-size Traverse comes close, combining near-minivan-like levels of passenger and cargo space with broad-shouldered SUV styling. The Traverse isn’t configured with the handy sliding side doors or fold-into-floor third-row seats found in all current minivans, but has just about every other feature a growing family might want.

Chevrolet now has the broadest sport-utility selection of any mainstream brand, in sizes ranging from the subcompact Trax and all-new Trailblazer to the super capable and extra-large Suburban.

The third largest Chevrolet SUV is the Traverse, available in basic L, mainstream LS, LT Cloth and LT Leather, sporty RS, and luxurious Premier and High Country trims. Front-wheel drive is standard with all-wheel drive an option on all but the base L model.

For purposes of this review, J.D. Power tested a top-of-the-line Chevrolet Traverse High Country powered by a 3.6-liter V6 engine and equipped with front-wheel drive and optional Cajun Red Tintcoat paint. The tally came to $51,295, including the $1,195 dealer freight charge.

What Owners Say

Prior to delving into the findings of our 2020 Chevrolet Traverse evaluation, it’s useful to comprehend who the buyer is for this midsize sport-utility and discover what they like least and most about it based on 2019 J.D. Power U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) study data.

When it comes to age and gender, Traverse owner demographics come close to those of midsize SUVs in general. The median age for Traverse owners is 56 years old compared to 54 years for the segment as a whole. Likewise, 52% of Traverse owners are male while the gender split is 56% male for owners across the midsize SUV segment. In terms of annual household income, however, Traverse owners report $109,069 compared to $116,933 for all midsize SUV owners.

One data point that distinguishes Traverse owners from the midsize SUV segment as a whole is the vehicle’s country of origin. In the APEAL study, 88% of Traverse owners indicated they prefer to buy a vehicle from a domestic company while that percentage drops to 56% for the total midsize SUV segment. Final assembly of the Traverse is in Lansing, Michigan with 52% U.S./Canadian and 21% Mexican parts content.

Otherwise, Traverse owners express sentiments about their vehicles that are similar to those of the midsize SUV norm. A near unanimous 96% list reliability as a first consideration, followed by quality of workmanship at 95%, and 92% of Traverse owners say they avoid vehicles they think have high maintenance costs.

The similarities to the midsize SUV segment as a whole continue when it comes to how Traverse owners say they plan to use their vehicles with 90% agreeing that they need a versatile vehicle that can accommodate a busy lifestyle. Also, 92% of Traverse owners indicate they like a vehicle with responsive handling and powerful acceleration, but only 58% say that miles per gallon is a primary consideration.

When it comes to dollars and cents, Traverse owners present an interesting dichotomy with 78% agreeing that they’d pay more for the latest safety features but 52% disagreeing that they’d pay more for an environmentally friendly vehicle.

In the APEAL study, Traverse owners indicate their favorite aspects of the vehicle are its exterior design, driving dynamics, interior layout, roominess and safety. Conversely, their least favorite things about the Traverse are the engine and transmission, seats, infotainment system, climate control system and fuel economy.

What Our Expert Says...

In the sections that follow, our expert provides his own perceptions about how the 2020 Chevrolet Traverse measures up in each of the 10 categories that comprise the J.D. Power 2019 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study.

Exterior

2020 Chevrolet Traverse profile

Photo: Ron Sessions

Traverse owners rank exterior styling among their favorite aspects of the vehicle. The 2020 model continues the sleek yet robust-looking design initiated in 2018 with design cues shared with the full-size Tahoe and Suburban. The square-jawed muscular theme of the Traverse features prominent fender bulges and a large, substantial-looking twin-panel grille.

At the rear, an attractive wraparound glass design hides the rearmost roof pillars. All in all, the Traverse has a clean, tasteful exterior design that is aging gracefully.

Roof rails, standard on LT and higher trims, enable the mounting of a roof carrier.

Interior

2020 Chevrolet Traverse interior panoramic sunroof

Photo: Ron Sessions

Also high on the list of things Traverse owners like about their vehicles is the interior. The midsize SUV has near-full-size interior roominess, offering more passenger space, in fact, than in Chevrolet’s own full-size Tahoe. The horizontal design of the dash is clean and uncluttered, sweeping into the doors and enhancing the feeling of spaciousness. Adding to the sense of openness is an available dual-pane panoramic sunroof with one pane above the front seats and another for second-row passengers to enjoy.

There is quite a bit of hard plastic in the cabin, especially in lower trims. But the High Country fitments are striking, particularly with the Jet Black and Loft Brown two-tone trim, perforated leather seats and French-stitched soft trim on the doors, console and dash, helping to justify that model’s $50,000+ price tag.

The Traverse can carry seven or eight passengers, depending on whether it’s equipped with a 3-across bench or a pair of individual captain’s chairs in the second row. Ingress and egress is just right as well courtesy of step-in height that’s lower than in many large SUVs. All in all, the 2020 Traverse offers a near-minivan-like 157.3 cubic feet of passenger space. Also, there’s additional storage in the console, doors and next to the seats.

Seats

2020 Chevrolet Traverse 3rd row access interior

Photo: Ron Sessions

Traverse owners didn’t rank the seats in their vehicles especially high, especially the ability to easily adjust the driver’s seat. I found them to be somewhat firm but comfortable enough for longer trips. There are no hard bolsters to slide over and the bottom cushions are long enough to support under your thighs. The front seats are manually adjustable in L and LS models with heated, power adjustable front chairs and power lumbar adjustment arriving with LT Leather and higher trims. Premier and High Country models gain ventilated front seats as well as heated second-row outboard seating positions.

At the rear, longer rear doors enabled by the SUV’s long wheelbase result in wider openings that ease passenger ingress and egress. Access to the third-row seats is aided by a Smart Slide feature that tips up second-row seat as it is moved forward. The feature is designed to allow an empty LATCH-anchored forward-facing child seat to remain in position as the seat is slid forward, therefore making unbuckling and removing the child seat unnecessary.

What separates the Traverse from all but a handful of midsize SUVs is the ability to carry adults in the three-across 70/30 split third-row bench. There’s nearly a foot more legroom back there than in Chevy’s full-size Tahoe, but chair height is very low. Owners ranked the relatively roomy third-row seat as one of the SUV’s top ten features.

Climate Control System

2020 Chevrolet Traverse temperature controls

Photo: Ron Sessions

Chevrolet fits three-zone set-and-forget automatic climate control to all Traverse models as standard equipment. There is one temperature-setting knob for each front seat occupant and one at the rear of the center console for the rear seat passengers. Aiding rear seat comfort are four overhead air vents in the headliner.

The temperature knobs and mode buttons are large and easy to navigate. However, Traverse owners in the APEAL survey ranked the vehicle’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning as one of its least favorite features, citing a difficulty in achieving or maintaining a desired temperature and a noisy fan motor.

Infotainment System

2020 Chevrolet Traverse infotainment system

Photo: Ron Sessions

Chevy MyLink infotainment used in last year’s Traverse didn’t garner especially high scores in the APEAL survey but Chevrolet has updated to a new Infotainment 3 System for 2020 models. The new system allows for easier integration of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well user personalization for such things as audio presets, climate control settings and other convenience features. It uses natural voice recognition for voice commands and navigation destination guidance.

Otherwise, the physical appearance of the system is unchanged, with an uncomplicated, user-friendly mix of buttons, knobs and touchscreen controls to navigate. A 7-in touchscreen is standard in L, LS and LT Cloth trims with an 8-in. unit available on LT Leather and higher trims. Embedded navigation is standard in RS, Premier and High Country.

Standard OnStar 4G LTE with in-vehicle Wi-Fi can feed data to up to seven remote devices, with USB charge ports on all three seat rows to keep them charged up and running. A wireless charging pad for Qi-enabled phones in the center console is standard in Premier and higher trims. A Bose premium sound system with a big-sounding console-mounted subwoofer is optional in LT Leather and standard with RS, Premier or High Country models.

Storage and Space

2020 Chevrolet Traverse cargo space

Photo: Ron Sessions

High among the features that Traverse owners say they like is the vehicle’s storage and space. The 2020 Chevrolet Traverse is among the roomiest midsize SUVs available. Aft of the third-row seat, there’s 23 cubic feet of cargo space, more than in the trunk of the largest sedan. That number jumps to 58.1 cubic feet behind the second row with the third-row seats folded flat and full-size SUV-like 98.2 cubic feet when the second-row chairs are dropped. Under the cargo floor is more storage, room enough for a laptop bag and airline roller suitcase.

The third-row bench is split 70/30, allowing for a mix of passengers on one side and longer cargo items on the other. The High Country model features cargo area switches for power folding and raising the third-row seats. at the rear of the cargo area.

On LT Leather and higher trims, a power-operated liftgate eases cargo area access. Premier and High Country models add a standard no-hands feature operated with a foot kick under the rear bumper. A height-adjusting feature on the door lets owners customize the opening height of the liftgate to accommodate low-clearance carports and garages.

Visibility and Safety

2020 Chevrolet Traverse surround view camera

Photo: Ron Sessions

An elevated seating position gives the Traverse driver the coveted command of the road feeling. However, outward visibility is one of the SUV’s weaknesses according to J.D. Power APEAL data. High on the list of dislikes were visibility when changing lanes, and both rearward and forward visibility from the driver’s seat. Thick roof pillars behind the rear doors and alongside the cargo liftgate contribute to this.

Mitigating this somewhat are third-row headrests that can be folded down when not in use and a rear camera mirror standard in RS, Premier and High Country which converts the rearview mirror into a monitor for a camera at the rear of the car. It displays a view unblocked by passengers, cargo or the rear headrests.

On the safety front, all Traverse models feature seven airbags, including a novel driver’s inboard side impact airbag that deploys from the center console. A rear seat reminder chime sounds and dash message displays after the ignition is shut off so the driver can check the rear seat for kids or pets left behind. And a new buckle and drive feature prevents the vehicle from shifting out of Park for 20 seconds if the driver hasn’t buckled the seatbelt when the teen driver mode has been activated.

But the latest safety tech isn’t available in the base L or LS models. Optional in the LT Cloth and standard in higher trims is lane change alert with side blind-zone alert, rear cross-traffic alert and rear park assist, all important adds in lieu of the APEAL study visibility concerns. The more advanced safety content, including front pedestrian and automatic emergency braking, forward collision alert, lane keep assist with lane departure warning, automatic high-beam control and a following distance indicator are optional on LT and standard in RS, Premier and High Country trims. Adaptive cruise control is reserved for the range-topping High Country model.

All Traverse models come with a standard backup camera, but RS, Premier and High Country upgrade to a 360-degree surround view monitor with selectable camera angles—including one for hooking up a trailer.

Engine and Transmission

2020 Chevrolet Traverse V6 310 horsepower engine

Photo: Ron Sessions

In the APEAL study, Traverse owners say they like the vehicle’s engine responsiveness, passing power and acceleration from a stop. For 2020, all Traverse models come standard with a 3.6-liter V6 producing 310 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque. This smooth and responsive six-cylinder generates its power over a broad rpm range, offering good throttle response in all driving situations. A 257-hp 2.0-liter 4-cylinder turbo in last year’s RS model has been dropped. Apparently a sporty model with less horsepower was a hard sell.

The V6 is paired with a smooth-shifting 9-speed automatic transmission. With nine available ratios, the spacing between gears is shorter, keeping the engine in its most efficient operating range. A plus/minus tap-shift feature on the console gives the driver manual control for mountain and sporty driving.

Front-drive Traverse models can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in about 6.5 seconds, with AWD versions a half second slower.

Also on the console is a driver-selectable traction mode knob. It can modify throttle response, transmission shift points and anti-lock brake algorithms for towing or winter driving and on AWD models, off-road operation. Max towing is 5,000 pounds.

All-wheel-drive models feature a twin-clutch system that automatically apportions drive torque according to available traction. The system includes an automatic locking rear differential.

Fuel Economy

2020 Chevrolet Traverse dash

Photo: Ron Sessions

For a vehicle with this much room inside, the Traverse nets respectable EPA fuel economy numbers. Front-drive EPA estimates are 18 mpg city/27 mpg highway/21 mpg combined with the AWD versions achieving 17 mpg city/25 mpg highway/20 mpg combined. A gas-saving feature mainly for city driving is the standard stop/start system. It shuts off the engine at stoplights, then restarts when the driver lifts off the brake. It’s one of the smoothest applications of this technology currently in the market. I saw 23.5 mpg in a week of mixed residential/suburban driving.

Driving Dynamics

2020 Chevrolet Traverse front view

Photo: Ron Sessions

Traverse owners rank driving dynamics almost as highly as exterior design when asked what their favorite aspects of the vehicle are.

Dynamically speaking, the Traverse drives smaller than it looks. There is very little body roll when cornering and vertical motions are well-damped. The electrically boosted steering has an organic feel, neither too heavy nor too light, and a good directional sense which means very little correction to keep it in lane. The 4-wheel disc brakes offer plenty of confidence-building stopping power, but the pedal effort is a tad bit on the high side contrasted against the easy throttle response. With the available 20-inch tires, the High Country version offered great composure on the highway.

It’s very quiet inside the cabin. The standard active noise cancellation system uses the audio system to mute unappealing low-frequency sounds when the SUV is cruising at highway speeds.

Final Impressions

2020 Chevrolet Traverse rear view

Photo: Ron Sessions

The market is thick with 3-row midsize SUVs that can handle the whole family and fit in your garage, such as the new Ford Explorer, Kia Telluride and Hyundai Palisade. But the Traverse is one of the few with a third-row seat that can accept adults without protest. Despite its capacious passenger and cargo capacity, the Traverse drives like a well-mannered Impala sedan.

The 2020 Chevrolet Traverse gets a full five stars overall in NHTSA testing as well as Good ratings for moderate and small-offset front impacts, side impacts, roof strength and seat design from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. That said, the most advanced safety systems are available only on the priciest trims, which can drive the price into luxury territory.

Still, if your brood is large and a minivan doesn’t fit your self-image and parking a full-size SUV involves taking all the bikes out of the garage, the Traverse is worth a look.

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