The 2013 Traverse, which can seat seven or eight, retains its earlier strengths — key among them its generous size. "Car-based" SUVs hit the scene several years ago promising most of the good aspects of truck-based SUVs without the drawbacks — namely unnecessary size, weight and thirst for petroleum. As much as any crossover, and probably more, the Traverse delivers on this promise, offering more interior space than a Chevy Tahoe from similar exterior dimensions. It's not as tall and is easier to get into, and its mileage, though not stellar in its class, beats the Tahoe by 2 mpg in combined driving.
To beat the Traverse for size, you have to go to the Chevy Suburban (essentially an extended Tahoe) or a minivan. See these models compared side by side here.
The main thing the Traverse sacrifices by not being a true truck is towing capacity. However, among large crossovers its capacity is generous at up to 5,200 pounds. The Mazda CX-9 tops out at 3,500. The Flex and Pilot hit 4,500 and the Toyota Highlander and Ford Explorer (now technically a crossover itself) come close at 5,000 pounds. See the towing specifications and the Traverse's size dominance compared side by side here.
To boil it down, the Traverse has less second-row legroom than the competitors above by as little as 1.7 inches and up to as much as 7.5 inches. But what matters most is the distribution of the various seats and storage space. Legroom here is enough for an adult, thanks in part to a sliding bench seat or optional captain's chairs. The Traverse's third-row legroom has an advantage over the Pilot and CX-9 by roughly an inch. By the numbers, the Pilot and Flex have more headroom back there, but here again a 6-foot-tall adult fits fine in the Traverse. That's not true of the CX-9.
The Traverse manages to fit adults in all rows while still providing more cargo volume than its competitors behind the third row: 24.4 cubic feet. That's a 4.4-cubic-foot margin over the Flex, which is the next roomiest. When the second and third rows are folded, the Traverse beats them all with 116.3 cubic feet.
For kids, accommodations are good but far from perfect. The second-row seats slide forward in a special way to provide third-row access: The bottom cushion pops up vertically against the backrest to open up passage. It's effective, but some of our staff parents reported that the Traverse's high step-in height was a challenge for kids. As for child-safety seats, the spaciousness is a benefit, but the second row's Latch anchors are difficult to access. See our complete Car Seat Check here.