Chevrolet Traverse vs. Toyota Highlander

By

Automotive Editor

Willis is a freelance writer based out of Philadelphia. Born and raised in Colorado, he graduated from Williams College. When he's not writing about cars or the outdoors, he spends his time rock climbing or reading with his two cats.


, Automotive Editor - February 19, 2020

Midsize crossover SUVs must wear many hats: commuting, family duty, even hauling now and then. Traditionally, utility vehicles sacrificed handling and efficiency for extra grunt, but modern crossovers work to deliver the best of all worlds.

The Chevrolet Traverse and Toyota Highlander come from continents apart, offering widely different takes on the modern crossover. Which is worth the money? Here’s our take.

See a side-by-side comparison of the Traverse & Highlander »

What the Traverse Gets Right

For buyers shopping purely on price, the Traverse can be had for much cheaper. Starting under $31,000, the Traverse is almost $5,000 less than the cheapest Highlander.

Even the lowliest Traverse comes with plenty of grunt. Chevy’s 3.6-liter V6 makes 310 horsepower, 15 more than the Highlander. That’s enough for a towing capacity of 5,000 pounds, which is strong for the class.

The Traverse’s other major asset is its size. At 204 inches long, the Traverse has 9 inches on the Highlander. That translates into extra interior room, especially in the third row. Adults in the back will be happier in the Chevy.

Cargo capacity is equally impressive. Even with the third row in place, the Traverse can hold 23 cubic feet against the Highlander’s 16. With all seats folded, the Traverse is ahead by 14 cubic feet.

What the Highlander Gets Right

While the Highlander’s starting price sits well above Chevy’s, Toyota comes with more baked in. A power driver’s seat, LED headlights, and three-zone automatic climate control are all among the base features that the Traverse can’t match. What’s more, the Traverse L doesn’t come with available all-wheel drive.

But the most notable omission on Chevy’s part is safety equipment. Every Highlander rolls of the line with automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and lane-keeping assist. The Traverse doesn’t even get automatic emergency braking until the LT trim. For a family vehicle, that’s a major win for Toyota.

The Highlander may be slightly down on power, but we doubt most buyers would notice. The base Highlander will go toe to toe on towing, and its AWD system is more modern than the Traverse’s button-activated system.

Crossovers aren’t known for handling, and the Traverse displays all the body roll you’d expect from its considerable heft. The Highlander is a pleasant change of pace, with responsive handling and a surprising amount of feedback from the tires.

The Highlander’s biggest advantage of all may be efficiency. Toyota brings its history of hybrid powertrains to the market with impressive results: the Highlander Hybrid achieves an EPA-estimated 36 miles per gallon combined. That’s good for a sedan and spectacular for a family crossover.

Is Bigger Better?

The Chevy Traverse delivers typical crossover virtues: size, power, and more size. It’s an affordable way into a midsize utility vehicle that won’t leave anyone feeling cramped.

The Highlander starts at a higher price but offers a more rounded package. Toyota includes more safety technology, superior handling, and a hybrid powertrain with surprising efficiency. In the end, it feels like a more modern vehicle.

Our Verdict: Toyota Highlander

For buyers sticking the basics, the Traverse makes sense, but we think most shoppers will be happier in a Highlander, which ticks more of the boxes we look for. It’s equipped for the family, spacious enough for most, and efficient enough for anyone. Despite the higher price, we think it may be the better value.

Take a closer look at the Chevrolet Traverse »

Take a closer look at the Toyota Highlander »

Side-by-side comparison of features, pricing, photos and more!

, Automotive Editor

Willis is a freelance writer based out of Philadelphia. Born and raised in Colorado, he graduated from Williams College. When he's not writing about cars or the outdoors, he spends his time rock climbing or reading with his two cats.


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