GM is supposed to be going away from the minivan, but is it really?

New to the Chevrolet lineup is the 2009 Traverse CUV. While Traverse shares much with the Buick Enclave and Saturn Outlook, Chevrolet’s version looks more like a 4X4 SUV when it is, in fact, a minivan.

And that’s the clever part of the Traverse. It has all the seven- or eight-seat passenger utility of a minivan, while having that rugged SUV look that remains in vogue these days.

There are four models (LS, 1LT, 2LT, LTZ) separated primarily by trim. All four share one engine, GM’s ubiquitous 3.6-litre V6 with variable valve timing. In the LZ/1LT/2LT it produces 281 hp and 266 lb/ft. The topline LTZ gets a slight boost in power to 288 hp.

The Traverse has a six-speed automatic transmission and comes standard in front-wheel-drive (FWD) or optional all-wheel-drive (AWD).

Fuel consumption on the 1LT FWD as tested is 12.7L/100 km (22 mpg) city and 8.4L/100 km (34 mpg) highway. The Traverse will tow up to 2,041 kg (4,500 lb).

With four-wheel independent suspension and four-wheel disc brakes, the Traverse 1LT comes standard with anti-lock brakes and StabiliTrac, GM’s take on stability control.

A battery of airbags is standard, as is front and rear air conditioning, cruise control, power locks and windows with lockout protection, tilt/telescope steering wheel, and eight passenger seating with second row “Smart Slide” flat folding 60/40 seats and third row 60/40 folding bench seat.

What people in the back row will love are the three vents at floor level that send hot or cold air to the feet. For those who have ever travelled to hockey practice in the back row of a minivan, this is a godsend.

Eight-passenger seating is standard on the LS and 1LT and optional on the 2LT. On the 2LT and LTZ (optional on 1LT) second row captain’s chairs are fitted for seven-passenger seating.

The base LS pricing starts at $36,260 with the 1LT at $37,255. Starting price for the 2LT is $41,860 and the LTZ is $50,250.

Depending on model, there are a number of options like three entertainment systems in addition to the standard AM/FM/MP3/CD with six speakers. At the top of the option chain are heated/cooled perforated front leather seats and a dual sunroof.

What is noticeable is how the engine and six-speed automatic respond. GM could have got away by using its tried-and-true four-speed but they didn’t.

Not only does the Traverse get off the line more smartly, you notice at normal highway speeds there is no hunting up or down for the right gear and this is particularly true in cruise control mode.

And while this not a true truck, the higher seating position goes give a great view of the road ahead.

With the time and effort it is putting into Chevrolet, you have to say GM is starting to Traverse its troubles and is emerging with a whole string of world class vehicles to come.