Maybe you’re adding a new member to your family, or perhaps you’re tired of cramming your jogging stroller into a trunk already brimming with kid gear, but let’s face it — you’ve reached the crossover tipping point.
The crossover tipping point is the phenomena where your lifestyle no longer fits inside the sleek sedan or sexy sports car you used to drive before you had children, pets, and the unspeakable amount of injection molded plastics to haul around. You know you’ve reached it when the number of carseats you need outnumbers the adults, you’d seriously consider transporting the dog in the trunk if it weren’t full of sports equipment, and other parents give you the cold shoulder because you can never carpool. The prognosis: You need a bigger vehicle.
Purchasing a new vehicle is one of the most important — and expensive — decisions a family will make. To help simplify the buying process, Babble waded through the crowded crossover segment to find the best CUV for any driving need. We examined new and best-selling vehicles on the market, but limited our budget to $35,000. That price ceiling quickly eliminated many vehicles from our shopping list, but the selection of economical crossovers is still considerable. To help narrow the list even further, we focused on fuel economy, safety, and parent-friendly features. When crossovers were fairly evenly matched, we gave preference to vehicles that had better fuel economy, price, or were a previous Babble favorite. — Liane Yvkoff
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Top 8-seater SUV | 2013 Chevrolet Traverse
MSRP: Starting at $30,340
FUEL ECONOMY: 17/24 mpg
A lot of vehicles try to offer the space of a minivan without looking like one, and the Chevrolet Traverse does this better than its competitors. The vehicle is equipped with a 3.6-liter, 281-horsepower engine that has enough power to really make the vehicle go, and its fuel economy is on par with minivans.
On the outside, the Traverse received a mild refresh for the 2013 model year with more muscular sheet metal, additional chrome accents, and redesigned tail lights. On the inside, you’ll find an improved interior design with less hard plastic and softer touch-points for a higher-end feel. And if you’re looking for an even sleeker design, possible upgrades include a two-tone leather interior and brushed-metal accents.
The base model is equipped with a few tech touches, including OnStar (subscription required), Bluetooth connectivity, and standard XM radio. Upgrading to higher-end models gets you a rear-view camera, navigation, and XM Nav Traffic (again, monthly subscription). The USB port is conveniently located on top of the dash rather than in the glove compartment or at the bottom of the center console, making it easier to reach and charge mobile devices.
Of course, each upgrade gives you more convenience features, including remote vehicle start and keyless entry. And rather than blind-spot warning systems, the Traverse actually has a blind-spot mirror built into the side-view mirror. Additional safety features include an optional lane departure warning system and a new “center side air bag” that in the event of a side-impact collision, inflates to prevent the driver and front seat passenger from banging into each other. These changes, while welcome, aren’t free and are reflected in the higher starting price than previous year’s models.
Other optional interior features worth mentioning include a dual sunroof and a power tailgate to automatically open the cargo area.
SEATING + STORAGE
The Traverse is a three-row SUV with standard seating for 8 passengers. The SUV’s 57.8-inch second-row bench is wide enough to support a range of car seat configurations, and GM’s smart-slide chairs were developed so that even a 5-year-old can flip and slide them to gain easy access to the third row.
There are also lots of cup holders and storage compartments throughout the vehicle. The Traverse designers thoughtfully included cup holders in the rear-door armrests, which put drinks within reach of toddlers strapped in car seats.
Of all 8-seat SUVs, the Traverse offers the most cargo space behind the third row so you can fit lots of kids and their gear, and there’s also in-floor storage for emergency supplies. And if that’s not enough, we love that both rows of seats fold completely flat for even more cargo space.
ENTERTAINMENT + NAVIGATION
The centerpiece of the new 2013 model is the available MyLink infotainment system, which is standard on all models except the base. The 6.5-inch touchscreen, voice-controlled platform facilitates seamless smartphone integration, enabling the driver to integrate contacts, music, and even some apps like Pandora and Stitcher with the vehicle. The Traverse also offers an optional ceiling-mounted DVD player, but you could opt for the aftermarket dual seatback video entertainment system instead, which would be sold and installed by the dealership.
IIHS Top Safety Pick.
Consumer Reports gave the Traverse a score of 80 out of 100 points, and 62 percent of owners would purchase this vehicle again.