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2021 Chevrolet Traverse vs. 2021 Honda Pilot: Which Is Better?

The  2021 Chevrolet Traverse and the 2021 Honda Pilot are two popular three-row SUV options.  Which is better?

2021 Chevrolet Traverse

2021 Chevrolet Traverse Sport Edition

Base Price: $30,995/ Read our 2021 Chevrolet Traverse Review

What we like: Class-leading cargo space including behind the third-row seat; third-row seat that’s big enough for adults; standard 3.6-liter V6 with 310 hp

What we would change: Make the Chevy Safety Assist features standard — or at least optional — on lower-spec trims; expand the convenient Smart Slide second-row seat from the curbside seat to the driver’s-side one as well

Overview: The Chevrolet Traverse stretches the definition of mid-size — its 120.9-inch wheelbase and 204.3-inch overall length are the largest in its class. That translates to plenty of passenger space, including in the third row. Total capacity is seven or eight, depending on whether you get a second-row bench or captain’s chairs (availability varies with trim level). The right-hand second-row Smart Slide seat can scoot forward and tilt to allow access to the rear even with certain child seats in place, which is great, except that it’s only on one side. With the seats folded, the Traverse has a 98.2-cubic-foot cargo hold. There 23 cubic feet behind the third-row seat, which is where three-row SUVs often come up short. A smooth and powerful 310-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 and a nine-speed automatic is the sole powertrain and can be paired with FWD or AWD. With that big engine in a big SUV, fuel economy is only OK, at 21 mpg combined (FWD) or 20 mpg (AWD). We’re more disappointed by the lack of active-safety features in the lower trims — they’re standard on most competitors.

What’s new for 2021: The former Driver Confidence II option package that’s optional on all the LT trims (and standard on RS, Premier, and High Country) has been renamed Chevy Safety Assist. Its content includes forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane-keep assist, following distance indicator, and automatic high-beams.

Features and technology: The 2021 Chevy Traverse comes in L, LS, LT Cloth, LT Leather, RS, Premier, and High Country trim levels. The L and LS are sparsely equipped and offer few options. Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are optional on the LT Cloth with FWD and standard on higher trims. The Chevy Safety Assist package brings more driver aids and is optional on both LTs and standard on the RS, Premier, and High Country. Those top three trims also include navigation, a rear camera mirror, and a surround-view monitor; those items are optional on the LT Leather. A 7-inch touchscreen is standard on the LT Cloth, and below, other models get an 8-inch unit. All models feature Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and a 4G LTE Wi-Fit hotspot, and wireless charging is standard on the Premier and High Country. Adaptive cruise control, power-folding for the third row, and an upgraded leather interior are exclusive to the High Country.

What does the future hold: The Traverse is getting a big update for 2022. Most significantly, the items in the Chevy Safety Assist package will become standard on all trims. New available features include wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, and a larger driver-information center in the instrument cluster. Finally, the front and rear styling gets an update, and there are new wheel designs. See 2021 Chevrolet Traverse models for sale near you

2021 Honda Pilot

2021 Honda Pilot

Base Price: $33,360 / Read our 2021 Honda Pilot Review

What we like: Spacious interior with a usable third row; standard V6 engine; strong resale value

What we would change: An off-road-themed variant would expand the Pilot’s appeal as would a sport-themed version; additional engine options

Overview: The Honda Pilot is a well-rounded, family-friendly three-row SUV, one with several strengths and few weaknesses. The sole powertrain is a 3.5-liter V6 making 280 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque paired with a nine-speed automatic. The top two trims come standard with AWD, which is a $2,000 option elsewhere. With all-wheel drive, this powertrain gets 22 mpg combined; with front-wheel-drive, the estimate is 23 mpg. The Pilot tows up to 5,000 pounds (with AWD). The Pilot is comfortable and polished on the road but not particularly sporty, although the AWD system includes torque vectoring across the rear axle to enhance agility. A third-row seat with seatbelts for three is standard, while in the middle row, there’s a three-passenger bench or captain’s chairs, depending on trim level. Maximum cargo space is 82.1–83.9 cubic feet, and there are 16.5 cubic feet behind the third row.

What’s new for 2021: All Pilots now use a nine-speed automatic transmission, replacing the six-speed unit previously found in sub-Touring trim levels, resulting in a slight fuel-economy increase for those models. Elsewhere, the EX-L w/Navi and Rear Seat Entertainment is dropped, while a new SE trim (with less equipment) is added. The base LX adds dual-zone climate control.

Features and technology: The 2021 Honda Pilot comes in LX, EX, EX-L, SE, Touring, Elite, and Black Edition trim levels. Forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assistance, and adaptive cruise control are standard on all trims. Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are included on all but the base LX. Besides those two safety features, the EX also brings a power driver’s seat, heated front seats, and the 8-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Leather seating is the big add-on with the EX-L, which also includes a power liftgate, second-row sunshades, and an acoustic windshield. The SE adds wireless smartphone charging, 20-inch wheels, and the CabinTalk in-car PA system. The Touring is the first trim where captain’s chairs can be had, along with navigation, a rear-seat entertainment system, a Wi-Fi hotspot, upgraded audio, and heating for the second-row seats. The top two trims include all-wheel drive, ventilated front seats, and a heated steering wheel.

What does the future hold: The Pilot is mechanically related to the two-row Passport SUV and the Ridgeline pickup, the latter of which got new, more rugged front-end styling for 2021 that could migrate to the Pilot and Passport as well. See 2021 Honda Pilot models for sale near you.

Traverse vs. Pilot: Strengths comparison

Chevrolet Traverse Benefits: Exceptional luggage space; robust 3.6-liter V6

Honda Pilot Benefits: Reliability; resale; standard safety equipment

2021 Chevrolet Traverse vs. 2021 Honda Pilot: Which is better?

For our money, we’d go with the Pilot. While the engine isn’t the most inspiring, the Pilot comes with plenty of safety and technology features even at the entry-level. It also has stronger resale and reliability than the Traverse.  Find a 2021 Honda Pilot for sale or Find a Chevrolet Traverse for sale

Popular Powertrains 2021 Chevrolet Traverse 2021 Honda Pilot
Engine 3.6-liter V6 3.5-liter V6
Horsepower 310 hp  at 6,800 rpm 280 hp @ 6,000 rpm
Torque 266 lb-ft at 2,800 rpm 262 lb-ft @ 4,700 rpm
Transmission 9-speed automatic 9-speed automatic
Fuel Economy 21 mpg (18 city/27 highway) 23 mpg (20 city/27 highway)
Also Available AWD AWD
Warranty 3 years/36,000 miles 3 years/36,000 miles
Powertrain warranty 5 years/60,000 miles 5 years/60,000 miles
NHTSA Overall Safety 5 stars 5 stars
Max Seating Capacity 8 8
Wheelbase 120.9 inches 111.0 inches
Overall Length 204.3 inches 196.5 inches
Width 78.6 inches 78.6 inches
Height 70.7 inches 70.6 inches
Turning Diameter 39.0 feet 39.4 feet
Headroom, Front 41.3 inches 40.1 inches
Headroom, 2nd row 40.0 inches 40.2 inches
Headroom, 3rd row 38.2 inches 38.9 inches
Legroom, Front 41.0 inches 40.9 inches
Legroom, 2nd row 38.4 inches 38.4 inches
Legroom, 3rd row 33.5 inches 31.9 inches
Shoulder Room, Front 62.1 inches 62.0 inches
Shoulder Room, 2nd row 62.2 inches 62.0 inches
Shoulder Room, 3rd row 57.5 inches 57.6 inches
EPA Passenger Volume 157.3 cubic feet 152.9 cubic feet
EPA Cargo Volume 98.2 cubic feet 83.9 cubic feet

Abigail Bassett
Abigail Bassett
Abigail Bassett is a freelance journalist based in L.A. and she's covered automotive topics for a variety of well-known outlets including Fortune, Forbes, CNN and Motor Trend. She's also a television and video host and regularly covers breaking news, social justice, technology, health and wellness, and science in addition to her car coverage. When she's not working on her next project she's... Read More about Abigail Bassett

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