Old vs. New Crossovers: The 2001 Pontiac Aztek and 2018 Chevrolet Traverse Illustrate Evolution in CUV Design [Video]

We Americans love crossovers. In the past two decades, their popularity has exploded and nearly every household has one parked in their driveway. Following the meteoric rise of SUVs in the ’90s, crossovers are seen as an evolution of the concept. With much of the practicality of an SUV and the handling characteristics of a normal car, how can you lose with a crossover?

Last month, we showed you how far SUVs had come by comparing a 2017 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon against a 1961 International Harvester Scout 80. In this TFLcar feature, we’re checking out just how far crossovers have come in the past 15 years. GM’s first leap into the crossover market happened back at the turn of the century with the enigmatic Pontiac Aztek. Now, floating in a veritable sea of crossovers, they’ve upped their game with the 2018 Chevrolet Traverse. In this old vs. new crossovers comparison, just how far apart do these two GM products stand?

Old vs. new crossovers
The Pontiac Aztek is certainly outdated by modern crossover standards, but it still represents an important moment for GM’s involvement in the segment. [Photo: TFLcar]

Old Warhorse: 2001 Pontiac Aztek

General Motor’s first foray into the crossover market began feel under the now-defunct Pontiac brand. When the Aztek first arrived on the scene back in 2001, its dubious styling and underwhelming platform drew sharp criticism from from all sides. Some consider it a classic case of style by committee, which is why the car has so many odd design cues.

Once you get inside, the Aztek is awash in late ’90s cheap GM plastics. While the car does have all the standard features you’d come to expect – power windows and locks, air conditioning, heated front seats, and a decent stereo – there’s obviously no comparison between this and the new Traverse. However, the Aztek does have a joker card to play against the Traverse – it’s heads-up display. HUDs were a common feature on GM cars of the late ’90s and early 2000’s, but the Traverse does not have one equipped.

Cap off the cheap interior with other quirks, like weirdly shaped rear seats, a split-folding rear tailgate that doubles as seats with cupholders, and it’s safe to say the Aztek is nothing like the new Traverse. Let’s also not forget that it’s powered by a 3.4-liter V6 making just 185 horsepower. Mated to an archaic four-speed automatic, it’s definitely no sports car.

Still though, the Aztek does have some distinctive character. It’s fame through Breaking Bad also lends the car some cult status. If you’re looking for a car that lasts, this Aztek has done almost 200,000 miles. After all this time and mileage, the body and exterior are holding up fairly well. And it comes with a tent.

Old vs. new crossovers
The 2018 Chevrolet Traverse represents more than 15 years of evolution over the old Aztek. [Photo: GM]

Contemporary Crossover: 2018 Chevrolet Traverse

Representing the “new” in this old vs. new crossovers comparison, the latest Traverse stands worlds apart from the Aztek. Let’s start with the styling: the 2018 Chevrolet Traverse is a conventional, modern crossover. Gone is the funky double grille design and two-part rear tailgate. Gone are the hilariously cheap (although admittedly hard-wearing) plastics. In steps soft-touch leather, more appealing plastics, and the latest array of safety, comfort and infotainment features.

The two cars are also worlds apart in terms of power. While, yes, the cars are both technically powered by V6 engines, the differences from there on out are night and day. The Aztek made 185 horsepower when new, while the Traverse makes a meaty 310 horsepower. Despite the 135 horsepower advantage, the Traverse gets much better fuel economy thanks to its 9-speed automatic transmission.

Interestingly, the front end of the Traverse does crib the Aztek’s double grille design a bit. The larger lower grille is complemented by a smaller grille above it, separated by a chrome strip and the Chevrolet badge.

Old vs. New Crossovers Comparison: The Verdict

In every conceivable metric, the new Traverse is better than the old Aztek. Naturally, you would expect that outcome. However, these two cars show just how much progress GM has made since it joined the crossover segment all those years ago.

What do you think of GM’s latest crossovers? Leave us your comments, including your thoughts on the old Aztek, in the comments below! Subscribe to The Fast Lane Car on YouTube and check back to TFLcar.com for the latest news, views and reviews!