2010 Chevrolet Equinox Expert Review:Autoblog
It's fitting that General Motors has a vehicle named after an astronomical phenomenon that marks the seasons. The first Equinox came from the "old" GM during the autumn of its long slide. Since then, the General has emerged from a government-funded chrysalis, and the Equinox has followed suit with a redesign. Hopefully, the freshening signifies a springtime in GM's fortunes; a future desperately in need of a green infusion of the cash variety. Its products need to not only compete – but exceed – what's available from the competition. That figures to be a tall order, because the opposition is in rare form.
Just across town, Ford isn't sitting around – the Escape gets tweaks and updates seemingly every year. The Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 also crowd the top of the family CUV class, with the Mazda CX-7 and Hyundai Santa Fe playing supporting roles. Into this company of A-students wades the Equinox, fresh from reform school. Have the model's rough edges and troublesome behavior been smoothed out enough by remedial study? Follow the jump to find out.
Photos copyright ©2009 John Neff / Weblogs, Inc.
The cockpit styling of the dashboard cocoons driver and front seat passenger, and rear seat riders get plenty of travel on comfortable seats that slide and recline. The mission of the Equinox is to become a kind of minivan replacement, and on that front it gives up some space and practicality to those family haulers, but for a neo-non-wagon, it's roomy. Storage compartments and cupholders seemingly spring eternal – there's lots of places to stash things, from a center bin that's on the larger side of medium to net pockets on the seatbacks. The standard seat upholstery on our tester is a wetsuit-like mesh, while optional leather brings a touch of class and feels much more upscale. The seats are comfortable and oddly well bolstered; better than what you might find in a run-of-the-mill Camaro.
The Equinox is certainly better dressed than its predecessor. While the outgoing model wasn't offensively styled, it erred on the side of the anonymous. For 2010, the Equinox benefits from sharper creases in its sheetmetal and the familial Chevrolet nose ties the crossover to its Traverse and Malibu cousins. The looks are attractive and garnered compliments, something we don't remember happening with other mainstream Chevys.
There's just enough brightwork on the Equinox to make it seem almost bejeweled, though the quality of some of those shiny bits comes across as plasticky. More sculpting in form, especially in the terraced contours of the hood, brings shape to what was once slabby. There's a strong line down the flanks and the wheelarches are newly emboldened. The front airdam comes down quite low, a necessary concession to fuel economy, and it may be prone to damage from big speed bumps or the first inkling of off-road terrain.
Large 19-inch chrome-laden wheels are available with the V6 model, so what the spiffy body giveth, the costume jewelery in the fenders may taketh away. There are chrome-free wheels available for the less blingy among us: our front-wheel-drive 1LT tester came with the smallest set of handsome 17-inch aluminum wheels, and there are 18-inchers, still sans chrome, also available.
Inside the Equinox, an even bigger upgrade has taken place than what was wrought on the outside. The interior is handsomely styled and makes a strong first impression. Fit and finish quality is high, particularly considering it's been a traditional trouble spot for GM. Unfortunately, while the materials impress on first inspection, that perception fades away after time. Too many textures and colors of plastic fill the inside of the Equinox, and much of it doesn't feel as luxurious as it looks. The glossy silver finish on the center stack is particularly off putting, but despite the entire interior's lack of plush, soft-touch padding, most of the competition feels and looks cheaper, and the overall design makes up for materials' shortcomings.
Operation of the controls brings some challenges. There's just enough buttons on the center stack for it to feel like too many. Radio and HVAC controls were backward from where our hand expected to find them, so we kept jacking up the fan speed instead of turning up the volume. Loading a disc into the audio system feels a little strange; the slot is just above a large, handy cubby at the bottom of the center stack. It's kind of an island unto itself and makes us wonder how an aftermarket audio install would go (remember those?).
Our staff tried models with and without the
Visibility out of the Equinox is good, aided by the relatively high crossover stance. GM has equipped the Equinox with healthy-sized rear view mirrors just in case that sloping C-pillar creates a null in rearward vision. Dropping the shifter into Drive – hard to miss with such giant markings – sends the 182 horsepower from the standard 2.4-liter Ecotec four-cylinder through a six-speed automatic and either front- or all-wheel-drive. The direct-injected four cylinder is smooth and refined, one of the best in the segment.
The automatic, while polished, is reluctant to respond when asked to do anything but jump for sixth gear as quickly as possible. There's a manual position on the shifter, where a driver can call for gears with the toggle switch on the side of the shifter handle, but we waited an eternity for our desired ratio. The way it's programmed, this six-speed auto does essentially whatever it wants regardless of driver input. It's set up to maximize fuel economy, and that apparently extracts a cost in terms of sporting responsiveness.
Pushing the Eco mode button in front of the shifter attempts to maximize every drop of fuel even more. The idle speed is lowered, control inputs are filtered, and the transmission becomes even more aggressive about getting into sixth and locked up. The extra syrup in the gas pedal is acceptable in normal driving, as is the transmission's obsession with high gear. For city driving, Eco mode strikes us as a good idea. Putting a switch inside to control it is an even better idea. The most noticeable tradeoff to Eco mode is more vibration at idle due to the lower engine speed. It's not offensive, but it is apparent.
GM also offers a 3.0-liter version of its so-called "high feature" V6 in all but the LS trim level Equinox. Smoother and more powerful, the six is also hungrier. Equipped with the four-cylinder, 32 miles per gallon on the highway from a roomy crossover that weighs more than 3,500 pounds is quite frankly astounding, and performance is satisfying enough. Those MPG figures are attainable in the real world, too. While the six delivers 264 horsepower and 222 pound-feet of torque, the two engines have divergent characters. Where the four has low-down grunt, the six has a desire to rev. Coupled to the recalcitrant transmission, the four is the appropriate and more pleasing engine choice.
When it's time to bring the party to a halt, the brakes feel up to the task and work as well as they felt. A minor quibble, however, is that the pressure doesn't seem to match up with retardation, requiring more initial digging-in than expected when bringing the 'Nox to a stop.
Taking off for any destination in the Equinox, it becomes obvious that chassis development was important this time around. Body motions are tightly controlled and bumps are soaked up without drama through the steering wheel or shuddering from the structure. The Equinox feels solid going down the road, and it plies highways in an almost Germanic fashion, locking on to the horizon and propelling forward.
The electric power steering doesn't have much feel, lending a slight whiff of minivan dynamics at the helm. Ignoring the current cultural backlash against vans, one of their biggest selling points has been a carlike demeanor, so to say that the Equinox drives like a minivan isn't necessarily a negative. Hit a twisty road with the Equinox, and it does, in fact, play along – up to a point – which is surprising for a vehicle whose corporate progenitors included the Pontiac Aztek.
With its latest revisions to the Equinox, General Motors shows a newfound seriousness about making good vehicles. This is a crossover that can be mentioned in the same breath as the Honda CR-V and the Toyota RAV4 without any qualifiers. In terms of styling and interior, only premium CUVs start looking better. The whole vehicle carries the sheen of detail-sweating, and that's exactly what GM needs to be obsessive about in order to win over new buyers.
The Equinox drives right for its mission and is a good value starting under $23,000. A full-boat loaded Equinox feels luxurious and nudges $33,000 – that's still a good deal, as it's loaded up with rear seat DVD screens, all-wheel drive, a power liftgate, leather, nav and more at a price point where some others are just getting started. By lavishing attention on its ever-important mainstream cars, GM could well pull off its latest plan for a renaissance, and the Equinox emerges in its second-generation as a butterfly, not a moth.
The Chevrolet Equinox has never really been a loser in the compact crossover segment, but it has also never really been a leader, either. It was always just kind of "okay," with milquetoast styling, so-so performance and reasonable roominess, but never anything really attention grabbing. Coming just a week after General Motors filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, Chevrolet General Manager Ed Peper officially introduced the all-new 2010 Chevy Equinox as the first product of the "New General Motors," and it's clear that the company hopes their new baby is able to grab a much larger share of this burgeoning segment.
Among other things, the Equinox gets all new powertrains, including an available four-cylinder engine for the first time. Both the four and the new 3.0-liter V6 have direct fuel injection and are paired up with six-speed automatic transmissions. In fact, everything about the Equinox is new. Apparently the only major component carried over from the old model is the sunroof module. Everything else has been reworked or replaced. We had the opportunity to spend some seat time with both the four-cylinder and V6 models with front- and all-wheel drive. Find out if the Equinox finally has what it takes to be more than just competitive after the jump.
Photos Copyright ©2009 Sam Abuelsamid / Weblogs, Inc.
Chevrolet calls the Equinox a compact crossover, but when you look at its dimensions, this CUV is in many respects more mid-size than compact. At 187.8 inches long, it out-spans the Ford Escape by 13 inches and the Toyota RAV4 by six inches. It's even two inches longer than a Ford Edge. Chevy's rationale for calling this a compact is the 72.5 inch width, which is 0.5 inches less than the RAV4 and two inches less than the Edge. So it's really a "tweener" of sorts. However you define it, though, the Equinox is especially roomy relative to competitors.
As soon as you lay eyes on the new Equinox, it's clear that the design team put in a serious amount of effort this time. The dowdy looks of the previous generation have been replaced by a bold modern look that's more muscular and better proportioned. Like all other recent Chevrolets, this one starts with a dual port grille that is flanked by a pair of handsome jeweled headlamp clusters. The combination of a rising character line along the flanks, aggressive wheel well flares and a higher beltline combine to visually lower the new model – even though it's actually four inches taller.
The Equinox also gains Chevy's current design DNA on the inside, with a dual cockpit instrument panel layout similar to the Malibu and Traverse. The new look is a huge improvement over the old model, both aesthetically and functionally. Like several other recent GM vehicles, the dashboard flows into the door panels with a look that provides some continuity. Some of the past iterations of this, notably the Saturn Aura, had an issue with vertical alignment of the door panels and dashboard. We've brought up this problem with GM officials on several previous occasions and they have apparently taken it to heart. None of the four Equinoxes we drove had any such alignment issues.
In fact, Mo Wazir, Vehicle Line Director for GM's compact crossovers, explained that the engineering team addressed this from a root cause approach when developing the new Equinox. They examined why the parts were misaligned and found that it was related to tightening the two sides of the dashboard separately. The assembly process has been changed to ensure that the dashboard is more consistently installed. In fact, all the fits in the Equinox testers we sampled were better than before. That's not to say the interior is perfect, however.
The same Ingersoll, Ontario assembly plant that built the previous Equinox began building so-called salable units about two months ago. These early production units are generally kept within GM for its captured test fleet, where engineers and managers drive the cars to look for last minute production problems. The examples that we drove were from this early build batch and the first units destined for customers are being built this week. The most prominent issue that we noted was a color disharmony on the dashboard. All four of the vehicles we drove had the two-tone interior scheme consisting of either black/brown or black/light gray.
The brown was the issue. The plastic panels covering the passenger side airbag and around the instrument cluster on the driver's side had a slightly different shade than the two mating pieces on either side of the center console. According to Wazir, the center stack panels come from a different supplier than the other parts. GM is already aware of the problem and working to resolve it. The gray version also had a slight mismatch, but it was far less noticeable. The only other gripe we had with the interior is the silver plastic cover on the center stack and the vent surrounds. GM opted to put a glossy clear coat finish on these parts that we feel makes them look cheap. We would prefer the richer look of a matte or satin finish for these parts – GM has also heard this complaint from others and is considering a change here as well. Wazir explained that the clear coat finish gives the part better durability and resistance to scratches, but while it may be functional, we still don't like it.
Otherwise, the interior is very good. The controls are well-placed and easy to use, with plenty of storage compartments. Models that don't have the optional navigation system get a storage bin above the radio like the one in the Malibu and all models get a bin ahead of the shifter as well as the deep compartment in the center console. That bin is large enough to accommodate a 15-inch laptop computer. It also has auxiliary audio and USB ports that support MP3 players or just thumb-drives with songs on them.
The front seats use a common seat frame developed by GM that is employed on a variety of platforms including the Epsilon II Opel Insignia, Buick LaCrosse and other models. The seats have excellent cushioning which provides decent lateral support and excellent comfort. In this case, one of the advantages of using a common frame is that the lower cushion is longer than found on many cars, thus providing decent thigh support – of our most common complaints. In the back, GM has retained the sliding rear seat that can move fore-aft a total of eight inches. When pushed back, the 112-inch wheelbase allows for positively luxurious legroom. If more cargo room is needed, sliding the seat forward provides extra space for gear or luggage.
How about those fancy new DI engines? They are very good indeed – especially the four-cylinder. This is the first four-cylinder ever offered in the Equinox and it runs smoothly and quietly with no noticeable ticking from the direct fuel injectors. Both the four- and six-cylinder engines at 182 hp and 264 hp respectively make about the same amount of power as the 3.4-liter and 3.6-liter V6 engines used in 2009 models. Unfortunately, the smaller displacement and lack of boosting mean that both engines lack in torque compared to the old engines. The four pot generates 172 lb-ft at 4,900 rpm while the old 3.4-liter V6 produced 210 at 3,800 rpm. Similarly, the previous model's 3.6-liter V6 that produced 250 lb-ft at 2,500 rpm easily trounces the 3.0-liter's 222 lb-ft at a lofty 5,100 rpm. Frankly, we would have preferred that GM go down the turbocharging path with even less displacement for the resulting fatter torque curve. Of course, that would have added cost, which GM was obviously trying to avoid.
Nonetheless, the four-cylinder will still likely be more than sufficient for the majority of drivers who don't need any significant towing capacity. The four can drag along an extra 1,500 pounds, while the V6 can pull 3,500 pounds. The four-cylinder Equinox is no speed demon (neither is the V6 for that matter), but it has enough acceleration that you'll never worry about merging onto freeways or making a pass with a reasonable amount of room. Both six-speed automatic transmissions have been re-calibrated and have much improved shift quality compared to previous versions, especially the larger unit used with the V6.
One new feature of the four-cylinder model is an ECO button located ahead of the shifter. Currently, it just makes adjustments to the shift map and torque converter lock-up points to help enhance fuel efficiency. It's claimed to improve mileage by about 1 mpg overall. Future iterations will likely add control over the electronic throttle response and cruise control, as well. During our drive time in the front-wheel-drive four-cylinder Equinox, we averaged a respectable 26 mpg – not bad for a 3,800-pound non-hybrid CUV.
The aerodynamic work done on the Equinox pays dividends for fuel economy and for NVH. Driving in the Equinox was a remarkably subdued experience. The plastic A-pillar covers on the old model are gone and the windshield is now virtually flush with the surrounding pillars. The result is a drastic reduction in wind noise. Combined with the more rigid body shell (which includes a one-piece body side stamping and acoustic laminated side glass), the Equinox delivers a pleasantly quiet interior.
The Equinox's strut front and multi-link rear suspensions are also well tuned to provide an excellent balance of ride and handling, especially on the base 17-inch wheel and tire package. Front-wheel drive models can have optional 18s, which are standard with all-wheel drive and 19s are optional on AWD versions. Switching to the larger, heavier wheels makes a noticeable difference to ride quality, with small road imperfections being much more likely to pass through to occupants. Another factor that detracts from handling is the all-wheel drive. The extra couple hundred pounds of hardware seem to make it feel much less nimble than the FWD variant, but the system ought to pay dividends when the weather turns sour..
Four-cylinder models get an electric power steering system while the V6s stick with a tried-and-true hydraulic setup. The difference comes down to cost and fuel efficiency. The EPAS is more expensive but draws less power and since GM was trying to max out mileage numbers for the four, it received EPAS. Eventually, as costs come down, EPAS will be offered across the board. Both systems felt about the same at the steering wheel, with comparable levels of effort that were just about ideal. Neither system provide huge amounts of cornering force feedback, although the hydraulic system felt slightly better.
GM is pricing the new Equinox very aggressively and greatly reducing the number of buildable combinations. Most items are now packaged in four trim levels and, including colors, there are now about 1,200 different combinations that the plant can build compared to over 10,000 previously. The base LS model starts at just $23,185 with the four-cylinder engine and front-wheel drive. That's $1,825 less than a 2009 Equinox LS. A maxed out LTZ with every possible option including the V6, all-wheel drive, sunroof and navigation will only be about $35,000. Both four-cylinder and V6 engines and front- or all-wheel drive can be selected at any trim level.
The new Equinox is scheduled to arrive at dealers in the next few weeks. It deserves a look.
Photos Copyright ©2009 Sam Abuelsamid / Weblogs, Inc.
New Car Test Drive
Redesigned for 2010.
The Chevrolet Equinox is redesigned for 2010. That makes this the second generation of this crossover SUV. Though sized more like a midsize SUV, the Equinox has pricing and features of a compact SUV, though now with some luxury and technology amenities not expected in its price class.
The redesigned Equinox is about the same size as the outgoing model. But it has different styling inside and out and two new engine choices. The base engine is an upgraded version of the 2.4-liter four-cylinder that powered the last model. Thanks to direct injection, it now has more power and gets class-leading fuel economy of 32 mpg on the highway. Lots of sound insulation makes it quieter than most four-cylinders, too.
Equinox is also offered with a 3.0-liter V6 that replaces a 3.6-liter V6. It has similar power numbers at 264 horsepower, but it feels much less powerful than the larger V6 it replaces. In fact, we don't think it feels much more powerful than the capable four-cylinder, so we think the base engine is the best choice.
The new Equinox handles better than its predecessor. It is more carlike than the pre-2010 models, with less lean in turns. It's not sporty, but it's on par with its main competitors, including the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. The ride is also quite good. We found that with either the standard 17- or available 18-inch wheels, the Equinox absorbs even sharp bumps without disrupting passenger comfort.
Inside, the Equinox has an attractively designed interior. There are some nice amenities, including ice blue ambient lighting, dual-zone automatic climate control, a hard-drive audio system, a dual-screen rear DVD entertainment system, and a power rear liftgate. The interior materials look and feel like hard plastic, though.
The Equinox offers plenty of space for passengers and cargo. The front seats are comfortable and supportive, and they have 10 inches of travel, so drivers of all sizes with fit. The useful MultiFlex rear seat carries over. It offers eight inches of travel, so tall passengers can ride in back or the driver can push the rear seat forward to carry more cargo.
Its roomy cabin and reasonable pricing make the 2010 Chevrolet Equinox attractive, and buyers can get some nice amenities they wouldn't expect in this price range. While the last model's handling was too sloppy for many, that problem has been remedied, making the Equinox a player in the entry crossover SUV market.
The 2010 Chevy Equinox is offered in LS, 1LT, 2LT and LTZ trim levels, each with front-wheel drive (2WD) or all-wheel drive (AWD). All models come standard with GM's Ecotec four-cylinder engine, now with direct injection technology that improves horsepower from 164 to 182 and torque from 160 to 172 pound-feet. Fuel economy is also improved, as GM says the 2.4-liter four cylinder with achieve 22/32 mpg (city/hwy) with 2WD and 20/29 with AWD. The transmission is a six-speed automatic with an Eco feature that alters the shift points to increase fuel economy by about 1 mpg.
Also offered is a 3.0-liter V6. A derivative of GM's 3.6-liter V6, this engine delivers 264 horsepower and 222 pound-feet of torque. GM quotes fuel economy estimates of 18/25 mpg with front-wheel drive and 17/24 mpg with all-wheel drive. The V6 also comes with a six-speed automatic transmission, but it adds a manual shiftgate.
The 2010 Chevrolet Equinox LS 2WD ($22,440) and LS AWD ($24,190) come with cloth upholstery; air conditioning; cruise control; tilt/telescoping steering column; AM/FM/CD stereo; auxiliary input jack; XM satellite radio; power windows, locks and mirrors; remote keyless entry; four-way power driver's seat; 60/40 split-folding rear seat; driver information center; one year of the OnStar Safe and Sound plan; and P225/65R17 tires on painted alloy wheels.
Equinox LT 2WD ($23,360) and LT AWD ($25,110) get upgraded cloth upholstery, floor mats, a compass, tinted glass, heated mirrors and a roof rack. The 2LT ($25,445) and 2LT AWD ($27,195) get automatic climate control, leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, eight-way power driver's seat, USB port, 250-watt Pioneer audio system, an auto-dimming rearview mirror with a rearview camera display, Bluetooth connectivity, remote engine starting, eight-way power driver's seat and fog lights.
Equinox LTZ ($28,045) and LTZ AWD ($29,795) add leather upholstery, a rear cargo cover, cargo net, roof rack cross bars, memory for the driver's seat and mirrors, heated front seats, rear park assist, automatic headlights, power rear liftgate and chrome exterior trim.
Options include a Cargo Management System ($245) with a rear tonneau cover, a cargo net and roof rail crossbars; a Trailering package ($350) with a 4-pin wire harness and a trailer hitch receiver; a Vehicle Interface Package ($495) with Bluetooth connectivity, a USB port, remote engine starting and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with additional controls; power rear liftgate ($495); sunroof ($795); rear park assist ($195); rearview camera ($320); leather seats ($1,050); heated front seats ($250); 18-inch alloy wheels with P235/55R18 tires ($250); and 19-inch wheels. The available navigation system has voice recognition and comes with a 40-gigabyte hard-drive, premium speakers and a USB port ($2,145). The rear DVD entertainment system comes with a screen in the back of each front seat and the USB port ($1,295).
Safety equipment includes dual threshold front airbags, curtain side airbags, front side airbags, a tire-pressure monitor, anti-lock brakes with brake assist, hill start assist, traction control, and GM's StabiliTrak electronic stability control. A rearview camera and rear park assist are optional, and we recommend them. All-wheel drive enhances stability in slippery conditions.
The Chevrolet Equinox is a small midsize crossover SUV that is priced and equipped to compete with compact SUVs. The Equinox uses a longer version of the Theta architecture that underpins the Saturn Vue, but the new model is about that same size as the old one. Theta is updated from the first-generation Equinox, and that's a good thing because the outgoing model didn't handle very well. The upcoming GMC Terrain will use the same platform.
Up front, the Equinox features Chevrolet's now-signature two-tier grille with gold bowtie insignia. The headlights wrap around the front fenders. Air ducts sit below the headlights and, in models so equipped, they house fog lights in chromed bezels that bisect the openings. The lower front fascia is charcoal-colored plastic and it has an air dam in the center. The LTZ model and the 2LT with the Chrome Appearance Package add metallic trim pieces to the lower portion of the air dam opening. The hood has three character lines and is shorter than the last one because Chevrolet moved the base of the windshield forward three inches, creating a more slippery shape. The new Equinox has a 0.36 coefficient of drag versus the 0.42 CD of the outgoing model.
Around the sides, the Equinox has pronounced fender flares and a wheels-at-the-corners stance, especially up front. The roof features wraparound side glass at the rear and tinted rear and rear side windows. All but the LS model has luggage side rails; they're charcoal on LT models and they add chrome inserts on the LTZ and the 2LT with the Chrome Appearance Package. That package also adds chrome door handles and side mirrors. Seventeen-inch aluminum wheels are standard and 18- and 19-inch wheels are available.
At the rear, the Equinox has dual round taillights, a takeoff of the Malibu design, and a roof spoiler. The tailgate opens upward, and a class-exclusive power, programmable tailgate is offered. Owners can program the tailgate to open to different heights so shorter drivers can reach it. Overall, the look is attractive. The LTZ's additional chrome trim adds a touch of class, especially with the chromed 19-inch wheels.
Chevrolet says the Equinox's interior is inspired by the interior of the successful Malibu midsize sedan. While that may be true when it comes to aesthetics, it's not true in terms of execution. The Equinox lacks the Malibu's soft-touch surfaces and thoughtful flourishes of chrome trim. Instead, like the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V that Chevrolet benchmarked when developing this vehicle, the Equinox has hard plastic on the entirety of the dashboard, as well as on the center console and door panels. Elements of the Malibu's attractive double-cockpit design are there, but we'd like to see more soft-touch surfaces, tighter gaps and some wood, aluminum or chrome trim.
There are, however, some nice touches. The available ice blue ambient lighting is a delightful feature. It's standard on all models, but you get more as you go up the range. LS models have it on the center stack surround and in the center console cupholders. LTs add it on the instrument panel and center console, and the LTZ also gets it in the door handle recesses, in the footwells and in the doors' map pockets. The Equinox also offers some other amenities not expected in the class, including dual-zone automatic climate control, a hard-drive audio system and a dual-screen rear DVD entertainment system.
The instrument panel is attractive. The speedometer and tachometer feature white numbers and black backgrounds. They are set in large pods and in between are water temperature and fuel gauges, as well as a digital trip computer readout. The base interior has a storage cubby at the top of the center stack. When the navigation system is ordered, it sits in this spot. The controls on the center stack are grouped in a tight bunch, with the radio buttons up top and the climate controls at the bottom. With the navigation system, there are 43 buttons, dials and knobs. It's a bit less confusing without the navigation system, but it's going to take some getting used to. All of the controls are easy to reach, and the area is trimmed in a good-looking clear-coated silver-painted plastic.
Space is not a problem in the Equinox. Cloth or leather, the front seats are comfortable and supportive. GM obviously spent some money here. They are especially attractive in leather, with their two-tone coloring and contrast stitching. The front seats have 10 inches of travel and the steering wheel tilts and telescopes, so everyone from the very short to the very tall will be comfortable. The rear seat continues with the useful MultiFlex system, which includes a reclining feature and eight inches of travel fore and aft. With the rear seat all the way back, a tall rider can fit behind a tall driver. When the rear seat is pushed fully forward, rear cargo capacity is 31.4 cubic feet. The rear seat is also split 60/40 and it folds to open up a total of 63.7 cubic feet of cargo space. The load floor is fairly flat.
Anyone who avoided the first-generation Equinox due to its cumbersome handling characteristics no longer has to worry about that problem. The Equinox is now more carlike. The copious body lean is gone and passengers can ride in comfort without their heads being tossed side to side with every flick of the steering wheel. The steering is light and somewhat numb, and the brakes are easy to modulate, but the new Equinox is every bit as good as a Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4 in terms of handling.
It rides well, too. With the standard 17-inch wheels, the Equinox absorbs even sharp bumps without disrupting passenger comfort. The available 18-inch wheels also provided a comfortable ride on rough Southeast Michigan streets. My only complaint is a bit of body drumming over washboard surfaces.
The standard 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine is upgraded this year with the addition of direct fuel injection, which improves both power and fuel economy. It provides usable power from a stop and on the highway, and it even offers decent passing punch. Chevrolet quotes a 0-60 mph time of 8.6 seconds for a front-wheel drive model, which is pretty quick for a four-cylinder-powered vehicle of this size.
Fuel economy for the 2.4-liter four-cylinder is an EPA-rated 22/32 mpg City/Highway on an Equinox with front-wheel drive. That's class-leading fuel economy. Not even the smaller RAV4 or CR-V can match the Equinox's 32 mpg Highway figure. And thanks to plenty of sound-deadening material and acoustic glass in the windshield and front windows, the 2.4-liter is smoother and quieter than most four-cylinder engines.
For 2010, Chevrolet switched from a 3.6-liter V6 to a 3.0-liter V6 as the top engine in the Equinox. While the horsepower rating is the same at 264 horses, the 3.0 has 28 less pound-feet of torque and, on the road, it feels considerably less powerful. (We didn't have EPA fuel economy ratings for the new 3.0-liter V6 at press time; the previous 3.6-liter V6 engine was rated 16/24 mpg, while the previous 3.4-liter V6 was rated 17/24 mpg.) We found the new 3.0-liter V6 doesn't feel that much stronger than the standard 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. Chevy says a front-drive Equinox with the V6 can accelerate to 60 mph in 7.8 seconds. That's less than a second faster than the four-cylinder, and the V6 costs more while getting worse fuel economy.
In short, we recommend the four-cylinder models as being a better value.
The Chevy Equinox is sized like a midsize and priced like a compact. Equinox offers useful interior space for people and cargo, as well as class-leading fuel economy. It looks good, has a smooth, comfortable ride, and now handles much better than its predecessor. Small families looking to downsize from a large, inefficient SUV will find the Equinox a good value.
New Car Test Drive correspondent Kirk Bell filed this report from Detroit.
Chevrolet Equinox LS 2WD ($22,440); LS AWD ($24,190); 1LT 2WD ($23,360); 1LT AWD ($25,110); 2LT FWD ($25,445); 2LT AWD ($27,195); LTZ 2WD ($28,045); LTZ AWD ($29,795).
Ingersoll, Ontario, Canada.
Options As Tested
leather upholstery with heated front seats ($1050); power programmable rear liftgate ($495).
Chevrolet Equinox FWD 2LT ($25,445).
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