Chevrolet was not the first to the table with a small, car-based crossover, but the five-door, 2010 Equinox deserves subsequent applause for a comfortable, quiet ride and refreshingly stylish interior.
Equinox is built in Ontario, Canada. For the past several years, its corporate cousin, the Pontiac Torrent, was built alongside. Now that parent General Motors is discontinuing the Pontiac division, Torrent's days are limited while Equinox lives to ride another day. The uni-body Equinox is built for on-road, not off-road travel. Chevy's larger, truck-based Tahoe can handle mud, sand and trail-rated roads if that's on the docket. No gas-electric hybrid Equinox is available...yet.
While Chevrolet likes to peg Equinox as a 'compact,' its dimensions skew more towards mid-size. With an overall length of 187.8 inches, Equinox is about 10 inches longer than the Honda CR-V, the small crossover segment's best seller. Equinox offers six-cylinder power as well as an inline four-cylinder variant, three trim levels (LS, LT and LTZ) and the choice of front or all-wheel drive in each trim; so there's a flavor to match just about any taste.
In addition to CR-V, this segment is chuck full of sometimes better known names including the Mitsubishi Outlander, Toyota RAV4, Nissan Murano, Hyundai Santa Fe, Mazda CX-7, Dodge Journey and Ford Escape. Equinox debuted in 2005 and 2010 marks a well executed, next-generation makeover.
Gone from the 2010 version is the 3.6-liter, V-6 engine replaced with an all-new, more fuel efficient 3.0-liter V-6 delivering 264 horsepower. This V-6 is optional in LT and LTZ models and not available in the entry LS. Standard in all trims is an all-new, very peppy inline 2.4-liter four-cylinder delivering 182 horses. Both feature fuel-saving, direct-injection technology coupled with variable valve timing. Chevy expects about 75 percent of sales to be driven by the impressive four-cylinder.
A front-drive four-cylinder model breaks the 30-mile-per-gallon barrier with an estimated 22 mpg city and 32 mpg highway; this is one of the most fuel-efficient four-cylinder engines in the compact or mid-size crossover class. In all-wheel variants, the four cylinder generates 20 mpg city and 29 highway, still impressive. The 3.0-liver V-6 averages 18 mpg city and 24 mpg highway in front drive models and 17/23 with all-wheel drive. The fuel tank holds 18.8 gallons of regular, 87-octane fuel in four-cylinder models and 20.9 gallons in V-6 editions. A more fuel-efficient six-speed automatic transmission now comes standard.
Chevrolet made a wise choice by marketing Equinox as a five-passenger; no third row is offered. Some compact/mid-size crossovers try to shoe-horn in a third row, but the results are crushing unless those sampling the seats wear a size four shoe. Chevy's all-new Traverse crossover is larger in size with an easily accessible third row accommodating grown ups.
Another benefit of the long 112.5-inch wheelbase (distance between front and rear axle) is a convenient rear entry. Back doors are wide enough and rear wheel wells are pushed back far enough to eliminate unwanted and unneeded contortion when entering and exiting.
Pricing for an entry, front-drive LS starts at $22,440. Our top-line LTZ front-drive, four-cylinder trim checked in at $28,045 and ended at $33,025 with $745 destination charge. Options included a $795 moon roof and upgraded audio system with in-dash navigation and rear DVD-entertainment package ($3,440).
Up level LTZ editions include a power liftgate, heated power outside mirrors (that tilt down when the vehicle is in reverse), fog lamps, heated front leather seats and more exterior chrome nuances. The inside of the lift door includes a cupped portion contoured with finger grips for easier manual closing. Standard in all trims is air conditioning, XM Satellite Radio, compact disc player, auxiliary jacks for portable music systems, cruise control, rear window defogger and power locks, mirrors and windows.
Our test LTZ boasts the surprising quiet eco 2.4-liter inline four cylinder. No tinny engine sounds one experienced with the long running (and eventually long-in-the-tooth) compact Chevrolet Cavalier four-cylinder. This new powertrain combines great fuel efficiency with a quite-cycling design. Inside, the ambiance is that of a much more expensive luxury vehicle.
Front bucket seats (leatherette in the test LTZ, cloth in LS and LT) tilt towards the softer side rather than extra firm. The top-line LTZ includes a red-and-black stitching pattern adding to the up-level ambiance. Chevrolet had done an excellent job in the past couple of years of upgrading the entire ambiance of their interiors. Gone are garage-sale-like cloths and pliable plastic dashboard, replaced instead with two-tone color schemes. The handsome instrument panel and dashboard add to a fresh feel. Chevrolet includes plenty of storage nooks for stuff in addition to the deep-set arm rest/storage bin between the front bucket seats. Headroom is good in front and back.
Below the ventilation system in the center dash stack is a large, deep, tunnel-like area and in back of the automatic transmission shifter (with extra large, illuminated PRND lettering) is a smaller region for cell phones, wallets or personal music devices. Dual, inline beverage holders are to the right of the shifter. All doors have single cup holders molded inside. The only item seemingly out of place is the power door locks, located near the stereo in the center column, not on the driver's door adjacent to the power door locks and outside mirror controls.
The stereo system, with standard XM Satellite Radio and compact disc player, sits atop in the center stack flanked by large, narrow, vertical air vents. Smaller four-sided vents are at each end of the dash. The large glove box has no patrician, so stowing larger items is possible.
In back, three adults could cope together for an extended ride thanks to no floor hump traversing the vehicle. If more cargo area is required, seatbacks fold down directly onto the cushion (no need to disassemble the headrests). An optional rear DVD entertainment system utilizes dual flip-up screens built into the backsides of the tall front seatbacks. Each screen can accommodate its own movie or game, helping to eliminate some sibling rivalry or arguments. Rear seats travel eight inches fore and aft to maximize leg room and comfort.