Honda CR-V, Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento, Mitsubishi Outlander, Pontiac Aztek, Saturn Vue, Suzuki XL7
Chevy joins the mid-sized, car-based SUV segment
The Equinox SUV is the latest model in Chevy's new product blitz, and it fills a niche that is very popular with competitors.
The car-based Equinox stacks up against the Ford Escape, Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. It is available in LS or LT trim levels, with front-wheel or all-wheel drive. The base price is $21,560, and loaded LT models top out around $28,000. Dealers should be receiving them now.
Equinox may be late to the party, but it has a standard V-6, an adjustable rear seat and a host of clever items that separate it from its rivals. Convenience is key. A purse will fit between the front seats, and the floor of the rear cargo area lifts out to become a luggage cover or a tray table for tailgating. The cargo area is dotted with tie-downs that are designed so it is easy to get a finger inside, yet they don't stick up to mar whatever it is you haul.
Equinox shares its chassis with the Saturn Vue, but it has been lengthened 6 inches for this application. Most of the additional room has been put into the movable back seat that is similar in concept to that of the Malibu Maxx. The seat adjuster slides 8 inches. When it is forward, it is easy to reach a child in a safety seat. When it is back, adults have the kind of legroom normally found in full-size sedans.
When the sliding seat is folded, the cargo floor is not quite flat, and the depth of the cargo hold is compromised a bit. For most users, however, the loss of depth will not be a major problem.
The Equinox is one of the most handsome vehicles in Chevy's fleet. The body is lean and taut, with the wheels pushed out to the edges for a muscular stance. It takes a very careful eye to notice that the Equinox and Vue share the same windshield and roofline. Otherwise, the two are very different. The Equinox looks better than the Vue in part because the metal body panels fit tightly. The one exception is a sizable gap between the clamshell hood and the top of the front fender.
The Equinox does not get the 250-horsepower Honda V-6 that now rides in the nose of the Vue. Chevy folks said that Honda does not have the capacity to supply enough engines for both vehicles, and the Honda engine is more expensive, to boot.
The Equinox makes do with the 185-horsepower, 3.4-liter V-6 that is similar to the one in Chevy's minivan. This engine, however, is manufactured in China and it is mated to a five-speed automatic transmission that makes it seem more energetic than it is in other applications. Traction control is standard on front-wheel-drive models. Maximum towing capacity is 3,500 pounds with the towing package.
The Equinox has electric power steering, but it felt abnormally heavy when turning and accelerating at the same time.
The Equinox and the Vue use the same instrument panel, but the gauge package is different, as is the silver texture. The space alongside the shift lever is a great place to toss sunglasses, for example. I would prefer to have the power window switches on the door instead of the console.
Front airbags are standard, while side-curtain airbags are optional. Antilock brakes are standard on the LT and optional on the LS.
An independent rear suspension gives the Equinox responsive handling and a comfortable ride. The standard 5-speed automatic helps the engine to be more responsive.