2010 Chevrolet Equinox: Review
By Kirk Bell of MSN Autos
The small sport-ute category is dominated by Toyota and Honda. So it's big news when a new compact SUV comes out that can compete with them, and that's exactly what the new Chevy Equinox has done.
While the first-generation Equinox bested those competitors in terms of size and space, it was an ill-handling beast with an interior completely compromised by too many cost-cutting measures.
Redesigned for 2010, the second-generation Chevy Equinox keeps its size advantage while adding class-leading fuel economy, much-improved handling and an upgraded (but still a little chintzy) interior.
Available options include a rear DVD entertainment system with two screens, a navigation system that is paired with a 40-gigabyte hard drive to hold music and picture files, a sunroof, a towing package and 18- and 19-inch wheels and tires.
Standard 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.
Under the Hood
Also offered is a 3.0-liter V6 that replaces GM's 3.6-liter V6. A derivative of the 3.6, this engine also features direct injection and delivers 264 horsepower and 222 lb-ft 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 6-speed automatic transmission, but it adds a manual shift gate.
If Chevrolet really wanted to best the competition, it would have made the dashboard richer, with soft-touch surfaces, tighter gaps and some wood, aluminum or chrome trim. That's not too much to ask, considering that the Equinox's price can reach $36,000. The available "ice blue" ambient lighting is a nice feature, though, and the Equinox does offer some 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.
Space is not a problem, front or rear. The front seats are comfortable in cloth or leather. The seats have 10 inches of travel, and the steering wheel tilts and telescopes, so everyone from the very short to the very tall is accommodated. The rear seat carries over the useful MultiFlex system, which includes a reclining feature and eight inches of travel fore and aft. Slide the rear seat all the way back and a tall rider can fit behind a tall driver. Slide it fully forward and you can expand rear cargo space to 31.4 cubic feet. The rear seat is split 60/40, and it folds to open up a total of 63.7 cubic feet of cargo space. The load floor isn't completely flat, but that just means that Chevrolet decided that adding seat padding was more important than a flat load floor. We agree.
On the Road
The ride isn't bad, either. With the standard 17-inch wheels, the Equinox absorbs just about any rut, dip or pothole the road can put under it without disrupting passenger comfort. Our only complaint is a bit of body drumming over washboard surfaces. We also tested the Equinox with the available 18-inch wheels and didn't feel a difference.
The base engine is upgraded this year with the addition of direct fuel injection, which improves both power and fuel economy. The upgrade works: the base 2.4-liter four cylinder provides usable power from a stop and on the highway. It even offers decent passing punch and is smoother than most four cylinders. Chevrolet quotes a zero-to-60 mph time of 8.6 seconds, and that may even be a bit low. The 2.4 also offers class-leading fuel economy. Not even the smaller RAV4 or CR-V can match the Equinox's 32 mpg highway figure.
That's the good news. The bad news is that Chevrolet opted to switch from a 3.6-liter V6 to a 3.0-liter V6 as the top engine in the Equinox lineup. While the horsepower rating is the same as that of the outgoing 3.6, the 3.0 has 28 less pound-feet of torque and, on the road, it feels considerably less powerful. In fact, the V6 doesn't feel that much more powerful than the four cylinder. Chevy says the 3.0 can launch a front-drive Equinox to 60 mph in 7.8 seconds, but that's less than a second faster than the four banger. Given the $1,500 price difference and the fuel economy penalty, we'd recommend the four.
Right for You?
Kirk Bell has served as the associate publisher for Consumer Guide Automotive and editor of Scale Auto Enthusiast magazine. A Midwest native, Bell brings 18 years of automotive journalism experience to MSN, andcurrently contributes to JDPower.com and Kelley Blue Book's kbb.com.