by The Car Family
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As part of a growing trend of corpulent crossover SUVs, the new Chevrolet Equinox moves closer to the front of the class with this noble effort. Gone is the smaller version that we adored, but apparently we were in the minority as sales were slow. The updated version is much larger and gets better fuel mileage if you go with the standard engine. Gone is the nimbleness of the older model and its more sporty handling. In other words, the new Equinox reflects the growing trend that implies that buyers seem to prefer more bulk without sacrificing fuel economy. Chevrolet has hit this mark dead on and can now go head to head with the recently enlarged Subarus, Fords, and Chrysler product while still being as environmentally sound as the Japanese brands.
Clearly, this is Chevrolet’s finest SUV to date if you consider the price, efficiency, and nearly 64 cubic feet of cargo space. The styling and interior treatments are also near the top of the class as well. Although it is lacking the third seat option, which we find is a good thing on all SUVs since it takes away a lot of the cargo space. Indeed there is little that the Equinox does not do well for the money.
We recommend the base LS model with the lower priced trim level called the 1LT. You get a goodly amount of safety features from airbags nearly everywhere to stability control for under $23,000. You can get options from a rear-seat entertainment system to all wheel drive, to a larger engine, but these can easily push the price can easily top $30,000.
The base engine is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder that produces 182 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque. The optional 3.0-liter V6 with its 264 hp and 222 lb-ft of torque is fairly frisky, but more thirsty. Both engines come with a smooth-shifting six-speed automatic transmission.
Mom’s view: The vision to the front, sides, and rear take a while to get used to and I would look for a rear view back-up camera for sure. The hood falls away sharply making it difficult to judge where the front bumper is when parking. The B pillar also blocks vision to the side. I should note here that the previous Equinox was one of my favorite SUVs except for the thin rear cargo area. . The new one reminds me of a young colt just getting used to his legs. It is ready to go, but unsure of itself, especially on turns. In other words, this Chevrolet is a good highway cruiser, but no canyon cutter. The sliding rear seat can be folded or slid forward and is easy to fold down, but be warned that the rear bumper can get your outfit dirty while attempting to pull up the second row of seats.
The interior has a clean design that has a modern appearance and is a vast improvement over its predecessor. The seats don’t feel comfortable and need more cushioning if you take it on a long trip. Our test car was a fairly base model, but the GPS and the stereo were excellent. The steering wheel tilted and telescoped, but no matter what I did I still had problems with visibility to the back and sides. The back seat was very comfortable and the reclining split rear seat also can be folded down without much effort and leaves a flat floor and nearly 64 cubic feet of storage. You must order the $495 power rear liftgate as reaching up to close the rear hatch is a reach, no pun intended, for those who are 5’2”or closer to the ground.
The crash scores have been excellent and the car comes with ABS and air bags aplenty. However, I found the steering is little lax and the brake had a softness that could be improved.
Dad’s view: The plus for buying an Equinox is simply the extraordinary gas mileage. In mixed driving we easily got 26 mpg, and the government claims over 30 mpg on the highway. However, you don’t get that economy with the larger engine so drive models equipped with each engine to make sure you really need that extra power. Both the standard engine and the optional V-6 have direct injection and a six-speed automatic transmission. The transmission does its best, but when confronted with a long grade it has a bit of indecision. In normal driving it keeps the four-cylinder engine working on task.
Young working woman’s view: Skip the Equinox and get its twin sister the GMC Terrain. For almost the same cost you get a much better-equipped SUV. However, the Terrain isn’t as sharp looking. The ride is very relaxed even when challenged by highway corners. High speed events are more of an, well, event. Rough roads can prove to be tiresome as it does ride a tad stiff legged. Again, I like the Terrain better in terms of ride comfort and there are more family options with the GMC.
Working in analyzing computer data makes you a bit more analytical when driving a car as new to the world as the Equinox. As it name implies, it is a happy medium type of vehicle. A SUV for those who really don’t need a globby SUV. A SUV for those who want compact car fuel mileage. A SUV for those who don’t have an excess of room in their garage.
Young working male’s view: Making open sourced computers (http://www.eracks.com )and servers two things are apparent. First, you need the ability to expand, secondly, you need it in a smaller package. The Equinox does just the opposite. It offers a larger size, but no extra interior room. It just looks like you are getting more for your money. The reliability data has shown this Chevrolet to be average and the three year, limited mileage warranty may be an area to be discussed when ordering this vehicle. My experience has been that most problems occur within the first year.
EPA estimates are a startling. The two wheel drive, four cylinder model is reporting a 22/32 mile per gallon range and that beats every other competitor. Even with all wheel drive the Equinox is superior. Of course, you don’t get exciting acceleration, but the 182 horsepower base engine is good for most work, although the towing limit isn’t what you would expect from looking at its bulk with a 1,500 pound rating. You can lug more with the larger engine.
Although this rig is too large for me, it has an appeal that far outstrips its price. I would certainly order the optional backup camera as there isn’t much vision rearward. The screen for this unit is in the mirror, which really makes sense, although it could be larger, but for under $350 it is a bargain. The two small rear monitors on the entertainment system work fine, but the cost is nearly $1300 for this option. The GPS is sophisticated with a a 40GB hard drive to store your personal music selections but these two add over $2000 to the bottom line. All wheel drive is another option, but it cuts down on your fuel mileage, but it may recoup some of the $1750 cost at resale. A must have for those of us who need to stay linked is the $500 Vehicle Interface Package. This package provides a USB port for connecting a your iPod or whatever to the stereo and also adds remote start and Bluetooth compatibility. Well worth it.
This is truly a middle-class vehicle. It isn’t my favorite, but I couldn’t argue with its value or looks. If you have a small family and want the high seating of a SUV this is a best buy.
Family conference: The main competitors, the Toyota RAV4 and the Honda CR-V are nearly identical in price, but lack the Equinox’s great gas mileage ratings. They do offer more usable storage and presently have higher resale value. The bottom line is whether or not you are daring enough to leave the arms of the competition in favor of this new Chevrolet? We think that if you are used to driving a SUV this one could well win you over and clearly moves the Equinox to the top of the four-cylinder class.
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