The Chevrolet Equinox first arrived in 2005, as a ‘just right’-sized crossover utility vehicle a little larger than most compact crossovers like the Ford Escape, a little larger than three-row mid-sizers like the Toyota Highlander. With a five-seat cabin, a spacious interior with good cargo space, the Equinox competes, as you might guess, with a very wide swath of not-so-rugged crossover wagons, including the Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue (and Murano), Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento, Dodge Journey, Subaru Outback and Forester, Toyota RAV4, and Suzuki XL7.
First introduced in 2005 as a part of GM’s “Theta” family of vehicles, which includes, throughout various model years, the Saturn Vue, Suzuki XL7 and Pontiac Torrent. That edition of the Equinox continued to be sold with front- or all-wheel drive, and four- or six-cylinder engines, through the 2009 model year. Reviewers appreciated its interior room, but its coarse, old-tech V-6 engine and dull styling were outdone by the competing vehicles from Honda, Ford, Toyota and Subaru. In 2008, Chevrolet added a smoother, more powerful V-6 to the Equinox lineup (and to the Pontiac Torrent as well).
The much-improved current Chevrolet Equinox first went on sale for 2010. It’s mechanically similar to the new GMC Terrain, and is somewhat related to the 2010 Cadillac SRX. The current Equinox comes with either a four-cylinder engine and a six-speed automatic transmission, rated up to 32 mpg highway, or as a V-6 crossover with an automatic transmission and an all-wheel-drive option.
Good ride quality; safe, secure handling; and an improved feature set are all hallmarks of the current version. At the same time, it retains its exceptionally roomy second-row seat, which slides on a track to increase passenger foot room or to boost cargo space in the rear. There is no option for third-row seating, however. With many new luxury features added to the latest Equinox, it’s relatively easy to push its $22,500 base price up near $30,000–where a seven-passenger Chevrolet Traverse wagon might make more sense. Competitive vehicles such as the Toyota RAV4 and Kia Sorento offer a third-row option, while others like the Ford Escape can be bought in fuel-saving Hybrid trim. That said, even for 2012, the Equinox’s EPA rating of 32 mpg highway is hard to beat among non-hybrids in this class.
The Equinox models, as well as the nearly identical GMC Terrain, are built at Ingersoll, Ontario, in a factory formerly shared with Suzuki. The Equinox saw few major changes for 2011 or 2012, although it did get expanded availability of a rear-view camera system, as well as blind-spot mirrors, to help with visibility, and for 2012 the touch-screen-based MyLink Connectivity system–for easier connectivity for hands-free calling or media access–was phased in as an option.