2011 Chevrolet Equinox: Worth a look

Strong points
  • Meticulous passenger compartment
  • Good trim level selection
  • Fuel efficient engines
  • Excellent style
Weak points
  • Over-assisted steering
  • 3/4 rear visibility
Full report

The Chevrolet Equinox is one of several interesting vehicles in the compact SUV category, and its latest generation – introduced last year – continues to play its cards right. So much so that the  Equinox, which is manufactured in Ingersoll, Ontario, can hold its own with the category’s big guns, especially when it comes to fuel economy.

Aesthetically, the Equinox has very nice lines. I was smitten right away. Our test model was painted Summit White, which gave it a more sophisticated look. It had the classic Chevrolet front grille and prominent fenders for added stature. The nicest part is without a doubt the tail end, thanks to the forward-slanting rear pillars and wraparound windows. The new generation Equinox has kept the same wheelbase, but it’s now shorter and 25 mm wider.

Engine economics

Offered at an accessible base price, the Equinox has three trim levels: LS, LT and the swanky LTZ.  The LS has a good list of standard equipment, but the better choice is the Equinox LT that offers a few supplementary features without adding too much to the final price. All versions can be ordered with all-wheel drive but only two engines are offered. The Equinox LS and LT come standard with a brand new 2.4-litre four-cylinder that develops 182 horsepower. This engine can hold its own, but it’s not about to turn the Equinox into an F1 car. Fuel economy is this engine’s main selling point, and the manufacturer isn’t shy about pointing it out. Thanks to its modern technology, namely direct fuel injection and a six-speed automatic transmission, this four-cylinder offers good fuel economy. In fact, it’s just as efficient, if not more so, than several Japanese rivals. That’s something that GM isn’t used to hearing.

Offered on option on the Equinox LT and factory standard on the Equinox LTZ, the 3.0-litre six-cylinder adds a bit of energy thanks in part to its 264 horses, but mainly thanks to its 222 lbs.-ft. of torque. Paired with a six-speed automatic gearbox, this engine features quite reasonable fuel consumption. However, the six-cylinder isn’t a must, since the four-cylinder does the trick. That said, if your towing needs are significant, go for the six-cylinder and its 3,500-lb towing capacity. The four-cylinder can tow only 1,500 lbs.

A meticulous passenger compartment

The Equinox looks good from the outside, but you’ll really see all the work that GM has done once you actually climb in. The passenger compartment is light years ahead of what we saw on past Chevrolet products. First of all, the quality of the materials on the doors and dashboard is far superior, both visually and to the touch. The floating central console features excellent ergonomics and its design is both modern and attractive.

The passenger compartment becomes a little more sophisticated once night falls, thanks to its ultra-modern blue ambient lighting. Even the cup holders and the rim around the central console light up. Basically, the Equinox’s passenger compartment exudes wealth and quality, while remaining functional. High marks also go to the fabric seats that offer good support and comfort.

In the back, the passengers have lots of room, while you can maximize the cargo space thanks to a 60/40 fold-down bench. Side storage compartments add to its practicality, but they take away from the width of the loading space somewhat.

On the road

You’ll notice that there isn’t much noise in the passenger compartment. External noises are kept at bay, and only the four-cylinder’s higher gears can be heard, mainly in sportier conditions.  The Equinox offers a pleasant ride. Weight transfer is minimized by the four-wheel independent suspension, which strikes a good compromise between comfort and stability. You really feel like you’re in control of the vehicle. However, less assisted steering would have allowed drivers to feel the road a little better. The Equinox’s integrated structure also makes it quite rigid.

The four-cylinder engine is relatively spunky and its six-speed automatic gearbox maximizes the available power. If fuel economy is a concern, simply select “Eco” mode using a control on the dashboard. This setting helps reduce fuel consumption by modifying the engine’s fuel supply and shifting. Unfortunately, this mode makes the transmission a little lazier. Time to get your priorities straight!

The Equinox has clearly evolved. This SUV has a lot to offer and can finally hold its own when compared to similar vehicles on the market. It seems that this time Chevrolet thought of everything!

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