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2012 Chevrolet Equinox Review By Steve Purdy

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A Most Improved Player

By Steve Purdy
Bureau Chief
Michigan Bureau

High on my list of “most improved” players in the small CUV game is the Chevy Equinox. We first saw this new generation of Equinox a couple of years ago in a preview prior to the Detroit auto show. I found most surprising the up-scale interior and an overall design that took a huge step forward from the previous generation of the formerly tepid Equinox. On top of that visual appeal the claim of over 30-mpg standard put the icing on the cake.

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Our tester this week is the V6-powered, front-wheel drive, 2LT - the mid-trim level. This is not the 32-mpg version, but it comes well equipped with a base price of $26,870. Optioned with the V6 engine, leather seats and 18-inch chrome wheels the list price is $30,980. The bottom-of-the-line LS starts at $23,530, and the top-of-the-line LTZ starts at a hefty $29,220. All three levels start with the flex-fuel capable 2.4-liter four-cylinder and all come with the same six-speed automatic transmission.

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The interior is beautifully appointed with materials and design you might expect in a pricier vehicle. The stylish perforated brown leather seats with red stitching have plenty of lateral support and adjustability. A multi-function, leather-wrapped steering wheel fills our fists for a nice chunky feel. The 7-inch screen, knobs and buttons are all mounted high on the center stack for good visibility and easy reach, but even with a week of living with the car I didn’t get acclimated enough to be able to just glance over and find what I wanted with buttons or screen. A handy, deep bin occupies the lower third of the stack.

My main complaint inside is that, even with the power seat in the lowest position and the adjustable steering wheel in its highest position, the top of the gauges were obscured by the wheel. I’m not a person with a particularly long torso but it seemed so when trying to get a full view of the instrument cluster.

Oh, and one other niggle: I wonder why the front windows have the express down feature but not express up. It seems like such a simple thing they could include to keep from annoying curmudgeons like me.

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Rear seat passenger room is generous, maybe even best-in-class, with 60/40 split folding seat backs. Cargo area with seats backs in position is a less-than-stellar 31.4 cubic feet and folded we have a decent 63.7 cubic feet to fill with our stuff. A space-saver spare resides below the rear floor and fills that space.

This 3.0-liter V6, rated at 17-mpg in the city and 24 on the highway uses regular fuel and makes a substantial 264 horsepower and 222 pound-feet of torque. It’s good for a meager 8.3 second 0-to-60 time. I managed 23.1 mpg on about a tank and a half of mostly highway driving. An 18.8-gallon fuel tank equates to a cruising range of something less than 400 miles. A six-speed automatic transmission with manual mode is the only transmission available.

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Acceleration feels better than that 0-to-60 time might imply. Gearing and transmission response are well calibrated. It easily and quickly downshifts from sixth to fifth when cruising and it never felt doggy. Of course, we did not scale any long mountain slopes. Occasionally the shifts are just a tad jerky but when using the manual mode they are smooth and easy.

The Equinox was a pleasure to drive - smooth and quiet with a fairly light touch to steering and other controls. Seating position is high, of course, and the suspension might be just a bit stiff for some tastes. After a few days with the Equinox, though, I did not notice any harshness at all. It rides on a conventional strut front and multi-link rear suspension.

Towing capacity is listed at 1,500 pounds with the 4-cylinder and 3,500 with the V6, but those ratings may require some special equipment. If properly equipped you could haul a pretty nice boat or camper with our V6 Equinox.

Equinox has earned the IIHS top safety pick with lots of airbags, chassis dynamic controls and tire pressure monitor and standard rear view camera along with lots of other safety related features. Lane departure warning and forward collision alert are now available as well.

Bumper to bumper warranty covers the Equinox for 3 years or 36,000 miles and the powertrain coverage is 5 years or 100,000 miles. It comes with OnStar service for three months. After that you’ll have to buy a subscription.

The small CUV segment is crowded with excellent products like Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Kia Sportage and many more. ( See Comparisons) Equinox stands out for its sophistication, quiet interior, rear seat roominess and overall style, but not so much its cargo space. If the latter is not an issue for you and you’re in the market for a nice small CUV, don’t neglect the Equinox.

Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved