Test Drive: 2010 Chevrolet Equinox

Redesigned midsize crossover SUV has improved, yet falls short of standout status - except for impressive four-cylinder fuel economy

by James M. Flammang

2010 Chevrolet Equinox LT

General Motors clearly needs some strong products, following up on such excellent recent vehicles as the current Chevrolet Malibu. Redesigning of the compact Equinox crossover, which first debuted for 2005, should have given Chevrolet a powerful contender in that crowded segment. New powertrains yield impressive gas-mileage figures, but the overall Equinox experience doesn't quite measure up.

Three trim levels are offered: LS, LT, and top-of-the-line LTZ. Each has a standard 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, featuring high-efficiency direct injection and output of 182 horsepower. Chevrolet claims a fuel-economy estimate of a moderate 22 mpg in city driving, but a frugal 32 mpg on the highway (said to be one-third greater than its predecessor). All-wheel drive drops those figures to 20/29 mpg.

Picking the optional 264-horsepower, 3.0-liter direct-injected V-6 sends those estimates even further downward: to 17 mpg in city driving and just 25 mpg on the highway. All models have a six-speed automatic transmission, but the four-cylinder version includes an "eco" mode that alters shift points to boost fuel economy.

Built on the same 112.5-inch wheelbase as before, the five-passenger Equinox has lost an inch in length (now 187.8 inches), but gained an inch in width. Standing 66.3 inches tall, the crossover wagon has standard 17-inch wheels, but 18- or 19-inch tires are available on step-up LT and LTZ models. Rocker panels are integrated into the doors, to ease entry/exit. Moving the windshield base forward 3 inches promises a "sleeker profile," according to Chevrolet.

Six airbags are standard, including head-curtain side airbags and pelvic/thorax seat-mounted airbags. StabiliTrak stability-enhancement also is standard. GM's OnStar emergency/assistance system is included, along with satellite radio.

More carlike and refined than its predecessor, and generally more satisfying, the 2010 Equinox still fails to stand out substantially, compared to the original model or its crossover competitor. Clearly better built, with a solid feel, the new model nevertheless comes across as nothing special.

Acceleration is lackluster with the four-cylinder engine, hampered by considerable delay to downshift as needed. Yes, the quiet-running Equinox responds smoothly to the gas pedal; but tamely, qualifying as adequate but not much more.

Excessively light steering seems inappropriate for this vehicle. Although it's easy enough to drive, the Equinox is a bit cumbersome, giving little sense of where the wheels are positioned. Visibility is okay except over the right shoulder, past a wide C-pillar.

Getting inside is especially easy past a low door sill, and the driving position is satisfactory, if a tad low. Gauges are simple but easily readable. Nicely cushioned seats offer good support, with abundant front-seat room. Space in the rear seat also is abundant, except for a very hard center seatback. Rear side positions are quite comfortable.

Though generally smooth, the ride can get somewhat stiff-feeling at times on rougher surfaces. An Equinox recovers smartly, though, from any bumps or holes.

Equinox prices start at $23,185 for a front-drive LS model, rising to $30,540 for an LTZ wagon with all-wheel drive. Substituting a V-6 engine for the standard four-cylinder adds $1,500 to the cost of an LT or LTZ model.

Attention Editors: This complete 2010 Chevrolet Equinox review is available now for your publication. Please contact us at JF@tirekick.com for details. (8/09)

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Text and photos by James M. Flammang