By Courtney Messenbaugh, Cars.com
Tribune Media Services
After a complete overhaul in 2010, the Chevrolet Equinox only offers a couple of changes for 2012. The rear entertainment system is no longer available, but a collision alert and lane departure warning system is now available.
Despite the departure of the rear entertainment system, which is great for providing moments of adult solace in the car, the 2012 Equinox represents a good value in the small crossover market with its quiet ride, smooth handling and stylish looks.
My test car, a top-of-the-line LTZ, came with the upgraded V-6 engine, which is available on all but the entry-level trim. The standard engine is an inline-four-cylinder. Both engines come matched to a six-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive, though all-wheel drive is available.
While the Equinox offers a smooth ride, I wouldn't call it exciting or agile. Out of the gate -- or the driveway, as it were -- and on hills, the Equinox accelerated with sufficient gusto, but the overall driving experience was humdrum. Of course, humdrum is perfectly fine for tooling around town with the kids in tow, and it certainly keeps you safe since your lead foot isn't constantly itching to get the better of you.
The 2012 Chevrolet Equinox has a starting MSRP of $23,450. The LTZ trim with front-wheel drive that I tested starts at $29,380. The addition of the V-6 engine, a navigation system, 18-inch chrome wheels and a collision alert/lane departure warning system pushed my test car's price to $33,540.
The 2012 Chevrolet Equinox has the look of a crossover that is more expensive than it actually is. The LTZ trim that I tested comes with chrome door handles, heated chrome side mirrors and chrome roof rails. It all looked quite luxurious. Once you see the Chevy logo, you're actually a little surprised. I was more than happy to drop off my kids at school in this car and just as pleased to park it in front of my favorite fancy shoe shop.
My oldest, who's 5 years old and on the small side, wasn't able to open the five-seat crossover's doors, so that was left to me. However, once the doors were open, all three of my children -- the smallest one being a petite 1-year-old -- could climb in on their own. The power liftgate was a pleasant surprise in its smooth, quiet operation.
Rear cargo space is adequate, but there's less rear cargo space in the Equinox than in some of its competitors. There is 31.4 cubic feet behind the rear seats and 63.7 cubic feet with the rear seats folded down, which is lower than the 2011 Honda CR-V's 35.7 and 72.9 cubic feet, respectively.
My test car had the optional 264-horsepower, 3.0-liter V-6 engine and front-wheel drive that got an EPA-estimated 17/24 mpg city/highway. The all-wheel-drive version with the same engine gets one mile less per gallon both in the city and on the highway. To maximize miles, consider the standard 182-hp, 2.4-liter inline-four-cylinder engine that gets 22/32 mpg. The Equinox uses regular gasoline.
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Fair
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Good Times
Much like its exterior, the 2012 Equinox's interior belies a higher price. The silver- and black-colored plastic surfaces look good, and the 7-inch navigation screen displays information clearly. There's a black plastic visor over the navigation screen to prevent glare, which isn't aesthetically pleasing but is functional. The center stack is easy to use with simple, well-thought-out buttons and knobs.
In addition to good looks, the Equinox's cabin is also spacious. The 60/40-split rear seats slide back and forth up to 8 inches and recline to make sitting in them comfortable for even the largest passengers.
Oddly, I found the storage compartments surprisingly narrow. The center console is deep enough to hold a laptop snugly, but it can't hold a purse or anything bulkier in width than a couple of inches.
I tested the top-of-the-line LTZ trim that comes standard with a power liftgate, automatic headlights, rear parking sensors and driver's seat memory settings. Bluetooth connectivity, sliding and reclining rear seats, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls and an MP3 jack are standard on even the lowest trim level, and most of the higher trim level features are available as options. The navigation system and forward collision and lane departure warning systems that my test car was equipped with are available as options on all trims.
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Fair
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample
The 2012 Chevy Equinox has been named a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. To earn this safety nod, a car must receive the top score of Good in front, side, rear and roof-strength crash tests. It also received four out of five stars overall in National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's crash tests.
But that's only one of its two major safety coups. The other is the Equinox has easily accessible lower Latch anchors. They're nothing fancy, but they peek out perfectly from the rear seat cushions and require no digging or grunting to employ.
Alas, the Equinox is not roomy enough for a family with three small children in large child-safety seats. This crossover can snugly fit two convertible seats and a backless booster, but not the two convertibles and rear-facing infant-safety seat that my family requires.
The 2012 Chevy Equinox has standard front-wheel drive, all-disc antilock brakes with brake assist, an electronic stability system with anti-roll control, traction control and six airbags, including side curtains for both rows. OnStar is also standard for the first six months of ownership. My test car, which was the highest trim level, also had standard blind spot mirrors, backup camera and parking sensors. A backup camera is standard on all but the entry-level trim.
My test car was equipped with the optional forward collision alert and lane departure warning system. This system has a prominent display of lights at eye level on the dash that show a green car if you're doing well, a red icon of two cars crashing if you get too close to another car and an orange icon if you drift out of your lane without the turn signal activated. I found this system to be almost counterproductive because it grabbed too much of my attention while driving. All-wheel drive is also available.
Starting MSRP $23,450--$30,890
City: 16 -- 22
Highway: 23 -- 32
182-hp, 2.4-liter I-4 (flexible; E85)
264-hp, 3.0-liter V-6 (regular gas)
182-hp, 2.4-liter I-4 (regular gas)
264-hp, 3.0-liter V-6 (flexible; E85)
6-speed automatic w/OD and auto-manual
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