Pros: Quiet and comfortable ride; impressive fuel economy rating for base engine; refined look and feel; sliding rear seat; good storage space.

Cons: Vague steering feel; busy control layout.

What's New: Available 3.6-liter V6; Chevrolet MyLink infotainment; power convenience package; available rear entertainment; safety package.

For the late-to-arrive Equinox to compete in the tough 5-passenger crossover category defined by such automakers as Honda and Toyota, it would need more refinement and style, plus better fuel economy. The Equinox has certainly come a long way.

Now in its second generation, the 2013 Chevrolet Equinox is a true competitor within a highly competitive class of vehicles. Besides the Honda CR-V and the Toyota RAV4, the Equinox has to contend with capable small crossovers, such as the Ford Escape, Kia Sportage and Subaru Forester, among others.

Alongside its GMC counterpart, the Terrain, the Equinox is well rounded with equal strengths in quality, functionality and drivability. This sets it apart from competitors that excel only in certain areas. With the Equinox, you get a jack of all trades but, as the rest of the saying goes, a master of none. For a family-centric people mover, that can be a good thing.

For 2013, the Equinox adds a number of features to its roster of equipment, not the least of which is a new, more powerful V6 engine. The 3.6-liter motor replaces the previous 3.0-liter and, even though it delivers more power, matches the smaller unit's fuel economy numbers. A new power convenience package provides such extras as an 8-way power front passenger seat, a universal home remote and a power liftgate. A new safety package delivers driver assistance technology, including lane departure warning, forward collision warning and parking sensors. Finally, a rear DVD entertainment system is once again offered in the Equinox line.

The Equinox is yet another solid and competent choice in a growing sea of compact crossovers, making this segment one of the toughest for shoppers to wade through.

Comfort & Utility

The Equinox offers a spacious and attractive cabin that's wholly distinctive from those in other compact crossovers. Its interior treatment is fronted by Chevrolet's eye-catching twin-cockpit design and is even more dramatic with the optional 2-tone color scheme and cool blue ambient lighting. Gauges and controls have a refined appearance, but some of the switchgear is a little busy.

Seats are well designed and supportive, offering good legroom and headroom in both rows. Additionally, the reclining 60/40 split rear seat can slide forward and back as much as eight inches. This not only accommodates passengers of varying heights but also creates more space in the cargo hold; however, the Equinox does not offer a third-row seat.

With a maximum volume of almost 64 cu-ft, the Equinox can accommodate a considerable amount of cargo. It also features a host of useful interior storage compartments for smaller items.

The Equinox is available in four trim levels: LS, LT1, LT2 and LTZ. Standard convenience features for the base LS include power height adjustment for the driver's seat, cruise control, tilt/telescoping steering and a 6-speaker stereo. The LT adds equipment such as a leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated seats and an upgraded premium audio system. The range-topping LTZ features leather upholstery and a power liftgate for easier loading and unloading. A sunroof is an option on all trim levels.

Overall, the Equinox offers a stylish and functional cabin with many of the features that are important to families.

Technology

Despite its nonluxury status, the Equinox offers some premium level technology. Included are Bluetooth connectivity, a touchscreen-controlled stereo with USB interface, a backup-camera system and navigation. Chevrolet's MyLink infotainment system is now available on the top two trim levels.

After an absence, a rear entertainment system returns for 2013, featuring dual players and dual displays in the headrests along with a pair of wireless headphones. A new safety package includes high-tech driver assistance technologies--forward collision warning, lane departure warning and rear parking sensors.

Performance & Fuel Economy

Front-drive and all-wheel-drive Equinox models are powered by one of two engine choices. Standard is a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder making a sufficient 182 horsepower and 172 lb-ft of torque. It sends power through a 6-speed automatic transmission to only the front wheels or all four. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 22 mpg city, 32 mpg highway with front-wheel drive and 20/29 mpg with all-wheel drive.

A new, more robust 3.6-liter V6 is optional for all trim levels except the base LS. Output is 301 hp and 272 lb-ft of torque, a gain of 37 hp and 50 lb-ft of torque over the old 3.0-liter V6. Fuel economy with the new V6 is unchanged from 2012. Front-drive Equinox V6 models are rated at 17 mpg city and 24 mpg highway, or 16/23 mpg with all-wheel drive.

From a towing standpoint, the 4-cylinder Equinox is rated at 1,500 lb. The V6 version can tow 3,500 lb.

Safety

Besides six airbags, including two-row head curtains, the Equinox comes armed with OnStar, which can alert emergency personnel in the event of an accident.

Also helping the passenger-protection equation is ABS with brake assist, stability control and traction control. Plus, a range of driver assistance equipment outlined in the technology section and included in the new safety package bolsters safety further. That package is offered as an option on the 2LT model and is included on the LTZ.

Driving Impressions

Where power is concerned, the 4-cylinder Equinox is adequate for daily driving. This engine operates smoothly and without much drama. But it will labor a bit when the Equinox is loaded down with people and cargo.

With the new V6, the Equinox is much more spirited. It enjoys quick throttle response and very good acceleration. Building up to highway speeds or making an aggressive left-lane pass is no problem.

Handling-wise, however, the Equinox is unexceptional at best. It's not particularly confident in corners, and the steering doesn't feel very well connected. This little compact crossover is by no means a driver's car, but it never promises that. Most buyers in this segment aren't looking for one anyway.

What they are looking for is a comfortable and quiet ride for daily commuting and weekend outings with the family. And that's just what the 2013 Chevrolet Equinox delivers.

Other Cars to Consider

Honda CR-V - The CR-V offers more cargo capacity and advanced content, such as voice-command navigation. The CR-V and the Equinox provide equally comfortable transportation for five.

Toyota RAV4 - The RAV4 is sportier, offering significantly better handling. It also offers optional 3-row seating and more cargo space. The Equinox's ride quality is somewhat softer.

Ford Escape - The Escape has more high-tech features (like an automatic parking system) and an available hybrid model, but it lacks the versatility of a sliding rear seat. The Escape and the Equinox are comparable in overall refinement.

Kia Sportage - The Sportage is sportier and more fun to drive than the Equinox. And the Kia has a longer list of features. But the Equinox offers more cargo room and a roomier second row seat that slides and reclines.

AutoTrader Recommends

We think the most sensible Equinox is the midrange 2LT model powered by the 4-cylinder engine. The 2LT offers the best value of the three available trim levels. It's very well equipped with such features as a standard backup-camera system and an upgraded touchscreen stereo, and can be equipped with MyLink and rear entertainment. Furthermore, the 4-cylinder provides adequate power combined with very good fuel economy. Unless you have a 3,000-lb boat to tow, it is a practical choice. For those living in colder climates, we recommend adding all-wheel drive to the package.

author photo

Nick Palermo is an automotive writer and lifelong car nut. He follows new and late-model used vehicles for AutoTrader.com, writes about vintage cars for Hemmings Classic Wheels and blogs on all things automotive at LivingVroom. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and twins.

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