The 2010 to 2013 Chevrolet Equinox is a car-based compact crossover SUV that slots in between the smaller, retro HHR and the larger, almost full-size Traverse. The 5-passenger Equinox is one of General Motors' best-selling models, with an impressive list of standard equipment for the price. It offers a full complement of safety gear, including 10 airbags, OnStar crash notification and ABS, as well as traction and stability control. The second-generation Equinox, introduced for 2010, features a stylish interior, with ice-blue ambient lighting and upgraded materials. A segment-unique feature is its sliding rear seat, which can be moved fore and aft to apportion rear-passenger and cargo space as desired.
What We Like
Roomy back seat; good fuel economy with 2.4-liter 4-cylinder; attractive interior design and materials; nicely weighted steering
What We Don't
Hard seat cushions; harsh ride impacts; disappointing fuel economy with 3.0-liter V6; transmission shift hesitations and clunks
Fuel Economy & Engine Specs
The base engine is a surprisingly peppy 182-horsepower 2.4-liter 4-cylinder with a class-leading rating from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of 22 miles per gallon city/32 mpg hwy on front-wheel-drive models and 20 mpg city/29 mpg hwy on all-wheel-drive versions. Optional on 2010-2012 LT and LTZ trims is a 264-hp 3.0-liter V6 that EPA rates at a less impressive 17 mpg city/24-25 mpg hwy for front-wheel-drive versions and 16-17 mpg city/22-24 highway for AWD models. Beginning in 2013, an optional 301-hp 3.6-liter V6 really wakes up performance while achieving the same fuel economy as the previous 3.0-liter V6 on LT and LTZ trims. Some 2011-2013 engines are flex-fuel-rated, meaning they can use either unleaded regular, E85 ethanol or a combination of the two fuels. Flex-fuel models have a yellow fuel cap. A 6-speed automatic transmission is used in all 2010-2013 Equinox models.
Notable Features & Options
The Equinox is available in base LS, mid-level LT and premium LTZ trims. Typical LS fare includes air conditioning, cruise control, tilt/telescope steering wheel, remote keyless entry, OnStar communication system, 6-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo, trip computer, rear wiper/washer, auto headlamps, power driver's seat, 17-inch alloy wheels, stability and traction control, ABS, split-folding rear seat, outside temp display and power doors, windows and mirrors.
Upgrading to LT nabs a standard compass, but more important is that it can be upgraded with popular options not available on the LS, including a more-powerful V6 engine, power lift gate, auto air conditioning, a power moonroof, navigation system, auto-dimming rearview mirror, an 8-speaker premium DVD audio system, fog lamps, a back-up camera, rear park assist system, leather seating, heated front seats and 18-in alloy wheels.
Moving up to LTZ typically scores standard heated leather seats with memory, steering wheel audio controls, auto air conditioning, a power lift gate, rear camera, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, fog lamps, a premium audio system and optional 19-in alloy wheels.
As long as there are young families with child safety seats, pets, sports gear and all the trappings thereof, compact and mid-size SUVs and crossovers will be in demand. The current-generation (2010 and newer) Equinox has a better reliability record than the previous version, and now that worries of GM's bankruptcy are over, expect resale values to hold up fairly well. To get a good idea of the Chevrolet Equinox's price range, we suggest the used car values at KBB.com. You can also search the AutoTrader Classifieds to see what models are for sale in your area.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has announced the following safety recalls for the 2010-2013 Chevrolet Equinox:
2010: Faulty climate-control module can cause defroster to be inoperative.
2011: Front seat belt buckles may fracture, separate and be unable to latch occupant.
2012: Incorrectly calibrated tire-pressure monitor may not warn driver of under-inflated tires.
Recall repairs are required by law even if the vehicle is out of warranty. Your dealer can check to see if the repairs were performed and, if not, will fix the car at no charge to you.
Safety Ratings & Warranties
NHTSA gave the 2010 Equinox five stars all around for crash protection. Tougher NHTSA tests beginning in 2011 rated the Equinox at four stars overall in front impacts, five stars overall for side impacts and four stars in rollover performance.
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the 2010-2013 Equinox Good ratings for offset frontal, side and rear impacts.
General Motors covered the 2010-2013 Equinox with a 3-year/36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty with roadside assistance, a 5-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty and a 6-year/100,000-mile corrosion perforation warranty.
Chevrolet Certified Used SUVs must be five years old or less and have no more than 75,000 miles on the odometer. Each Equinox undergoes a 172-point inspection. Those that pass receive a 12-month/12,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty plus whatever remains on the transferable original 5-year/100,000-mile powertrain coverage. Also included is a new 2-year/30,000-mile maintenance plan and roadside assistance.
Behind the Wheel
Even though the 2010-2013 Equinox is bigger and heavier than most of its compact crossover competition, it's one of the better handling examples out there. It's stable on the highway, and the precise steering and lack of body lean in corners help it perform admirably on curvy roads. The ride, however, may be stiffer than some prefer, with bumps and ruts in the road intruding into the otherwise very quiet cabin. Most buyers will be satisfied with the performance and pleased with the fuel economy of the 182-horsepower 4-cylinder. The 264-hp 3.0-liter V6, optional on 2010-2012 models, lacks low-end torque and must be revved to make decent power, hurting fuel economy. A better choice on 2013 models is the optional 301-hp 3.6-liter V6, which makes the Equinox responsive in all driving situations with decent fuel efficiency.
Other Cars to Consider
The Honda CR-V is a top seller in the segment, and offers good fuel economy, excellent resale value and generous cargo space for its size. Yet it lacks an optional V6, and the rear seat is cumbersome to fold down.
Ford's Escape is another top seller among compact crossovers and offers a wide choice of powertrains, including a 4-cylinder V6 and gas-electric hybrid. The design, however, is dated, the cabin relatively noisy and hard plastic interior trim throughout.
Look for an Equinox LT or LTZ with a nice level of options, such as heated seats, power driver's seat, a back-up camera and navigation. The premium-level seats have a more comfortable shape, and leather seat trim holds up better than cloth. This is one case in which sticking with the peppy, fuel-efficient, base 4-cylinder is a good choice. Unless you live in the mountains, front-wheel drive is all most folks will need. Go for a Chevrolet certified used car, when available, and make sure the climate-control, front seat belt and tire-pressure warning recalls have been done -- as well as transmission calibration updates.