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2016 Chevrolet Equinox: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader October 2015

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 2016 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, the Subaru Forester and the Mazda CX-5, among others.

Alongside its GMC counterpart, the Terrain, the Equinox is well-rounded with equal strengths in quality, functionality and driveability. 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.

What's New for 2016?

The Equinox is refreshed for the latest model year. Updates include revised front- and rear-styling, a newly standard 7-inch touch screen and backup camera, a newly optional blind spot monitoring system and rear cross-traffic alert. There's also a new base-level model dubbed the Equinox L.

What We Like

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

What We Don't

Vague steering feel; poor performance with 4-cylinder engine; busy control layout

How Much

$23,500 - $30,600

Fuel Economy

Drivers can get the 2016 Chevrolet Equinox with one of two engines. Standard is a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder that makes a sufficient 182 horsepower and 172 lb-ft of torque. It sends power through a 6-speed automatic transmission. The estimated fuel economy from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is 22 miles per gallon in the city and 32 mpg on the highway with front-wheel drive, and 20 mpg city/29 mpg hwy with all-wheel drive.

If you're interested in more power, an optional 3.6-liter V6 is available for upper-level trims. It's a muscular engine, putting out 301 hp and 272 lb-ft of torque -- more than any other compact crossover. V6-powered Equinox models are rated at 17 mpg city/24 mpg hwy with front-wheel drive, while that rating falls to 16 mpg city/23 mpg hwy with all-wheel drive.

Standard Features & Options

The Equinox is offered in four trim levels: base-level L, mid-level LS and LT and upscale LTZ.

The base-level Equinox L ($23,500) includes 17-in alloy wheels, a 7-in center touch screen, a backup camera, GM's OnStar system with 4G LTE Wi-Fi, automatic headlights, Bluetooth phone connectivity and a USB port for music. It's also only offered with front-wheel drive and the crossover's 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine.

Upgrade to the LS ($26,100) and you get satellite radio, a compass and more options -- including all-wheel drive and an additional towing package.

Next up is the LT ($27,400), which adds the new LED daytime running lights, along with Bluetooth audio and Chevrolet's MyLink infotainment interface, which includes infotainment apps and voice control.

Finally, the LTZ ($30,600) touts 18-in alloy wheels, a remote starter, rear parking sensors, leather upholstery with a leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated front seats, automatic climate control and a power driver seat with memory.

As for options, the Equinox offers a lot. Many of the LTZ's standard features can be added to the LT as options, while both models also offer a power liftgate, a power sunroof, a blind spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert and a navigation system. Only the LTZ offers forward-collision alert, a lane-departure warning system and a power passenger seat.

Safety

Besides six airbags, including 2-row head curtains, the Equinox comes with OnStar, which can alert emergency personnel in the event of an accident. For 2016, the crossover also features a standard backup camera -- and it touts newly available rear cross-traffic alert and lane-departure warning in addition to last year's forward-collision alert system and blind spot monitor.

In National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash tests, the Equinox earned a 4-star overall rating, composed of a 4-star frontal crash score, a 5-star side-impact score and a 4-star rollover score. In crash tests conducted by the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Equinox earned an excellent Top Safety Pick+ score after acing each of the group's tests.

Behind the Wheel

Where power is concerned, the 4-cylinder Equinox is adequate for daily driving -- though it's not as peppy as other 4-cylinder rivals such as the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. The 2.4-liter engine operates smoothly and without much drama, but it will labor a bit under hard acceleration -- and when the Equinox is loaded down with passengers and cargo.

With the 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.

As for handling, 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're looking for is a comfortable and quiet ride for daily commuting and weekend outings with the family. And that's just what the Equinox delivers.

Other Cars to Consider

2016 Ford Escape -- The Escape has more high-tech features (such as an automatic parking system) and better fuel economy, but it lacks the versatility of a sliding rear seat. The Escape and the Equinox are comparable in overall refinement.

2016 Jeep Cherokee -- The recently redesigned Jeep Cherokee offers impressive refinement, two highly competent powertrains and a long list of standard and optional equipment. It's one of our favorite smaller SUVs.

2016 Mazda CX-5 -- The Mazda CX-5 boasts reasonable pricing and an impressive driving experience, prioritizing nimbleness, equipment and fuel economy above all else. If you don't need a lot of interior space or a high-performance powertrain, it's worth a look.

Used Chevrolet Traverse -- The Traverse is a 3-row crossover that takes the Equinox's smoothness and comfort to a larger level. Prices are higher, though, so you may have to consider a used model.

Autotrader's Advice

We think the most sensible Equinox is an LT model with a few options. That way, you'll get everything you need without getting too caught up in the pricey luxuries of the LTZ. You can also choose between front- and all-wheel drive and 4- or 6-cylinder engine, depending on your priorities.

Find a Chevrolet Equinox for sale

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Used 2016 Chevrolet Equinox FWD LT
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Certified 2016 Chevrolet Equinox FWD LS
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Used 2016 Chevrolet Equinox AWD LTZ
Used 2016 Chevrolet Equinox
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Used 2016 Chevrolet Equinox AWD LTZ
Used 2016 Chevrolet Equinox
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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2016 Chevrolet Equinox: New Car Review - Autotrader