Until now, Chevy has suffered from a void at the entry level of its SUV lineup. Sure, the re-badged Chevy Tracker was there, but it was no match for the newer car-based SUVs offered by the competition. So, Chevy went to the drawing board and designed the Equinox on a stretched version of the Theta platform, also shared by the Saturn Vue.
Like the Vue, the Equinox is available with AWD, however, the engine is a 185hp version of the venerable 3400 OHV V-6 and the only engine offered. While this engine is adequate, it won't overpower the little SUV and is 15 hp short of the Ford Escape's 3.0 DOHC V-6. The transmission is an Aisin five-speed automatic, which is one of the best transmissions in GM's arsenal and always feels smooth and precise.
Knowing the style-consciousness of the target demographic, Chevy's key goal with the Equinox was to offer stand-apart styling. With attractive 17-inch wheels, short overhangs, and a broad stance, the Equinox certainly has its own look, but we are not so sure about the massive front fascia, which visually overpowers the smallish taillights. Compared with other vehicles in its class, most of the staff felt that Chevy had hit its mark with the Equinox styling.
The Equinox also has more interior and cargo room than its competitors and comes standard with several adaptable features, including a moveable rear cargo area shelf that can double as a table, a flat-folding front passenger seat, and a sliding second-row seat, which all help to make the interior an easy place to flex either passenger or cargo space. The dashboard is also one of Chevy's best-looking pieces with good use of materials and well-designed ergonomics.
The number-one area of complaint from our staff surrounded the Equinox's electrically assisted power steering, which gives about as much feedback as an old PlayStation controller. Other areas that drew criticism from the staff were a moderate amount of road noise and the $29,070 as-tested price, which made us wonder if Chevy might have just priced themselves out of the market, particularly when the larger, more powerful, three-row Nissan Pathfinder we tested registered at only $610 more.
Unlike the rest of the vehicles in the test, the Equinox is less off-road warrior and more about all-weather highway capability. As the newest entry on the market, the Chevy Equinox is an excellent first attempt for the Chevrolet brand to branch out to the compact SUV segment and should be seriously considered by anyone looking for a compact SUV, but just don't go home without a little haggling.