2009 Chevrolet Equinox Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Trevor Wild Trevor Wild Author
March 15, 2009

With mediocre handling and fuel economy, the 2009 Chevrolet Equinox isn’t that appealing, but it still offers superior cabin space.

TheCarConnection.com's editors drove the 2009 Chevrolet Equinox in order to give you an expert opinion. TheCarConnection.com has also researched available road tests on the new Chevrolet Equinox to produce this conclusive review and help you make the best purchase decision.

The aging 2009 Chevy Equinox shares its platform with the Pontiac Torrent, both of which offer a spacious interior and excellent safety ratings.

Acceleration is strong in either version of the Equinox, as this compact model only offers V-6 engines, but fuel economy suffers. The standard model 2009 Chevrolet Equinox has a 3.5-liter V-6 with a five-speed automatic transmission and an EPA-rated 24 mpg on the highway, while the Equinox Sport is endowed with a 3.6-liter V-6, variable valve timing, and a six-speed automatic transmission. EPA city ratings stand at 16 or 17 mpg city for either engine.

The base powerplant is made in China and used in Buicks sold there; it isn't particularly impressive and can’t draw much excitement out of the five-speed automatic transmission, but overall acceleration is quite strong. The mightier 3.6-liter V-6 brings a slight mileage penalty to the 2009 Chevrolet Equinox, but it’s much smoother and more refined—and especially more responsive for passing with its six-speed automatic transmission, which includes tap-shift controls for semi-manual gear changes. By the numbers, it's a more enthusiastic performer capable of accelerating to 60 mph in about 7 seconds. The Equinox is either front-wheel drive or, when specified, all-wheel drive.

Review continues below

The 2009 Chevrolet Equinox just isn’t much fun to drive; its steering feels vague, and the road manners of the independent suspension are anything but athletic. The Equinox isn’t a sloppy mess, but there’s no joy when cornering the vehicle, and the tires on standard models howl at the slightest corners. The Sport model doesn’t handle much better, but in addition to the perkier engine, it feels the part more, with a tuned exhaust note, 18-inch wheels, and body-color trim, though it loses its roof rack in the Sportification process.

To GM's credit, the company has improved the art of crafting high-quality cabins like the one in the 2009 Chevrolet Malibu. The Equinox, however, was designed before that became the case. The shapes are fine—it's the textures and action of the switches that disappoint. Thick windshield pillars don't help visibility, either. The 2009 Chevrolet Equinox has been around for a few years, and while its crossover wedge shape isn't unattractive, it's starting to look its age. Inside, the Equinox needs to issue a moratorium on cheap plastic.

The most impressive element of the interior's accommodations is the vast amount of rear seat hip and legroom. Chevy has put the rear seat on sliding tracks so that it moves forward and back up across an eight-inch range. The rear seat's back folds forward in a 60/40 split, and the right front passenger seat folds flat into a table. There is no third-row seat, but the 2009 Chevrolet Equinox sports an adjustable cargo shelf in back. Behind the seats, though, the cargo area is about the size of that in the smaller Ford Escape. Built around a front-wheel-drive powertrain and carlike unibody, the Equinox has a completely flat floor that is also relatively low and combines to amplify the feeling of spaciousness.

Head curtain side-impact airbags with rollover protection sensors are now standard, and so outfitted, the 2009 Chevrolet Equinox gets five-star crash ratings for front and side impacts.

XM Satellite is now standard, and Bluetooth connectivity is a new option for 2009 on the Chevy Equinox, which comes with keyless entry and cruise control even in base LS trim.


2009 Chevrolet Equinox


Style-wise, the 2009 Chevrolet Equinox is a bridge between macho SUVs and sport wagons.

The wedge shape of the 2009 Chevrolet Equinox isn’t necessarily unattractive, but the vehicle has been around long enough that it’s beginning to show its age.

Car and Driver considers the 2009 Chevrolet Equinox “handsomely styled,” while Cars.com calls it “an attractive, utilitarian vehicle.” Autoblog, though, deems it "dowdy and utilitarian," even though it’s been “spiffed up with body colored trim and fascias (no more chrome mustache!)." Edmunds says the Chevy Equinox is “part of a growing segment of 'plus-sized' small crossover SUVs.” Kelley Blue Book describes the Equinox as "unmistakably a Chevy with big, gold bowtie badges front and rear, plus angular styling."

Regarding the interior of the 2009 Chevy Equinox, Cars.com says, “Instruments and controls are standard GM-issue, which is fine,” but adds “inside, the Equinox still has some interior trim that belongs on a less expensive model.” Reviewers at Kelley Blue Book are less complimentary. They characterize the Chevrolet "Equinox's well laid-out interior" as one that "begs for more in the way of color and contrast" and note its "ill-fitting plastic, ho-hum cloth upholstery and a general lack of sophistication."

According to Edmunds, the Equinox has a “clean, industrial-looking design," and the "large, clear gauges surrounded by faux aluminum accents" are "warmed up by imitation wood" on upscale models. At the top of the ladder, the "Equinox Sport is specially outfitted with exclusive blue-lit instrumentation and ebony accents." ConsumerGuide agrees that the "gauges are easy to read" and adds "climate controls are simple and handy." That said, they note the "power window switches [that] are inconveniently staggered around the center console shift lever."


2009 Chevrolet Equinox


Driving excitement isn’t something you’ll find from the 2009 Chevrolet Equinox, though the Sport edition might leave you happier.

Competitor crossover models provide better handling, but the 2009 Chevrolet Equinox outputs substantial horsepower and features a smooth-shifting transmission.

The base powerplant in the 2009 Chevrolet Equinox is a 185-horsepower, 3.4-liter V-6 that's made in China with a design little changed from the 1990s. The engine isn’t particularly powerful, and even the five-speed automatic teamed with it can't draw out any sort of excitement. It's either front-wheel drive or, when specified, all-wheel drive. Cars.com reports this engine is “Hard to get excited about,” and according to Kelley Blue Book, the base V-6 is "jackrabbit quick when it comes to crossing crowded intersections." In regard to "passing at high speed," however, the Chevrolet Equinox "engine seems to lose some of its kick past the 70 mile-per-hour mark." Car and Driver notes the "thrashy-sounding 185-hp, 3.4-liter pushrod V-6," but is impressed with the shifting of the "surprisingly responsive five-speed automatic transmission" as found on the "LS and LT models."

The 2009 Sport model is powered by a V-6 engine producing 263 horsepower and teamed to a six-speed automatic. The automatic has tap-shift controls for semi-manual gear changes. Chevrolet offers the Sport in front- and all-wheel drive, and in general, it's a more enthusiastic performer capable of accelerating to 60 mph in about 7 seconds. Car and Driver is enthusiastic about the Sport trim, with its "3.6-liter DOHC engine with 264 horsepower and a six-speed automatic transmission." Cars.com says, “This engine, optional on the new Malibu, has plenty of punch, nicely delivered through the six-speed automatic transmission.”

According to Edmunds, “Though the Equinox is not meant for serious off-road duty, consumers who live in snowy climes will be glad to know that both trims may be purchased with all-wheel drive.” It should be noted that there's almost no fuel economy penalty between the two; the AWD Sport gets 16/24 mpg, while the front-drive Equinox with the base engine musters 17/24 mpg, according to the EPA.

Although the 2009 Chevrolet Equinox features independent suspension, the crossover’s handling is far from athletic. The steering feels vague, and fast cornering is absolutely out of the question. Edmunds “noted considerable body roll around turns, and the truck's electric power steering is sluggish and offers little feedback,” while Car and Driver praises the "relatively agile and carlike" handling, especially when "compared to SUVs with body-on-frame construction." Kelley Blue Book is also not impressed with the steering, saying the 2009 Equinox's "electric power steering system of the LS, LT and LTZ trims" provides "little feedback and an unnatural feel." Kelley Blue Book reports that with "a 40-foot turning diameter," the 2009 Chevy Equinox feels "like a full-size SUV in just about any parking lot." The Equinox Sport, however, shines in reviews from across the Web: “The ride is firm but compliant,” Cars.com asserts, “and handling is better than I thought I'd ever see in an Equinox.”


2009 Chevrolet Equinox

Comfort & Quality

The 2009 Chevrolet Equinox is praised for its design, which combines lots of storage room in a small package but is marred by a lack of attention to the details.

Occupants are greeted with a copious amount of interior space, but the 2009 Equinox suffers from the use of lesser materials that are not complementary with some of its more luxurious design elements.

Reviewers at Kelley Blue Book point out "more rear-seat legroom than even the biggest SUVs." Edmunds praises the 2009 Chevrolet Equinox as having "lots of stretch-out room for both rows," while ConsumerGuide grumbles that the "bench seat is hard and flat," though at least "there's plenty of headroom." The "roomy and versatile cabin" impresses Edmunds, while ConsumerGuide says there’s "plenty of headroom and legroom up front." MyRide.com finds the "front seats uncomfortable" and "lacking anything resembling lateral support." The most remarkable element of the interior's accommodations is the vast amount of rear seat hip and legroom, though. Chevy puts the rear seat on sliding tracks so that it moves forward and back up across an eight-inch range. The rear seat's backrest also folds forward in a 60/40 split, and the right front passenger seat folds flat into a table. Car and Driver applauds how the "Multi-Flex rear seating aims to provide flexibility for passengers and cargo."

Elsewhere inside, Chevrolet augments the front console with several "hidden storage compartments," Edmunds reports, and in the back, space is further increased by "integrated storage bins." Behind the seats, though, the cargo area is about the size of that in the smaller Ford Escape. Families are sure to like the "height-adjustable cargo shelf [that] serves as both a security cover and a picnic table," Car and Driver says.
The storage capacity of the interior is also singled out and praised for "69 cubic feet of total cargo capacity," placing the Equinox "among the class leaders."

Kelley Blue Book reports, “As for materials in the Equinox, Chevrolet has created an "interior marked by ill-fitting plastic, ho-hum cloth upholstery and a general lack of sophistication." MyRide.com bemoans, "stalks for the turn signals and wipers felt brittle when used." Edmunds says the Chevy Equinox delivers a "quiet, well-insulated cabin." However, most remain unmoved by "sub par interior materials" and workmanship. That’s a common complaint among several reviewers; Car and Driver contends, "less than impressive interior materials make Equinox feel less refined than its competitors."

Noise is another common grievance. The poorly insulated 2009 Chevy cabin is further assailed by "tires, which roar on smooth road surfaces,” says ConsumerGuide, adding, "wind noise is obvious at highway speeds.”


2009 Chevrolet Equinox


The addition of head curtain side-impact airbags raises the already impeccable safety rating of the 2009 Chevrolet Equinox.

The 2009 Chevrolet Equinox boasts one of the best safety records of any crossover, and it delivers considerable peace of mind to occupants.

While reviewers laud most safety features on the 2009 Chevrolet Equinox, ConsumerGuide is unimpressed by the way its "thick front roof pillars obscure visibility at stop signs." And while necessary for vehicle integrity in rollover accidents, "rear vision is hindered by thick side and rear pillars."

Cars.com points out that that front airbags, anti-lock brakes, and stability control all are standard.

The Equinox has some pretty impressive scores in crash testing. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) rates the 2009 Chevrolet Equinox at five stars for all front and side impacts, while the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) deems its front-impact protection “good.”


2009 Chevrolet Equinox


For 2009, the availability of Bluetooth completes the 2009 Chevrolet Equinox feature list.

The base model 2009 Chevy Equinox comes well equipped and can be upgraded with numerous available options.

Features that come standard on all models, reports Kelley Blue Book, include cruise control, "fold-flat front passenger seat, sliding/split-folding rear seat and a multi-tier cargo storage system." Among the more stylish standard features are 16-inch aluminum wheels that are constantly checked by an automatic tire pressure monitor. Car and Driver states the Equinox comes standard with air conditioning and a six-speaker AM/FM stereo with CD player and auxiliary input. Kelley Blue Book also notes that on the Equinox, Chevrolet adds a six-way "height-adjustable driver's seat." Convenience features include keyless entry, as well as power for the door locks, windows, and mirrors.

According to Cars.com reviewers, some favorite options available on the 2009 Chevrolet Equinox include "heated front seats, leather upholstery and a moonroof." Kelley Blue Book notes optional leather and heated front seats, an AM/FM/six-CD/MP3 audio system with steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, and 17-inch aluminum wheels. Some other features in demand include DVD navigation, a rear-seat entertainment system, remote start, XM Satellite Radio, and an electrochromic rearview mirror. The 2009 Chevrolet "LTZ Appearance package" is also replete with leather and chrome throughout.

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