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Just this past year, GM finally introduced wholly competitive compact crossovers to take on the likes of the Honda CR-V, Subaru Forester, and Toyota RAV4. With prior efforts coming out half-baked, to put it bluntly, it's been a long time coming.
The Equinox is crisper and sportier than its predecessor, with nice proportions and a look that blends in well with the rest of the Chevy lineup. Inside, the cabin has lots of dramatic shapes and a central control panel that comes strikingly close to those in the Cadillac SRX—with vents flanking the radio and climate controls. It's an appearance that's also filtered down to the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze and other vehicles, and we like the new direction.
The 2011 Chevrolet Equinox is powered by a responsive V-6 or more economical four-cylinder base engine. Though both engines are good, its trump card is the new 182-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, which gets direct injection in addition to variable valve timing. The engine idles smoothly, albeit with a ratchety DI sound, but it's pretty agreeable and unobtrusive most of the time when underway. And most importantly, it gets a stellar 32-mpg EPA highway rating. Neither engine feels short on power, but the V-6 would be the choice if you occasionally need to tow a small trailer or often drive with a fully loaded vehicle. Chevy claims that 0-60 mph comes up in under 9 seconds for the four-cylinder and under 8 seconds for the V-6, but the bigger V-6 feels more than a second faster. Significant chassis upgrades help the 2010 Chevrolet Equinox handle better than any previous model.
There's lots to love about the Equinox inside; the driving position is excellent—carlike yet affording a good view outward. The seats are better and more supportive than those in a lot of small crossovers, too. And at the top of the lineup, in LTZ models, the cross-stitched dual-tone perforated leather is compelling and luxurious. Back seats are great and the seatbacks can be clicked into several different rake positions; knee room is among the best in its class, too. There's a retractable cargo cover, stretchy net, and two deep cargo wells in back, and the center console well is very deep. Overall, the Equinox is quiet and refined and would make a great highway vehicle for a small family; the ride feels more settled, less pitchy, than former vehicles on this platform—and versus some compact crossover alternatives.
Crash test scores for the Equinox have been stellar, as its safety equipment, and it's been named an IIHS Top Safety Pick. For us, the biggest flaw in the Equinox is its truly appalling rear three-quarter vision—somehow worse even than many vehicles in this class that appear to have higher beltlines. Thankfully, the LT has a reversing camera fitted as standard.
With a raft of features, the 2011 Chevrolet Equinox matches or betters competitors like the Honda CR-V and Ford Escape, though many of those new features are optional. Standard equipment includes air conditioning, an AM/FM/XM/CD/MP3 player with an auxiliary input jack, cruise control, power windows/locks/mirrors, and a tilt/telescoping steering wheel. A rear-seat entertainment system, a navigation system, leather seating, heated seats, Bluetooth, steering-wheel audio/phone controls, a sunroof, a rearview camera, and remote start are options. On some models, the cargo hatch is powered and can be easily programmed to different opening heights (helping prevent the hatch from opening into a garage door or other structure).
- Quiet, refined ride
- Nice, supportive seating front and back
- Distinctive but not overwrought design
- Excellent fuel economy (base engine)
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- Appalling outward visibility
- Some chintzy interior details
- Not as roomy overall as rival models