2011 Chevrolet Equinox Review

Consumer Reviews
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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
December 14, 2010

If you don’t need a third row, the 2011 Chevrolet Equinox is just right for small families; it’s refined, secure, and versatile, and gets very impressive fuel economy in four-cylinder form.

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.

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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).

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2011 Chevrolet Equinox

Styling

It’s all in the family; the 2011 Chevrolet Equinox; it’s uncontroversially good-looking and unmistakably a Chevy.

The Equinox was given an extensive refresh last year; the result is definitely crisper and sportier than its somewhat slab-sided predecessor. At first glance, its proportions look well done—sort of like a scaled-down version of the Chevrolet Traverse now—while up close its grille gives it a family resemblance to just about everything else in the Chevrolet lineup. The profile is clean and has a substantial heft without seeming too heavy or blocky. Though with a thicker rear pillar and shorter rear windows, the entire vehicle looks shorter. Around back, the look remains clean, and the rounded tail is a refreshing break from intentionally blocky designs.

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.

Review continues below
7

2011 Chevrolet Equinox

Performance

The 2011 Chevrolet Equinox is refined and responsive—economical, too—but not sporty or exciting.

The Equinox got all-new powertrains last year—including a more responsive V-6 and more economical four-cylinder base engine—and both of these offerings carry over to 2011. 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. A more powerful 3.0-liter, 264-hp V-6 engine is available in the 2011 Equinox, and it's the same one Cadillac uses in SRX, and it's just as smooth and responsive here.

Matched up with either engine is a six-speed automatic transmission. First gear feels quite low, enabling a quick takeoff, and in four-cylinder models the transmission lets engine revs wind quite high (3500 rpm or so) in light to moderate acceleration. After that, the cogs get progressively taller and it does a good job keeping revs down low in the fuel-efficient range. With either version, shifts can be rough, though and the transmission can feel hesitant on hills or on-off throttle situations. Manual shifts can be made not though steering wheel paddle shifters or a separate gate, but through little plus or minus toggle buttons on the side of the shift knob.

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.

The electric power steering system in four-cylinder models is worlds better than it was years ago, with a heftier, almost German feel. It gives the Equinox acceptable handling and maneuverability, and a secure feel, but it's still not ideal. The steering wheel doesn't transmit much of a feel of the road but has very strong weighting that keeps it on center. Brakes are excellent and reassuring in feel, like those in most GMs of recent years

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2011 Chevrolet Equinox

Comfort & Quality

The Equinox hits the mark in many ways with respect to practicality and comfort, and only lets down on a few cost-cut material details.

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.

Best of all is the four-cylinder's noise cancellation system; it works like noise cancellation headphones and helps eliminate sounds that tend to make four-cylinder engines feel cheap and coarse. Door openings with triple seals and glass with integral sound damping further quiet things down inside, helping create a driving experience that feels more Cadillac-like than bargain-basement. Overall, the Equinox 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.

While the Equinox has clearly been upgraded, there's still a stray piece of trim or two that seems too plasticky, even at this price point—but mostly it's handsome and tightly constructed. We haven't been quite as fond of the base "premium cloth" seating; some of the trim around the dash and doors feels a little too hard and hollow, and the small latch for the big storage bin up top, which you have in view all the time, is memorably flimsy and jagged plastichrome.

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2011 Chevrolet Equinox

Safety

The Equinox’s crash-test assessment is in a word, awesome, and just short of perfect, while its safety equipment list isn’t missing anything—except rearward visibility.

The 2011 Chevrolet Equinox comes with six airbags in all: dual frontal airbags; head curtain side airbags, and pelvic/thorax seat-mounted side airbags. Those preferring to avoid accidents in the first place will also like having standard four-wheel disc brakes with StabiliTrak electronic stability control and traction control. OnStar is also standard.

Crash test scores for the Equinox have been stellar. In the federal government's all-new crash-test and ratings system, the 2011 Equinox earned four stars overall, with a four-star score in frontal impact and five stars in the side test. The Equinox also achieved top five-star results in NHTSA's tough new side-pole test. And in Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) tests, the Equinox achieved top 'good' test scores in all categories—culminating in a Top Safety Pick Award carried over for the 2011 model.

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. The large side mirrors are an absolute necessity, because looking over your shoulder when merging shows little more than interior trim surrounding a tiny window opening. Rear-seat headrests don't remove or fold down to open up vision in the rear-view mirror. Thankfully, the LT has a reversing camera fitted as standard.

Review continues below
8

2011 Chevrolet Equinox

Features

The 2011 Chevrolet Equinox isn’t innovative or surprising with respect to its features and options, but it offers all that most shoppers are looking for.

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).

Moving up the model hierarchy, the Equinox LT is nicely—if not lavishly—equipped, with 17-inch aluminum wheels, remote keyless entry and remote starting, an anti-theft system, and one year of OnStar service free. It now also includes Bluetooth, a USB interface, and a leather-trimmed steering wheel with audio controls. For 2011, the 2LT model now also adds heated cloth seats,

The step-up sound system (which announces itself as from Pioneer when it starts up) wouldn't be bad for a base system, but it's probably not worth the premium. It's a little bass heavy and sounds great at a moderate volume, but sound quality deteriorates when you turn it up.

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7

2011 Chevrolet Equinox

Fuel Economy

With the base four-cylinder engine, the 2011 Equinox’s fuel economy figures are a major selling point.

With the new direct-injected four-cylinder engine that was introduced last year, the 2011 Chevrolet Equinox has great fuel economy. At 22 mpg city, 32 highway for the base four with front-wheel drive, the Equinox is among the most frugal vehicles in this class, and the highway figure is better that a Ford Escape Hybrid, even. Stepping up to AWD, mileage drops to 20 mpg city, 29 mpg highway, still good for a comfortably sized crossover. With the V-6, fuel economy rates a less impressive 16/22 with all-wheel drive, or 17/24 with front-wheel drive.

Perhaps even more of interest in four-cylinder models is the new 'Eco' button which, when engaged, causes accessories like the air conditioning compressor to be a little more conservative, has the torque converter lock up a little earlier, and makes the transmission a little more reluctant to downshift.

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March 9, 2016
For 2011 Chevrolet Equinox

Dependable although had some recall on electric seats which was taken care of now my airbag needs serviced. Light just came on tonight

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I feel the car is dependable I do agree the visibility is not the best.
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October 10, 2015
2011 Chevrolet Equinox FWD 4-Door LT w/1LT

i love it...only been through one winter but had no problems whatsoever! been reliable & that itis a big concern for me!!!

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i downsized from truck to equinox & although i miss extra room & have concerns on recent vehicle alerts so far so good!!! i find parking a breeze & it can perform speedwise when needed! love it!
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Styling 8
Performance 7
Comfort & Quality 8
Safety 9
Features 8
Fuel Economy 7
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