- Composed, refined ride
- Spacious seating throughout
- Attractive design
- Great gas mileage (4-cyl)
- 'Premium' Pioneer system doesn't sound premium
- Steering requires frequent small adjustments
- Outward visibility
- Cheapish trim details
A versatile layout, impressive performance, good ride comfort, and reasonable pricing all add up to make the 2012 Chevrolet Equinox a strong value—and a good pick for small families.
With handling and fuel economy that are about on par with a mid-size sedan, plus a taller body that brings more space and versatility, the 2012 Chevrolet Equinox takes on Honda's CR-V and Toyota's RAV4 in the compact crossover segment with more room than most of its competitors. It remains a compelling choice for those who need an affordable, comfortable, and well-equipped vehicle that's good for family duty.
The Equinox got a much-needed redesign just two years ago. The previous effort, under the same model name, had been half-baked, to be kind, but the current model has top-notch looks, performance and features. Its styling grew sportier and sharper versus that of its prior generation, with better proportions as well as many of the cues of the 'new' Chevrolet. Inside, the cabin has lots of dramatic shapes and a central control panel with vents flanking the radio and climate controls, a styling direction started with Cadillac that has most recently filtered down to Chevy models like the Cruze and Sonic.
You can get a 3.0-liter V-6 in the 2012 Equinox, but we really think you'll be better off with the much more fuel-efficient (and lower-cost) four-cylinder engine. With 182 horsepower, the 2.4-liter four has a smooth idle—albeit with a somewhat clattery direct-injection sound—and is compliant and unobtrusive once underway.
The Equinox is a safety champ, named a Top Safety Pick by IIHS and it's earned top four- and five-star results from the federal government. Still, the Equinox isn't without its flaws, and three-quarter visibility—or lack thereof—seems to be this crossover's Achilles' heel. Thankfully, a rear-view camera system is standard on the LT and LTZ models, while all models now (new for 2012) get blind-spot mirrors. Also, lane departure warning and forward collision alert are newly available for 2012--though they're only offered with the V-6 LTZ.
The 2012 Chevrolet Equinox matches most of its rivals in terms of standard equipment, but it beats them in well-optioned form. 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 are all features included in the base LS. 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).
Most models include a touch-screen audio system this year, and Chevrolet is also phasing in its voice-activated, touch-screen-based MyLink Connectivity system--for easier connectivity for hands-free calling or media access--as an option, so earlier in the model year vehicles with this might be a little harder to find.
2012 Chevrolet Equinox
The 2012 Chevrolet Equinox is both unmistakable as a Chevy and uncontroversially good-looking.
Just two years ago, Chevrolet fitted the Equinox with much needed new sheetmetal, with the resulting look far crisper and sportier-looking. With nicely done proportions and carefully chosen details that fit in more closely the Chevy car lineup, the Equinox now looks more like a 9/10ths version of Chevrolet's larger Traverse three-row crossover.
On the outside, we appreciate the Equinox's sharper details at the front and rear, combined with a softened look in between. The spacing of the headlights next to the grille help it look more like a tall station wagon than before--not at all a bad thing--while the edgy details over a rounded tail is a refreshing departure from the edgy, swept-up look that's become so common.
The cabin design has plenty of dramatic shapes that at first may seem a little overt for Chevy. But it all fits in with the exterior. And the instrument-panel center stack comes close to that of the Cadillac SRX—with climate and radio controls flanked by vents. This new direction has now filtered down to other models like the Cruze and Sonic.
2012 Chevrolet Equinox
Don't count on much driving excitement, but the 2012 Chevrolet Equinox performs adequately or better in every way.
A couple of years ago Chevrolet installed completely new powertrains into the Equinox—including a economical four-cylinder and more responsive V-6, both with six-speed automatics—and these powertrains still stand out as among the most advanced in the class.
The Equinox family's trump card remains its base 2.4-liter four-cylinder mill with direct injection and variable valve timing producing 182 horsepower. Besides being a more modern design than some rival engines, it achieves a phenomenal 32 mpg highway rating from the EPA. It performs pretty well, too, although there's a fair amount of clattery direct-injection sounds when idling. The more engine is smoother and more responsive, but much thirstier. If towing or driving with a full load of passengers is a frequent future occurrence, the smoother, more responsive, more powerful 3.0-liter, 264-hp V-6 is the best choice, but be prepared to pay more at the pumps. Chevy claims the four-cylinder engine can sprint to 60 mph under 9 seconds and the V-6 does it a second less at under 8 ticks of the stopwatch dial.
The six-speed automatic transmission installed across the model line combines a low first gear for quick takeoff with taller cogs for the upper gears to stretch highway fuel efficiency. Unfortunately, smoothness is not this transmission's forte, instead suffering from rough shifts and hesitation on hills regardless of engine. If you choose to force gear changes on your own, the feat is achieved through a plus-minus toggle button on the shifter instead of via more preferable steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifers or a separate gate on the console shifter.
About the only thing we'd really like to change about the driving experience is the numb feel of the electric power steering, which seems to require a lot of adjustments on center in highway cruising. Otherwise, as we've found on many other recent GM models, brakes are superb.
If you put your foot into it and let the revs rise, which the six-speed automatic handles well, it feels perky enough. Most importantly, the four-cylinder is good for 32 mpg on the EPA highway test cycle. About the only thing we'd like to change about the driving experience is the numb feel of the electric power steering, which seems to require a lot of adjustments on center in highway cruising.
2012 Chevrolet Equinox
Comfort & Quality
Practicality and comfort are right on the money for family use, though there are signs of some cost-cutting if you're a stickler for detail.
Whether you're moving into the Equinox from a mid-size car or from a more trucklike SUV, you'll find a lot to like in the cabin design. Its driving position is excellent--upright yet carlike--and its seats more supportive than those found in many other small crossovers. Cross-stitched, perforated, two-tone leather in top LTZ models feels quite luxurious. And in back, there's adult-size space, with good headroom and reasonably good (for the class) legroom), and seatbacks are adjustable for rake.
The four-cylinder versions' noise cancellation system is one piece of clever engineering that gives these models a smoother, quieter feel without adding even more noise insulation. It works like noise cancellation headphones and helps eliminate coarse sounds and even mild vibrations. 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 Chevy Equinox makes for a stellar family highway cruiser with a settled ride that's less pitchy than its competitors. And for vacations or daily duty, there's plenty of space for stuff, too, with two deep cargo wells, a retractable cargo cover, and a stretchy net in the rear, while the front center console offers another deep storage area for bulkier items. One other criticism is that the cargo floor of the Equinox is a bit higher than you might expect.
While we have few complaints regarding the Equinox's mostly well built and handsome interior, we're not so fond of its base "premium cloth" upholstery. There are also a few surprising details that break from the higher-quality ambiance in front, like some thin trim pieces and the latch handle for the large storage bin up top, which is always in view and finished in thin, jagged plastichrome.
2012 Chevrolet Equinox
The 2012 Chevrolet Equinox has structural protection to give you peace of mind; but outward visibility can be a serious issue.
The Chevrolet Equinox has a great safety record--and a pretty impressive roster of safety features. In addition to head-curtain side airbags and pelvic/thorax seat-mounted side airbags, the Equinox is equipped with four-wheel disc brakes, StabiliTrak electronic stability control, and GM's OnStar emergency and concierge services as standard. In the event of a crash, additional seat-mounted side and curtain airbags ensure you're less likely to come into contact with harder structural parts. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives the Equinox some fairly impressive marks with top "good" scores across the board, resulting in it receiving Top Safety Pick honors for 2012. The Equinox also performed well in new National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) tests last year, with four stars overall, a four-star score in front impact tests, and a five star achievement in the side impact test. Additionally the Equinox's side body structure is so solid that it earned a five-star rating in NHTSA's demanding, new side-pole test.
Visibility is our main criticism regarding the Equinox's safety. Its rear three-quarter vision—where you look when backing up, or to change lanes to pass—is truly appalling, and somehow worse even than many vehicles in this class that appear from the outside to have higher beltlines. Large blind-spot mirrors (a new standard feature) help work around that, although the rear-seat headrests don't remove or fold down to open up vision in the rear-view mirror. Thankfully, all models from the LT on up have a reversing camera fitted as standard.
One other feature that might help avoid accidents are the new lane departure warning and forward collision warning alert systems that are optional. Unfortunately, they're available only on LTZ models with the V-6, however.
2012 Chevrolet Equinox
The Chevrolet Equinox was already one of the better-equipped vehicles in its class, and with upgraded connectivity it gets even better for 2012.
The Chevrolet Equinox already came with a set of features that matched or exceeded what other models in this class offer; but Chevy has sweetened the feature set even more for 2012. Most models now include a touch-screen audio system with USB port, and Chevrolet is also phasing in its voice-activated, touch-screen-based MyLink Connectivity system--for easier connectivity for hands-free calling or media access--as an option. The MyLink package includes smartphone connectivity, integrated Pandora and Stitcher app compatibility, and hands-free controls
Standard equipment on base Equinox LS models 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, navigation, leather seats and heated seats, Bluetooth, steering-wheel audio/phone controls, a sunroof, a rearview camera, and remote start are options on the LS.
Moving on to the mid-level LT trim adds 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels, USB, Bluetooth, a leather-trimmed steering wheel with mounted audio controls, remote keyless entry, remote start, anti-theft system, and one year of OnStar service instead of the typical six-month trial. 2LT models add heated seats.
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).
A 7.0-inch color touch-screen navigation system with SD-card-based map data is newly available on 2LT and LTZ models.
2012 Chevrolet Equinox
The 2012 Chevrolet Equinox has impressive fuel economy ratings in four-cylinder form, but the V-6 is much thirstier.
The 2012 Chevrolet Equinox gets impressive fuel economy, provided you don't step up to the V-6 model.
Achieving 22 and 32 mpg in the EPA's city and highway test cycles, respectively, the four-cylinder, front-wheel drive Equinox keeps its drinking to a minimum compared to class rivals; its highway best that of even the Ford Escape Hybrid. Stepping up to AWD, mileage drops to 20/29, still good for a comfortably sized crossover. All four-cylinder models now come with an '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.
With the V-6, fuel economy rates a less impressive 16/22 mpg with all-wheel drive, or 17/24 with front-wheel drive.