Very few vehicles I tested this past year surprised me as much as the 2016 Chevy Equinox. For the right buyer, there is much to like about this crossover.
The 2016 Equinox is a hugely important vehicle for Chevy. According to GM, crossovers are the largest automotive segment now, making up 40% of the auto market. Aside from trucks, this is General Motors’ most important vehicle. Don’t believe me? Equinox outsells both the Buick and Cadillac brands. Not their crossover models, the whole brand. The only model that outsells this vehicle in the entire GM portfolio is the Silverado pickup line. The Equinox outsells the Impala and Malibu by about 2 to 1. So, what is Chevy’s strategy for competing with the best in this hugely competitive segment? Make it bigger and make it easy to use seems to be the general idea. And it works.
The Equinox is about seven inches longer and about one inch wider than a Honda CR-V. You feel the extra size immediately as you sit inside. In most compact crossovers my right knee rests against the center console (annoyingly). Not so in the Equinox. Here the added space is very welcome. The Equinox also has a very long cargo and back seat area. So long, that the back seats slide back and forth about a foot. More room is always welcome, but it comes at a cost in the case of the Equinox. The cost is weight. The lightest Equinox is about 150 pounds heavier than the heaviest Honda CR-V trim. The heft has two disadvantages, weight and acceleration. The 2.4-liter engine has 182 hp, which is average for the class, but the fuel economy of the Equinox is about last. Its 23 mpg combined does not compare favorably to the CR-V’s 27 mpg. Then there is the upside of weight and size. Safety, more room to stretch out or pack for a vacation, and a general feeling of solidity this vehicle has that some in its class lack. With gas at $1.99 in my town, I’d take this trade off and not worry much about the couple hundred in fuel per year I could be saving in a smaller crossover.
If you drive carefully, and without any semblance of haste (if you’re a slowpoke) the Equinox will be fine for you. However, it is a vehicle that is simply too big for its engine. It is slow all the time. Starting off in normal driving I would see the tachometer needle at 5,000 RPMs sometimes and wonder if I had accidentally bumped the transmission to manual. Nope. The Equinox is just using its engine full time all the time. Handling, however, is excellent. As is the ride and road feel. If you want it all, seriously consider opting for the larger V6 engine Chevy offers. On the highway, the Equinox was simply splendid. The cruise control is easy to use, and the controls are at your left hand’s finger tips. It was just one way we found the controls in the Equinox to be superb.
Interior and Infotainment
Our $34,360 Equinox was an odd duck. This may well be the most expensive automobile we have tested that did not have keyless entry and push-button start. However, it did have seating presets, which is a feature usually reserved for luxury vehicles. When we tried to put up the driver’s window, we realized there was no “auto-up” switch. Why? One thing we were glad to see missing was the ginormous panoramic glass roof most car companies (Subaru) foists onto buyers who opt for top trims. It is the Christmas season. How do you put a Christmas tree safely on the roof of a car with a glass pane the size of Cleveland? Chevy’s Equinox has a steel roof with ribs. Just my style.
We hope you read this far because here is where we gush about the Equinox. The infotainment system was perfect. Excellent in all ways. It had a very easy to use menu system and a touch screen. No ridiculous knobs, mice or touch pads to learn. There was also an audio volume/on-off button and a tuner knob! Genius! Also, there were pre-sets that were mechanical. We could select a specific station preset by touch alone. Last, the navigation and audio screen is not obscured in bright sunlight because there is a sort of baseball cap brim over the whole arrangement. Every single thing you need is easy to use and perfectly laid out in this vehicle.
The heated leather seats were also spot-on perfection. Comfortable, cool-looking, and the power controls put them in the ideal spot. Next to the driver are perfectly laid out cup holders. The console armrest is right where you want it, and the gearshift lever when in D is a perfect hand-rest. The center console is the shape of jumbo Corn Flakes box when open, and it has a top shelf you can move and remove. Ahead of you at the bottom of the center dash, is not one, but two perfect cell phone cradles. Just under the front of the console where you would put fingers to open it is a small cubby I loved. It fit my gum package ideally. You would be shocked how few car makers can do this simple stuff right. Chevy did it all. Our tester also had a nice dark tan and black interior color scheme. The interior plastics you never touch are hard and don’t look expensive. Who cares? Maybe they will last longer.
The Equinox aced every crash test conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in 2015. However, the Equinox can’t earn the industry’s top safety rating of Top Safety Pick Plus because it does not offer advanced forward collision prevention (FCP) with auto braking. Rather, its system is simply a basic warning of an impending crash. Although I am a huge fan of FCP, my feeling is that this Equinox is a safe vehicle for its class. It’s added mass and size are a worthy equalizer for its less advanced active safety package. However, be sure you get the safety packages it does offer as options. My tester did not have them. The Chevy Driver Confidence Package adds Forward Collision Alert, Lane Departure Warning, Rear Cross Traffic, Blind Spots Monitoring, and Rear Park Assist for $890. Should these things be optional in a vehicle that is targeted at families? You be the judge.
The Equinox is not a cookie-cutter compact crossover. It has a unique style and personality, and for the right buyer would be a fantastic family vehicle. That said, if you pay full MSRP for this vehicle you may be paying too much. Chevy has a reputation for heavy discounting. Make sure you get a deal. Otherwise, the posse of Subaru Outback, Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, and Mazda CX-5 are simply a better value at $34K.
Base Price: $32,385 (Equinox LTZ AWD With No Options)
Price As Tested: $34,360 (Including destination charge and Options)
- Fantastic Infotainment System
- Roomy and Airy Cabin
- Lack of Safety Equipment (FCP)