2010 Chevrolet Equinox 2LT Review

By Roger Boylan

07.22.2009

2010-chevrolet-equinox-black

Compact SUVs and crossovers don’t set my pulses pounding, but their ubiquity on the roads of America speaks volumes about their popularity. At the heart of this most competitive segment, which alone accounts for 10% of the U.S. automobile market, is the refreshed 2010 Chevrolet Equinox, daring to take on the awesomely successful Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V. After spending a week at the wheel of a brand-new Equinox LT2, I would say that it’s time for the Japanese heavyweights to look to their laurels. Chevy has crafted a nearly perfect rival.

The Equinox, like most Chevrolets, comes in LS, 1LT, 2LT, and LTZ trim levels, with front-wheel drive, like mine, or all-wheel drive. All models come with the Ecotec four-cylinder engine, upgraded from the previous generation to provide 182 horses rather than 164, and 172 pound-feet of torque instead of 160.  (The four cylinder was not even available in the previous generation Equinox.)  A 264-hp 3-liter V6 is available on all trims except the LS. The transmission is a six-speed automatic with an Economy feature that moves shift points down the revs for frugality’s sake but only results in a savings of about 1 mpg; essentially, it’s a cute gimmick that flaunts that all-important prefix “ECO.”

hpim3547My car was a handsome jet black (“black granite metallic,” per the Monroney) and fresh off the Ontario assembly line, with barely 500 miles on the odometer. It had black leather seats and a leather-wrapped steering wheel, all adorned with red Recaro-style stitching. Other amenities abounded, including GM’s brilliant OnStar navigation/alarm system; Sirius XM satellite radio; a back-up camera (invaluable, those things, in cluttered parking lots); power everything, including the rear liftgate; traction control; eight standard airbags and rollover protection; cruise control; ABS; etc. You get the picture-the whole raft, and then some, all for $25K or so. Adding AWD or fripperies like a DVD entertainment system ($1,295) and navigation system ($2,145) can easily lift the sticker price into the $30K realm, where the Equinox is no longer quite as competitive. Keep it at $25K or below and you have a class-beater.

All of this comes in an esthetic package that grew on me. At first sight I said (or yawned), “ah, another small SUV, how thrilling,” but by the end of my tenure I found myself actively admiring the appearance of the Equinox. The swooping cut lines and hefty wheel arches make the vehicle look bigger than it is. Framing Chevrolet’s typical split-level bowtie-adorned grille are the headlights, which sleekly accentuate the front fenders. The 17-in. wheels are aluminum and snazzy-looking without being vulgar. Incorporated in the front bumper are air ducts that, in the 2LT trim, house fog lights in chrome bezels: an elegant touch. The hood has three folds, or “character lines,” and my spies inform me that it’s shorter than the pre-2010 Equinox’s because Chevy moved the base of the windshield forward to allow for more slippery aerodynamics; this pays off on the highway in the cabin’s tranquility, with no wind noise to speak of. The vehicle’s overall look, at both ends, is elegant, compact, and stylish.

hpim3543Inside, the new-car smell, composed in equal parts of rubberized plastic, leather, and metallic laminate, got pretty strong in the midsummer Texas sun but never unpleasant. On the contrary, it was a reminder that I was driving the newest of the new, with all the toys. The dashboard, although made of not-so-elegant hard plastic, is well laid out, and controls are far more intuitive than in other Chevys I’ve driven. In the dark, an ice-blue glow, reminiscent of an aquarium or the Starship Enterprise, illuminates the gauges, which are housed in oblong cowlings. Cowlings and icy light are retro design cues filched from the new Malibu and evocative of the ancestors of both these Chevys: the Bel-Airs, Impalas, and Chevelles of the ’50s and ’60s. (It’s nice to see some honor paid to the forgotten but gifted designers of the past. ) The seats fore and aft are outstandingly comfortable; indeed, the rear ones can actually scoot forward and backward, just like the front ones, allowing for a realistic human freightload of four in comfort, five at a pinch. I hauled two full passenger loads and heard no complaints-quite the opposite. Everyone seemed surprised at the level of comfort in a vehicle of these smallish dimensions. The rear seat is split 60/40 and folds to yield 63.7 cubic feet of cargo space (31.4 cubic feet when upright): competitive, but not the best in its class. The RAV4 has 73.0 cubic feet, the Honda CR-V 72.9.

hpim3546Where the Equinox is undeniably best in its class is in fuel economy. Chevy claims a very impressive 22/32 mpg (city/hwy) for the 2.4 liter engine with 2WD and 20/29 for the same powerplant with AWD.  This beats the CR-V’s 20/27 split and the 4-cylinder RAV4’s 22/28. It even squeezes out the Ford Escape Hybrid’s 31-mpg highway rating. What’s more, judging by my week’s commuting and weekend drives, these figures are genuine; I averaged 27 mpg, with a lot of stop-and-go traffic. Kudos to GM. And all this happens in the most pleasant driving environment imaginable, with no rattles or squeaks even over the bumpiest back roads and worst-maintained level crossings. On the highway, the only noise comes from the tires (Michelins on my car); as mentioned, on the road no wind can be heard, bar one’s own. With triple door seals, acoustic glass in front, and active noise cancellation, this $25K Equinox is as quiet as a $50K Lexus-and it delivers spirited performance, and on four cylinders too. I timed my 0-60 sprint at 8.7 sec., perfectly respectable for an SUV with four cylinders. In fact, this is the first four-cylinder vehicle I’ve driven in a long while that I didn’t think needed another pair of pistons under the hood. The Equinox stops well, too; even after a series of hard stops the brakes on mine showed no signs of fade. The steering, although a trifle numb at center, is responsive, and the fat wheel is a pleasure to hold-and to behold, with its stitched-leather-and-aluminum motif.

GM has produced an excellent small SUV here. Indeed, if I were in the market for such a vehicle, I’d bypass the Jeeps I’ve always had a soft spot for and-perhaps after wavering slightly outside the Honda lot-head to my local Chevy dealer. The Equinox should make a big difference to GM’s fortunes, depending on how they pitch it to the public. If they do it right, they’ll have a well-deserved sales bonanza on their hands. This car’s that good.

COPYRIGHT Autosavant – All Rights Reserved

Author: Chris Haak

Chris is Autosavant's Managing Editor. He has a lifelong love of everything automotive, having grown up as the son of a car dealer. A married father of two sons, Chris is also in the process of indoctrinating them into the world of cars and trucks.

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19 Comments

  1. We’ll just have to wait and see if the four-cylinder holds up at 80,000 miles like the foreign engines. And then, 100,000 miles. It’s a lot of weight to be carrying around for the small engine.

  2. I thiink it wil hold up becawse gm finly has it together now. I love this car an i am thinkin bout getting one so thanks for the revue.

  3. I saw the new equinox at the Detroit Auto Show in January and thought it was one of the surprises of the show for me. I found the exterior ok, but the interior was very well done and had an elegance and sophistication to it that just worked. If it proves to be as reliable as the RAV4 and CRV this car could be a winner because it is not hard to beat toyota or honda on looks, styling and interior materials.

  4. Well, I have drven one of these as well, and I thought it was a great liitle package. I think Chevrolet is going to do ok with this.

  5. Now, you still need to get rid of the Union from GMC and the government if you want to succeed.
    This car should also have a 6 speed manual transmission

  6. I applaud the vehicle while I’m noting that similar efforts have to be made with the cars at GM.

    GM has great trucks and crossovers, up and down the range. But it has some cars (like the Impala) that are volume sellers that need to be replaced. Yesterday.

  7. These crossovers are just station wagons for insecure guys and housewives that want deny to themselves that they are soccer moms. Sort of ridiculous.

  8. wow. sounds good. About 25k and includes rear view camera? wow again

  9. As much as I love a manual, I don’t expect one to be offered in this sort of vehicle.

    I still haven’t driven the new Equinox myself, but was very impressed by the interior and seating comfort at NAIAS.

    Through TrueDelta’s Car Reliability Survey, I’d like to have some initial reliability stats ASAP. Unfortunately, depends on how soon enough owners sign up to participate. This can be more of a challenge with GM models.

    http://www.truedelta.com/reliability.php

  10. I’m surprised that the Equinox seems to be getting some critical acclaim while the SRX (albeit apparently on a completely different platform) is being criticized as overweight and underpowered. I just finished reading the latest C/D today, and the contrast between those two reviews was pretty stark.

  11. I traded in an ’88 Volvo three days ago for the CARS rebate and bought an Equinox LT2 equipped almost exactly like the one driven by the reviewer. His review describes my experience perfectly. I feel like I’m driving a vehicle that cost $5,000-10,000 more. Like others have said, if bugs don’t appear later down the road, GM has a winner.

  12. It’s about time GM had a four-pot contender in this class.

  13. Wow sounds good,Thanks for the information. I also like the 2009 Chevrolet Equinox car. Its interiors are designed with cloth upholstery, and gauges are surrounded by faux aluminum accents which is really a good thing. I like some features which are really very good such as automatic headlights, a driver information center, multi tier cargo storage system etc. It is a very roomy and very comfortable car. So overall this a stunning car.

  14. I’m trying to find a dealer who has a 2010 Equinox LT2 with leather seats. Anybody know?

  15. Oops I forgot, it needs to be in Ontario Canada.

  16. I have one. I got 28 mpg on the first tank in mixed driving and Interstate cruising at 74mph. The vehicle is fantastic, and although I’m used to driving sportier vehicles, I do not feel penalized by the peppy 4 cylinder, great suspension and sound deadening. The styling is great as is the fit and finish. As far as GM engines are concerned, we traded in a GM 3.1 L engined vehicle with 233,xxx miles on it that would travel all day long at 8o+ mph and spent its last vacation going to Washington DC from Atlanta. I’m VERY happy with my purchase!

  17. I am thinking about an Equinox and this is good information. I don’t know much about cars and this is very helpful to get different points of view about the Equinox. I’m hoping the four-cylinder engine is strong enough for the car.

  18. I have been waffling between a 2010 Malibu and the 2010 Equinox. As near as I can tell, they are very similar in spec, although I understand the Equinox rides on an upgraded Epsilon II platform and has the direct injected version of the 2.4L. Thanks for the great reveiw. I especially appreciate the ECO button comment and the “Real World” mileage figure. I will be looking for an Equinox LT1 FWD next month.

  19. I will give GM credit they are making better vehicles. I love the new cadillac, and I see interior styling ques that are similar on the Equinox as well.

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