Chevrolet Equinox offers a lot in small sport utility

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Chevrolet’s best-selling sport utility vehicle, the Equinox, is comfortable, attractive and roomy without being oversized. Thanks to an accommodating sliding mechanism for the rear seats that allows them to go forward and back nearly 8 inches, the Equinox features the most rear legroom – 39.9 inches – in its class.

The Equinox, a crossover SUV, has seen sales go up more than 48 percent. The 2012 version has nice legroom.  CHEVROLET/ASSOCIATED PRESS
CHEVROLET/ASSOCIATED PRESS
The Equinox, a crossover SUV, has seen sales go up more than 48 percent. The 2012 version has nice legroom.

The midsize, five-passenger, 2012 Equinox also has good safety ratings and is a recommended buy of Consumer Reports. Unlike some competitors from foreign brands, it is available with a V-6.

No wonder, then, that sales of the Equinox are up a whopping 48.2 percent through the first eight months of 2011, to 129,538. This makes the Equinox, which is a so-called crossover SUV because its platform, ride and fuel mileage are more carlike than trucklike, General Motors’ top-selling SUV by far.

Starting manufacturer’s suggested retail price, including destination charge, is $24,260 for a two-wheel drive Equinox with 182-horsepower four-cylinder engine. Starting price for an all-wheel drive is $26,010 with the same four-cylinder powerplant.

The optional three-liter V-6 delivers 264 horsepower and boosts towing capacity to 3,500 pounds, from the four-cylinder’s 1,500 pounds. Starting retail price, including destination charge, for a 2012 Equinox with this V-6 and front-wheel drive is $27,280.

The Equinox’s exterior is somewhere between a compact SUV and a larger mid-size. The Equinox only comes with two rows for a maximum of five passengers. But all the seats in the test LTZ were comfortable for adults. The back seat – with ample legroom, a flat floor, reclining seat backs and nice views out the side windows – was truly pleasant.

I liked that the windows on the second-row doors went down completely, and the leather trim on the LTZ tester made it easy to slide onto and off the seats.

Of course, two adults in the Equinox back seat using the pull-down center armrest between them is still more comfortable than three adults sitting next to each other.

The test vehicle had the double overhead cam V-6, and it moved the SUV easily in city and highway traffic. With 222 foot-pounds of torque coming on at a high 5,100 rpm, the Equinox accelerated steadily to merge on the freeway, but it was never unruly in its acceleration. It also managed a subdued pace in neighborhoods without fuss. Steering had a mainstream feel.

With 70 percent of my driving at highway speeds, the tester without all-wheel drive managed a commendable 21.4 miles per gallon. The federal government’s mileage rating for my V-6-powered vehicle was 17 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway, for a combined 20 mpg.

The base, 2.4-liter, direct injection four cylinder that is standard on every Equinox carries a government rating as high as 22/32 mpg. But that’s the engine that provides the lower towing capacity.

All models come with a six-speed automatic transmission.

I did feel shift points at times, though I marveled that I heard very little engine noise, even when accelerating. I noticed just a bit of wind noise by the outside mirrors, and some road noise came through via the optional 18-inch tires. My passengers and I also felt vibrations from the road through to the seat cushions as we traveled on cracked and patched pavement.

My biggest complaint in the test vehicle was the fact it had only 344 miles on it and its air conditioner didn’t work. On a muggy, hot day, I heard the compressor trying to do its job, but the system did nothing but blow air from outside without cooling it.

I liked the high ride height; it helped me see over lower cars and through the windows of tall vans for what was ahead. However, I could not see if anything low to the ground was directly behind the vehicle as I backed up and so relied on the rearview camera.

The Equinox came with plentiful standard safety equipment including front, side and curtain air bags, electronic stability control, traction control and antilock brakes. It has good safety ratings – five out of five stars for the driver in a frontal crash, four of five stars for front passenger protection, plus four and five stars for occupant protection in side crash testing – from the federal government.

SPECS

THE VEHICLE: 2012 Chevrolet Equinox, a front-drive, five-passenger, midsize sport utility vehicle

BASE PRICE: $23,450 for LS; $29,140 for FWD LTZ (tested)

DESTINATION CHARGE: $810

PRICE AS TESTED: $33,540

ENGINE: 3-liter, double overhead cam V-6

TRANSMISSION: Six-speed automatic

EPA MILEAGE: 17 mpg city, 24 mpg highway

LENGTH: 187.8 inches.

WHEELBASE: 112.5 inches.

CURB WEIGHT: 3,777 pounds.

BUILT IN: Ingersoll, Ontario


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