It should come as no surprise that the Chevy Equinox, built right here in Canada, has proved to be one of the most popular compact crossovers in this country and in the United States.
Since its debut in 2004, this five-passenger ‘sport-cute’, manufactured with unibody architecture on GM’s Theta platform, has offered entry-level affordability, five-passenger room, four-cylinder fuel economy, optional six-cylinder towing power and all-wheel drive availability at every trim level.
The Chevy Equinox has evolved steadily to keep pace with a very competitive market. An improved second-generation 2010 model set new sales records and GM’s yearly upgrades have culminated with this year’s 2013 model, featuring a new optional V6 engine and new technologies.
The Equinox comes in four trim levels—the base LS model, LT (divided into 1LT and 2LT package choices) and in top-of-the-line LTZ trim with all the fixings.
The standard power unit for Equinox is a 2.4-litre DOHC Ecotec direct-injected in-line four-cylinder engine making 182 hp at 6700 rpm with 172 lb/ft of torque peaking at 4900 rpm. Fuel economy is rated at 9.2/6.1L/100km (city/hwy) in FWD configuration. This four-banger’s combined blend of fuel-efficient thrift and adequate pulling power has made it the go-to engine for Canadian consumers.
But the Equinox does offer a choice of powertrains.
A larger percentage of Americans, and some Canadians with recreational towing needs, have traditionally opted for a more powerful V6 engine.
As tested here, our 2013 Equinox 2LT model harnesses a new, 3.6-litre DOHC direct-injected LFX V6 that replaces the previous 3.0-litre unit.
The new engine makes 301 hp at 6500 rpm (up 37 hp or 14 per cent) and 272 lb/ft of torque at 4800 rpm (up 50 lb/ft or 22 per cent).
This motor makes significantly more grunt than its predecessor although Chevrolet has not changed the official 1588 kg tow rating (3500 lb).
To complement the additional power, GM has a new available FE2 suspension package to go with the 3.6-litre V6. It offers refined ride and handling control, a good idea for customers with towing demands.
The FE2 suspension packaged is tied in with the purchase of optional 18-inch wheels or the 19-inch chrome-clad wheels on LTZ models.
Fuel economy in this AWD model is rated at 13.2/8.4L/100 (city/hwy) although, as usual, real world testing numbers tend to average out closer to the ‘city’ rating.
After 500 km or so of mixed driving conditions, my fuel economy average worked out to 12.6L/100km (comb).
Inside, the Equinox offers a nice blend of comfort and conveniences. Instruments are well laid out and the blend of tones and textures, metallic highlights and Ice Blue ambient illumination sets an upscale tone to the interior. There are nooks and crannies for storage and a deep centre console that will swallow a laptop.
Some competitors may offer more cargo space but a standard MultiFlex rear seat allows 200 millimetres (7.9 inches) of fore/aft movement for best-in-class rear legroom and luggage versatility.
With the 60/40 split-back rear seat moved all the way forward, the cargo area offers 872 litres (30.8 cu ft) of storage. That expands to a maximum of 1,803 litres (63.7 cu ft) with the second row folded flat.
This 2LT model with added options comes close to the trappings of a full-blown LTZ version. Some of the features include the new MyLink audio and connectivity suite of technologies with navigation, the Pioneer premium sound system, heated leather seating and more.
Frankly, with all the extras, this tester in 2LT trim ($31,825) with AWD ($1,950), 3.6-litre V6 ($1,725), power sunroof ($1,095), 18-inch chrome wheels ($950), MyLink with navigation ($795), Convenience package with power liftgate and universal home remote ($675) and other options, comes to a total price of $42,595, which seems somewhat removed from the Equinox’s frugal origins.
I would personally opt for a simpler choice but it’s the wide versatility of trim and packaging levels that makes the Equinox a viable contender in a market niche crowded with other competent competitors like the Kia Sportage, Hyundai Tucson or Santa Fe, Nissan Rogue, Mazda CX-5 and Ford Escape, to name just a few. Customers playing the made-in-Canada card should also consider the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V.
The Equinox and its GMC Terrain sibling have been a boon for the CAMI plant in Ingersoll, Ontario (see sidebar attached), with three recent upgrades in shift numbers and volume, and with some final assembly in Oshawa. But there is also some worry as GM shifts a production percentage to the former Saturn plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee.
Hopefully, the Canadian standards of production excellence that have contributed so much to the Equinox’s competitive spirit and sales success will continue to make it a viable made-in-Canada alternative.
Chevrolet Equinox 2LT AWD 2012
Body Style: four-door, five-passenger compact crossover SUV.
Drive Method: front-engine, front- or all-wheel drive.
Engine Choices: 2.4-litre direct injection inline four-cylinder engine (182 hp, 172 lb/ft); As Tested 3.6-litre direct injection V6 engine (301 hp, 272 lb/ft)
Fuel Economy: 2.4-litre I-4 FWD 9.2/6.1L/100km (city/hwy); 2.4-litre I-4 AWD 10.1/6.9L/100km (city/hwy); 3.6-litre V6 FWD 12.4/8.1L/100km (city/hwy); As tested 3.6-litre V6 AWD 12.9/8.6L/100km (city/hwy)
Cargo: 872 litres (30.8 cu.ft.); 1803 litres (63.7 cu.ft.) with second row folded
Tow Rating: 2.4-litre I-4 680 kg (1,500 lb); 3.0-litre V6 1,588 kg (3500 lb)
Sample Prices: Equinox 2.4-litre FWD LS $26,935; 1LT $30,025; 2LT $31,825; LTZ $36,005; (AWD $1,650) (3.6-litre V6 $1,725)
As Tested Price: $41,095