2013 Chevrolet Equinox LT Road Test Review

Trevor Hofmann - CAP staff
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Published on December 04, 2012

Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press

Published on December 04, 2012

Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press

Published on December 04, 2012

Published on December 04, 2012

Published on December 04, 2012

Published on December 04, 2012

Published on December 04, 2012

Published on December 04, 2012

Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press

Published on December 04, 2012

Published on December 04, 2012

Published on December 04, 2012

Published on December 04, 2012

Published on December 04, 2012

Published on December 04, 2012

Published on December 04, 2012

Published on December 04, 2012

Published on December 04, 2012

Published on December 04, 2012

Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press

Published on December 04, 2012

Published on December 04, 2012

Published on December 04, 2012

Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press

Published on December 04, 2012

Published on December 04, 2012

Published on December 04, 2012

Published on December 04, 2012

Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press

Published on December 04, 2012

Published on December 04, 2012

Published on December 04, 2012

Published on December 04, 2012

Published on December 04, 2012

Published on December 04, 2012

Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press

Published on December 04, 2012

Published on December 04, 2012

Published on December 04, 2012

Published on December 04, 2012

Published on December 04, 2012

Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press

Published on December 04, 2012

Published on December 04, 2012

All you need to do is look around the next time you're out on the road to see how well General Motors is doing in the compact crossover business. Its Chevrolet Equinox is extremely popular and Theta platform-sharing GMC Terrain more than pulling its own weight on the sales charts. The current generation of both crossover SUVs went on sale in 2009 as 2010 models, and within three years have managed to find more than 1 million buyers.

GM has made sure we've had one of each to review almost every year since they became available, so the opportunity to get behind the wheel of this 2013 Equinox LT was welcome, but for more reasons than just telling you about it. Don't get me wrong, I love writing and feel a duty to give you the straight goods about any car I'm covering, but some are more enjoyable to test than others. The Equinox rates in the upper 50-percent category. What makes it better?

For starters, call me vain but I'd rather be seen in a vehicle that looks good. To most, the Equinox is a nice looking ute, with agreeable proportions, one of the better adaptations of Chevy's strikethrough grille, stylishly curved body panels, and an athletically poised stance. It's hardly rocket science that good looking cars sell better, and with the Equinox expected to achieve more than 200,000 unit sales by year's end it seems that the bowtie design department got this one exactly right.

It's plenty nice inside too, with a pleasing design that fits together well. My loaner was an Equinox LT, which is positioned between the base LS and the top-line LTZ, although Chevy loaded it up like an LTZ with 2LT trim, and then on top of that $6,525 worth of options such as a tilt-sliding glass sunroof, lane departure warning with forward collision alert, a powered liftgate and more, but the most upscale addition of all was perforated leather seating, my particular example featuring grey insets to match the grey portion of its two-tone dash and door panels, with tastefully applied red stitching on the seat edges and door armrests for a sportier ambiance.

The sporty theme suited the driving experience now that Chevy has upgraded its V6 option. The 3.6-litre unit now makes 301-horsepower and 272 lb-ft of torque and comes mated to a six-speed automatic transmission for spirited performance off the line and lots of passing power once up to speed. It's a smooth drivetrain with a nice sporty growl at full throttle, pleasing to the senses without being harsh or even intrusive.

It's also fairly efficient, with a claimed rating of 13.2 L/100km in the city, 8.4 on the highway and 11.0 combined in all-wheel drive trim, like my tester. You can save a bit if you opt for front-wheel drive, both initially and at the pump with estimated mileage of 12.4 city, 8.1 highway and 10.5 combined, while the Equinox' base 182-horsepower 2.4-litre four might be a better bet for the fuel economy conscious with a claimed rating of 10.1 city, 6.9 highway and 8.7 combined in all-wheel drive or 9.2, 6.1 and 7.8 in front-drive trim. All competitive numbers for sure, and good for comparison purposes, but my real-world results were less optimistic at 12.5 combined city and highway. Still, not bad for a fairly large compact SUV with a powerful V6, and it wasn't like I was dawdling around town never putting my foot into it.

Yah, I had my fun. The 3.6 not only gets the Equinox up and going with seemingly effortless acceleration, but it's rock steady at highway speeds and pretty agile through corners. My tester had upgraded 18-inch rims on 235/55s, which no doubt helped its handling over the stock 17s, but it's the way Chevy set up the SUV's fully independent suspension that makes it a joy to drive, as it balances comfort and performance very well.

The comfort aspect is heightened by some of the best seat heaters in the business, three-way with equal parts roasted rump and ribs. And those seats are well-designed and eight-way multi-adjustable including lumbar, so I never experienced an achy back after a day's errands. All the features that matter most worked flawlessly, like the easy to use automatic climate control and high-quality steering wheel switches that connected through to my tester's upgraded 8-speaker, 250-watt Pioneer audio system that comes standard with the 2LT. It sounds great and works with my iPhone song library via a standard USB plug (if you have a different player type it has standard aux too). It's accessible via an impressive 7-inch touch-screen colour infotainment display that makes navigating through the features a pleasure. On the topic of navigation, you can add a GPS system to the 2LT for very little coin at $795, so it might be a good way to go if you're in regular need of directions. Visibility won't be the reason you can't find your way without navigation, though, as it's excellent out any window, and the little convex mirrors within the side mirrors are as helpful as the lane departure warning system. 

Rear seat passengers should be comfortable in seats that slide fore and aft up to 200 millimetres plus recline in three positions, and of course they fold flat in the usual 60/40 formation for near optimal passenger/cargo flexibility. I say near optimal because I'm seeing more and more SUVs with 40/20/40 seats that allow a 60/40-split at either side or the option of lowering the centre section and laying longer items like skis in between, giving more comfort to back passengers after a long day on the mountain. I like its overall capacity though. Not the largest in the class for passengers and their cargo, but hardly the smallest either with 889 litres available behind the rear row and 1,803 litres when both seatbacks are laid flat.

Where were its shortcomings? While I like the styling and aforementioned detailing of the interior, plus some of the nice metalwork trim in brushed aluminum and chrome, for an SUV that steps over the $40k threshold including its destination charge as tested and nudges up against $45,000 in top-tier LTZ trim, it could use a few additional premium touches like some more soft-touch plastic surfaces, an electronic parking brake instead of the old-tech foot operated one, and proximity sensing keyless access with pushbutton start would be a nice option considering Chevy has it in its parts bin. Maybe we'll see features like these added in a future upgrade.

Until then I'm guessing Chevy's Equinox will do just fine as it is. It continues to look great, drive well and deliver above expectations in most every other way. No wonder there's so many of them out there.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Crossover, SUV, Chevrolet, 2013, Equinox, $30,000 - $39,999, $40,000 - $49,999, Compact,

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