The Chevrolet Equinox is priced and equipped to compete with compact SUVs but it's larger than compact, smaller than midsize. Equinox uses the same Theta architecture that underpins the GMC Terrain. Theta has been updated since the first-generation Equinox, and that's a good thing because the old model didn't handle very well.
Up front, Equinox features Chevrolet's signature two-tier grille with gold bowtie insignia. The headlights wrap around the front fenders. Air ducts sit below the headlights and house fog lights in chromed bezels that bisect the openings. The lower front fascia is charcoal-colored plastic and it has an air dam in the center. The LTZ model and the 2LT with the Chrome Appearance Package add metallic trim pieces to the lower portion of the air dam opening. The hood has three character lines. The hood is shorter than that of pre-2010 models because Chevrolet moved the base of the windshield forward three inches, creating a more slippery shape. The Equinox has a 0.36 coefficient of drag.
Around the sides, the Equinox has pronounced fender flares and a wheels-at-the-corners stance, especially up front. The roof features wraparound side glass at the rear and tinted rear and rear side windows. All but the Equinox LS model has luggage side rails; they're charcoal on Equinox LT models and they add chrome inserts on the Equinox LTZ and the Equinox 2LT with the Chrome Appearance Package. That package also adds chrome door handles and side mirrors. Seventeen-inch aluminum wheels are standard and 18- and 19-inch wheels are available.
At the rear, the Equinox has dual round taillights, a takeoff of the Malibu design, and a roof spoiler. The tailgate opens upward, and a class-exclusive power, programmable tailgate is offered. Owners can program the tailgate to open to different heights so shorter drivers can reach it. Overall, the look is attractive. The LTZ's additional chrome trim adds a touch of class, especially with the chromed 19-inch wheels.
Chevrolet says the Equinox interior was inspired by the interior of the successful Malibu midsize sedan. While that may be true when it comes to aesthetics, it's not true in terms of execution. The Equinox lacks the Malibu's soft-touch surfaces and thoughtful flourishes of chrome trim. Instead, like the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V that Chevrolet benchmarked when developing this vehicle, the Equinox has hard plastic on the entirety of the dashboard, as well as on the center console and door panels. Elements of the Malibu's attractive double-cockpit design are there, but we'd like to see more soft-touch surfaces, tighter gaps and some wood, aluminum or chrome trim.
There are some nice touches. The ice blue ambient lighting is a delightful feature. It's standard on all models, but you get more as you go up the range. Equinox LS models have it on the center stack surround and in the center console cupholders. Equinox LT models add it on the instrument panel and center console, and the Equinox LTZ gets it in the door handle recesses, in the footwells and in the door map pockets. Equinox offers dual-zone automatic climate control, a hard-drive audio system and a dual-screen rear DVD entertainment system.
The instrument panel is attractive. The speedometer and tachometer feature white numbers and black backgrounds. They are set in large pods and in between are water temperature and fuel gauges, as well as a digital trip computer readout. The base interior has a storage cubby at the top of the center stack. When the navigation system is ordered, it sits in this spot. The controls on the center stack are grouped in a tight bunch, with the radio buttons up top and the climate controls at the bottom. With the navigation system, there are 43 buttons, dials and knobs. It's a bit less confusing without the navigation system, but it's going to take some getting used to. All of the controls are easy to reach, and the area is trimmed in a good-looking clear-coated silver-painted plastic.
Space is not a problem in the Equinox. Cloth or leather, the front seats are comfortable and supportive. GM obviously spent some money here. They are especially attractive in leather, with their two-tone coloring and contrast stitching. The front seats have 10 inches of travel and the steering wheel tilts and telescopes, so everyone from the very short to the very tall will be comfortable.
The rear seat continues with the useful MultiFlex system, which includes a reclining feature and eight inches of travel fore and aft. With the rear seat all the way back, a tall rider can fit behind a tall driver. When the rear seat is pushed fully forward, rear cargo capacity is 31.4 cubic feet. The rear seat is also split 60/40 and it folds to open up a total of 63.7 cubic feet of cargo space. The load floor is fairly flat.