Walkaround and Interior

By April 2, 2013

Walkaround

The Chevrolet Equinox is larger than a compact SUV (such as the Honda CR-V) and smaller than a midsize (such as the Honda Pilot). Equinox uses the same Theta architecture that underpins the GMC Terrain.

Up front, Equinox features Chevrolet's signature two-tier dual-port 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 hood has three character lines.

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 available tinted rear and rear side windows. All but the Equinox LS model have luggage side rails. 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 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 and fairly aerodynamically efficient, with a 0.36 coefficient of drag. The LTZ's additional chrome trim adds a touch of class, especially with the chromed 19-inch wheels (though they are ridiculously priced at $3,600).

Interior Features

Chevrolet says the Equinox interior was inspired by the interior of the last generation Malibu midsize sedan. While that may be true when it comes to aesthetics, it's not true in terms of execution. The Malibu has since been redesigned and the interior materials have improved significantly. 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, though. 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, Chevrolet's MyLink infotainment system, and a dual-screen rear DVD entertainment system.

MyLink features a 7-inch touchscreen and provides access to apps through owners' smartphones. The first two apps are Stitcher and Pandora internet radio. The system's home screen features icons that are easy to understand, though drivers may have to stretch to reach the screen, which is also heavily hooded and leans away from the driver. If you can get used to it, you may be better off using the voice commands. The radio, navigation system, Bluetooth phone, and mp3 players are run through the MyLink. Overall, the system is fairly easy to use and it provides much of the connectivity that today's drivers desire, but we find the 8.4-inch touchscreen in the Dodge Journey more user friendly.

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 MyLink system is ordered, it sits in this spot. The center stack is trimmed in a good-looking clear-coated silver-painted plastic. The controls here are grouped in a tight bunch, with the radio buttons up top and the climate controls at the bottom. This mass of buttons, dials and knobs can be confusing.

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 features 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.