This review is part of a 10-car comparison of compact crossover SUVs. The Chevrolet Equinox is ranked 9th place of 10.
When it first appeared as a 2010 model, the current version of the Chevrolet Equinox was a class act – an affordable crossover that brought unprecedented levels of refinement and fuel efficiency to a class of comparatively basic boxes.
But now, in its seventh model year, the Equinox has not kept pace with the dramatic transformations of its competitors. A new 2016-model update brought only modest cosmetic tweaks, and that was the biggest change in the life of the car (aside from a bigger engine for V6 models a couple years back). The Equinox’s weak points of inefficient packaging, uneventful acceleration, and a relative lack of agility have been compounded as the competition improved.
Perhaps even worse, its strong points of a smooth, quiet ride and comfortable seats are no longer better than the class norm. And its once-great gas mileage is now the lowest of the 10 cars in this comparison, with an EPA rating of just 23 mpg in mixed driving with a four-cylinder engine and all-wheel-drive. Interior quality is another area where this Chevrolet has been allowed to slip toward the back of the class.
Despite the Equinox’s age, it’s still one of the most expensive small crossovers. Even with generous discounts, you’d pay more for one than for any comparably equipped competitor.
This is still a roomy, quiet crossover with good crash test results. But that’s just not enough anymore. Overall, the Equinox now comes up short.
The vehicle reviewed for this comparison – a 2016 Chevrolet Equinox LT AWD equipped with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, automatic transmission, power driver’s seat, sunroof, blind-spot monitoring system, automatic climate control, infotainment screen and alloy wheels – has a sticker price of $31,985 and has an estimated transaction price of $28,008. It’s also offered with a 3.6-liter V6, and is also sold with different styling as the GMC Terrain.
Why to buy it
As a large family car, there’s appeal to the Equinox. It’s the biggest model in this comparison on the outside, which helps it offer the class’s roomiest rear seat; the front seats are also well-shaped and comfortable. It’s smooth and quiet going down the road. A touchscreen radio is now standard equipment. Despite its age, the Equinox’s crash-test scores are strong, and most modern safety features are available. The Equinox isn’t new anymore, but the strengths that made it among the best in its class in the early part of this decade have not all vanished.
The Equinox’s size also gives it more presence and a more solid feel than some of the smaller, lighter crossovers in this class. In terms of metal, you can feel like you’re getting more for your money.
And like other General Motors cars, the Equinox includes OnStar, which can assist the driver with such matters as unlocking the car’s doors remotely and calling 911 if it detects an accident. The system now also includes a Wi-Fi hotspot in the car.
Why to skip it
The Equinox’s advantages are pretty simple, and to many buyers, pretty significant. Its weak points, though, are more numerous – and, in many cases, not a good idea to overlook either.
The first weak point is the price. The Equinox is costlier than every comparably equipped competitor in this comparison. Still with cloth seats and no navigation system, its stick price is nearly $32,000. Truecar.com projects that you can haggle a generous $4,000 off that price point, but that still leaves $28,000 – a couple of grand more than a comparable Honda CR-V or Nissan Rogue.
Of course, if the Equinox were outstanding, it could easily justify that sort of price difference. But it isn’t. It beats the Ford Escape to avoid last place on the basis of its comfortable seats and strong safety ratings – the Ford struggles in both areas – but the Equinox struggles to stand out in a positive way from its strongest competitors.
First of all, while the Equinox’s big-car feel could make it more premium, that ambiance is greatly reduced by the downscale interior décor. The Chevrolet is trimmed in various roughly grained hard plastics and large amounts of silvery false metal, with trim pieces that at times don’t fit together well. The gear selector feels cheap and clunky and the manual front-seat adjustments feel fragile. Despite its high price, the Equinox has just not kept pace with the class norms for interior luxury.
In another issue, Equinox’s exterior size manifests itself in a heavy weight, which hurts both acceleration and fuel economy. EPA mileage ratings are at the back of the class, and there’s no zip to the acceleration. Handling also suffers. It’s not as bad as it could be, given that this is an aging, heavy vehicle that’s tuned for a cushy ride. But the Equinox isn’t immune to those factors, and is one of the more ponderous small crossovers on a twisty road. It’s also not at its element in tight quarters, with a wide 40-foot turning radius.
The exterior size also somehow fails to yield impressive cargo space. The floor is narrow and somewhat high off the ground, leaving the Equinox with less storage space than most competitors. The spec sheet reads 31.5 cubic feet of space behind the rear seat, and 63.7 cubes with the seat folded down. The rear seat folds easily and is designed to retain a flush connection to the cargo floor, but the folded seatback rests at a somewhat steep angle.
If you just love it
If something about the Equinox really resonates with you personally – the way it looks, the design of its cupholder, a particular rare feature, or anything else – just ensure that you’re familiar with how it compares to today’s competitors, that you don’t love it only because you aren’t familiar with the competition. As noted earlier, this Chevrolet costs more, gets worse fuel economy, handles less nimbly, has a lower-quality interior, and has less cargo space than all or most of the models on sale today. But if you love it, despite those drawbacks, you’re still getting a safe and comfortable crossover.
If you just hate it
If something about the Equinox simply rubs you the wrong way but you do want a car much like this one, first consider the GMC Terrain, which is the same vehicle but with more angular styling and some more available luxury features.
Otherwise, the most similar vehicle is the Jeep Cherokee – another big, heavy, comfortable crossover with similar strengths and weaknesses. Between the two of them, the Equinox is roomier and has better crash-test scores; the Cherokee has a nicer interior and nimbler handling.
More well-rounded options include the Honda CR-V and Nissan Rogue, which are spacious, comfortable, well-finished, reasonably priced and fuel efficient. The Rogue doesn’t do as well in crash tests as the Equinox, though, and the CR-V has frustrating audio controls.
The Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, a slightly larger model, is another option as a well-rounded and comparatively upscale-feeling crossover, though it’s at least as expensive as the Chevrolet and has a less comfortable rear seat.
Even the Equinox’s strongest points aren’t class standouts. But its weakest points are – in a bad way. It’s expensive yet it feels cheap, it’s slow yet it gets poor mileage, it’s big yet it doesn’t have great cargo space. It’s overdue for a full redesign.
Overall grade: C+
More from this comparison:
– Next review: 2016 Jeep Cherokee Latitude (8th place)
– Previous review: 2016 Ford Escape SE (10th place)
– Rating the 10 compact crossovers – how do they compare in different ways, such as comfort, performance, and fuel economy?
– Ranking the 10 compact crossovers – how do they stack up for different types of buyers?
– Introduction to this comparison
More about the 2016 Chevrolet Equinox:
Gallery of exterior and interior photos
Vehicle base price (MSRP): $23,495
Version tested: LT AWD
Version base price (MSRP): $29,095
Vehicle price as tested (MSRP): $27,620
Vehicle price as comparable (MSRP):* $31,985
Estimated transaction price as comparable:** $28,008
Test vehicle provided by: Ourisman Chevrolet; Bowie, Md.
Length: 178.8 inches
Width: 72.5 inches
Height: 66.3 inches
Wheelbase: 112.5 inches
Weight: 3,951 pounds
Cargo volume behind rear seat: 31.5 cubic feet
Cargo space, rear seat folded: 63.7 cubic feet
Towing capacity: 1,500 pounds
Ground clearance: 6.9 inches
Turning circle: 40.0 feet
Engine (as tested): 2.4-liter I4
– Horsepower: 182
– Torque: 172 pound-feet
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Drive wheels (as tested): All-wheel-drive***
EPA city mileage: 20 miles per gallon
EPA highway mileage: 29 miles per gallon
EPA combined mileage: 23 miles per gallon
Fuel capacity: 18.8 gallons
Assembly location: Canada
For more information: Chevrolet website
* Prices as comparable reflect vehicles equipped with all-wheel-drive, power-adjustable cloth seats, an infotainment system, a sunroof, automatic climate control, and a blind-spot monitoring system, or the nearest equivalent.
** Estimated transaction prices are based on data from Truecar.com and dealer quotes.
*** The listed specifications reflect the vehicle reviewed with all-wheel-drive. The vehicle driven has front-wheel-drive.