Chevrolet’s 2012 Equinox crossover fit me like an Italian suit. The leather driver’s seat hugged, the interior cocooned, the handsome exterior tidily enclosed. Too bad I don’t want to wear—or drive—something resembling an Italian suit every single day.
A crossover is a blend of car and sport-utility vehicle, and is meant to provide families and empty-nester types with the best of both worlds: Car-like sensations with SUV-style usefulness.
The Equinox unquestionably succeeds at the former: Its exterior looks like a second skin pulled over proportionate and brawny shoulders and chest—the front end, fenders, and hood swell in appealing ways. Plus the Equinox strikes a compact stance, and the numbers bear out the notion: At 15-plus feet (188 inches), the Chevy is shorter than a Toyota Camry sedan.
Open the driver’s door and again, car-ishness is everywhere. From behind the wheel, my tester vehicle ($33,640), a gussied up, all-wheel-drive, “2LT” version felt as intimate and sporty as an SUV-let can feel. I encountered a meaty, driver-oriented steering wheel, clear instrumentation, and a sleek, enveloping cowl that houses the navigation/entertainment/communication screen (and the GM-signature button overload). I’m five-foot-eight and could raise the electric seat aplenty, and the added height gave me an uncharacteristic but appealing, ute-like perch.
Meanwhile the 3-liter, 264-horsepower, V6 engine enjoys its work and sings a nice song at high RPMs. Steering is light and can be managed with mere fingers. The suspension is compliant and unobtrusive. Close your eyes (for a sec, anyway) and you could swear that you’re driving a very inviting and easy-riding car.
And, if your daily (or almost daily) driving involves transporting two babies or very young kids, and/or less than four people total, the dynamics, style, and convenience of the Equinox may be all you need. When you think about this crossover, think of a vertically enhanced sedan.
But the Equinox, especially compared to its competition, suffers from a lack of utility. The rear seats, which as a unit conveniently move forward and back to provide either more legroom or cargo capacity, fold independently but don’t fold flat.
That’s so 1976. Then, with the back seats up, storage space amounts to 32 cubic feet. Honda’s CRV, Toyota’s RAV4, and Kia’s Sorento all offer at least 10 percent more room, and even Honda’s relatively microscopic Fit car offers 20 cubic feet of storage with its rear seats up, and 57 with the seats down.
The snazzy but portly (3,800-pound) Equinox only provides 64 cubic feet of storage with the seats down, and the storage area is notably pinched by plastic cladding that walls off the rear wheel wells and then some. Personally, I wouldn’t consider buying the Equinox without purchasing a roof-rack-mounted storage box. However, that brick of a case does nothing good for the Chevy’s great looks, or its already disappointing gas mileage. My urban driving returned under 15 miles per gallon. I guess I enjoyed the V6 enjoying its work a little too much.
Each time my wife and two kids hopped into the Equinox with me, they had nothing but great things to say. Lots of cubbyholes. A honking, do-everything stereo/nav system. Comfortable seats. Cool colors (the gorgeous interior was brown and black leather and nice silver trim; the exterior paint was a pretty black granite metallic). But the Tilins didn’t road trip in the Equinox w/all the family trimmings, and I know everyone would’ve grumbled about me packing excess luggage at their feet. Meanwhile I would’ve complained about the thirsty engine.
You can enjoy better mileage by opting for the 182-horsepower four-banger (which will not tow the heavy stuff), and in the process save yourself $1,500, which will help put the Equinox pricing below $30,000—yet still frequently above the price of its competition. Or just blow off logic, roll large and good-looking (don’t forget the $1,000 chrome rims), and endure tight quarters and less usefulness. The Equinox makes the argument that, despite supposedly being half SUV, people will buy anything from a suit to a utility vehicle for emotional reasons.
Price as tested: $33,640
Photo Credit: Chevrolet
Andrew Tilin has been a writer and editor for national publications for the last 25 years. He’s been on staff at Outside and Time Inc.’s Business 2.0 magazines. Andrew is longtime car geek—over the years he’s written car reviews about vehicles ranging from EVs to McLaren’s Formula One cars. His third book, “The Doper Next Door,” was published in the summer 2011.