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2010 Chevrolet Equinox Review – Shiny on the outside, GM on the inside.

Wednesday November 18th, 2009 at 2:1111 PM
Posted by: bclark

Interior lighting at night

So why does a 265 HP V6 feel slow?
With my enthusiast’s hat on, I’d say a combination of front-wheel drive and the ~3800 lb curb weight, making torque steer an issue and then an engine and drive train mismatch. (1) the gearing seems too tall (2) the engine power output is too peaky and it peaks close to redline. Once in the power band, the front wheels have to be pointed straight ahead and you need a firm grip on the wheel to fight the abundant torque-steer. There is an AWD package available for another $1,700 but this car didn’t come with it. I’d seriously consider adding it if I was going to buy this car. Then I’d be ready for inclement weather and spirited driving.

With my economical, sensible, everyday driver’s hat on, I do realize that impressive acceleration was not at the top of GM’s priorities. Nor is that at the top of many buyers’ lists. Instead, GM made a conscious trade-off on the power-to-weight ratio in favor of competition-crushing fuel economy and driving range. Opt for the 2.4 liter ECOTEC 4-cylinder engine with direct fuel injection if you want maximum fuel economy. Push the Eco button that optimizes shift points for fuel economy and you get 32 MPG highway and a 600 mile driving range (not a typo!). Talk about a great travel or commuter car. These numbers beat the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and Ford Escape hybrid.

We recorded 22 mpg with the 3.0L V6 after running around in the Equinox for a week. EPA estimates for the V6 w/FWD is 17/25. Hypermilers who need more storage capacity than what a sedan has to offer can opt for the 2.4L 4-cylinder engine w/FWD which is estimated to get 22 city and 32 highway.

2010 Chevrolet Equinox

Build

The interior looks so sexy you just want to touch it. But the moment you do, it kills the moment. Did GM sign a 99-year deal with the Acme Hard Plastic Company or what? Maybe they should look into the penalty for early termination of that deal. GM, go talk to the Japanese car companies and find out where they get their pleasant-feeling plastic. Some of the dash and center console pieces feel downright and literally abrasive to the touch. Yuck! Look but don’t touch. But the surfaces you do touch like the leather steering wheel and door-pull handles are very nice.

Something else I don’t get about GM interiors – Why don’t the door and dash edges ever match up? They look like they are meant to flow together, but they are off by about ½ inch. I think the dash guys and the door panel guys should play match-up once in a while – at least prior to the final production stage. Some panels on the dash had gaps and did not match up well with other panels on the dash. I took a photo of the dash at night because (1) it looks really cool and (2) The center console bleeds some of the backlighting around the lower left side because the panel does not seem to lock down all the way. The right side did not have any light protruding. I like the look of it at night, but it was accidental, not intentional.

There were a few buzzing panels that I could not isolate, but they were minimal. There was one very annoying, incessant squeak that I was able to isolate within the first mile. The seat belt buckle receptacle housing rubbed against the leather seat every time I moved – every breath I took and made a loud squeaking noise. It just wouldn’t stop. Nothing a 50-cent stick-on piece of felt wouldn’t fix.

Interior Comfort and Ergonomics

The front seats – wow! Do they fit in my sports car? The LTZ package leather seats feel great on my hands and on my back-side. The center portions on the seating surfaces are very well perforated, eliminating any and all hot-spots that I sometimes experience with leather surfaces. With 8-way adjustment plus lumbar, I was able to adjust them to the perfect shape for my frame. I could sit in them for hours on end and get out feeling fresh. They breathe so well that I could use the seat heaters on high and would not break out into a sweat. The seat heater switches are electronically encoded so you don’t have to physically flip a switch to turn them on, you press a button. And they default to off when you restart the car. You can actually go into the car’s electronics menu and set the default to on or off. Nice touch.

Ergonomics? Well! Where do I start? Just when GM catches on with the rest of the automotive world and started putting radio controls up higher and HVAC controls down lower; it seems they missed the point as to why. The point is to put the radio within easier reach than the HVAC controls. With upright center consoles and dashes, the top position was easier to reach, but with the Equinox’s swept-back center console, the “lower” section is actually within easier reach than the upper section. So in this case the lower section is the correct placement for audio controls. I had more than one person tweak what they thought would be the radio volume knob and wound up increasing the HVAC fan speed.

Chevy Equinox InteriorChevy Equinox Interior2010 Chevrolet Equinox stereo and HVAC controls

The car came with XM Satellite Radio which was completely non-intuitive and almost maddening to use. It also has a USB interface which is a welcomed feature for my iPod, but the steering wheel audio controls do not control the iPod. If you want to play with iPod controls, you have to lean forward and over to grab that far top-right knob that controls the USB device. The USB interface buttons and menus are non-intuitive with the iPod and the multi-function display is slow with visual feedback, you can’t make adjustments without taking your eyes off the road for unsafe periods of time. Unbelievable! They have the hardware and the electronics to make it work, but they fail on ergonomics, User Interface (UI), and execution. Chevy needs to hire some new UI folks. Or just ask customers to provide feedback on your design during the design phase. Sheesh!

The other welcome, but irritating piece is the multi-function display (MFD) on the center console. I really like these types of displays, but GM used such a slow processor to control the electronics and provide feedback to the display that there is a literal 0.5-1.0 second delay between the time that you tweak a knob and the time that the MFD provides that feedback via the display. Why is that the visual feedback is not instantaneous? So you tweak the temp knob, but you have to wait and see if it registered the change and what it went to. Occasionally, I’d adjust the knob again because it did not seem to respond and then it responded to both inputs and I’d have to back it off one notch.

There was an easy exit power seat option and I was curious as to why it was off by default. I turned it on and it worked as expected, sliding the seat back to allow easy exit. But to my dismay, when you get back into the car it does not have the brains to return the seat back to its original position. At least there’s a seat memory switch I could press, but come on… I ended up turning it back off because I was annoyed with it.

Backup camera in rear view monitor

Value

The Equinox LTZ starts at $28,045; which is a jump from the base LS model at $22,440. But the LTZ has a ton of significant standard features. I’ll list the ones that stood out to me:

  • The awesome leather seats! ‘Nuff said there.
  • If you don’t select the NAV feature, Chevy gives you a back-up camera display that appears like magic inside your rear view mirror! This wowed every passenger and I think it should be a standard feature on every car sold in America.
  • Rear Parking Assist provides both an audible tone indicator for how close you are to an object and it provides LED display lights inside the rear hatch area that you can view when you turn back to look.
  • Multi-Flex sliding rear seat allows you the option to decide between 8 more inches of rear seat leg room or 8 more inches of hatch cargo room. Or anything in-between. Genius!
  • Premium Pioneer audio system brings premium sound quality.
  • The remote start option is really nice if you live in cold weather. You can set the default start setting to heated seats on and remote start the car in the mornings. By the time you get out there the heater and seats are toasty warm.
  • The rear power lift-gate is programmable which can be set to fully open or be programmed to open to a specific height. If you have limited overhead clearance where you park, there is a ¾ setting so it does not come into contact your garage door. This feature is unavailable on the Ford Escape, Toyota RAV4 or Hyundai Santa Fe, competitors in the compact crossover segment.
  • 1.25″ hitch receiver so you can take your big toys with you (<3,500 lbs). It’s a no-brainer at $350 (available with the V6 engine only)
  • Hands-free Bluetooth

Compact Crossover Engine
Passenger Volume
2nd Row Rear
Leg Room
Length MPG MSRP
2010 Chevrolet Equinox LTZ FWD 182 hp 2.4L I4 99.7 ft3 39.9 inches 187.8 inches 22/32 $28,045
2010 Ford Escape Hybrid Limited FWD 153 hp 2.5L I4 99.5 ft3 35.6 inches 174.7 inches 31/34 $32,395
2010 Honda CR-V EX-L 2WD 179 hp 2.4L I4 100.9 ft3 38.5 inches 177.9 inches 21/28 $26,495
2010 Mazda CX-7 s Grand Touring 244 hp 2.3L I4 98.8 ft3 36.4 inches 184.3 inches 18/26 $31,185
2009 Nissan Rogue SL 2WD 170 hp 2.5L I4 126.4 ft3 35.3 inches 182.9 inches 22/27 $21,810
2010 Toyota RAV4 Limited 4X2 179hp 2.5L I4 108.2 ft3 38.3 inches 174.3 inches 22/28 $24,490
2010 VW Tiguan SEL 200 hp 2.0L I4 95.3 ft3 35.8 inches 174.3 inches 18/24 $30,990

Who should buy it?

As much as I complain about this car, I did really like it. GM is the home team and I want them to succeed so I am extra hard on them. I think they are on the right direction but there is room for improvement. It’s a car I would consider buying, but the poor ergonomics and finicky transmission are show-stoppers for me. Anyone in the market for a crossover should add this car to their short-list; especially if you value good handling characteristics. This is a great car if you have an active lifestyle and never know what you are going to ask your car to do. It’s so configurable with the sliding and 60/40-split rear seats. You can haul the munchkins and their gear to practice one night (Slide rear seats forward) and the next night you can slide the rear seats back and take four adults out for dinner. Need to haul four adults and jet-skis? No problem. Select the receiver hitch option available with the V6 engine and keep your toys in tow.

I should remind those who plan to transport bicycles in the cargo area that this is a small crossover and cargo space is limited.  I could BARELY fit my medium sized mountain bike into the hatch with the rear seats folded down . It was a 10 minute exercise in geometry to get it in there – even with the bike seat lowered and the font fork in short travel. And it was a 20 minute exercise getting it back out! My mountain bike has a beefy fork with no quick release.  With wheels removes it would have been easier. My 52cm road bike was no problem with wheels in-tact. I would say that mountain bikers should try before they buy.  Or prepare to up for the V6 and the optional 1.5″ receiver for an external rack. I would imaging you can buy and install the hitch yourself on the 4-cyl version, but we probably don’t want to make that recommendation since the manufacturer didn’t. I’d think it’d be fine for a bike rack, but don’t dare tow anything with the 4-cylinder engine.

As a bonus, the Equinox earned a five-star frontal and side-impact crash safety rating. It was also named a 2009 top safety pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. You can trust it to haul your most precious family cargo safely. You really can’t go wrong with this crossover.

2010 Chevrolet Equinox

Conclusion

As GM begins to emerge from the most difficult financial times in their history, the newly restyled Equinox is evidence that their product managers are starting to listen more to their customers as well as paying more attention to styling trends that consumers like instead of styling trends that are different and distinctly GM. Overall, I really enjoyed my time with the Equinox. I was sorry to see it go for some reasons but glad to see it go for others. GM is really close to having an incredibly successful car. With more cars like this, GM will be turning a new chapter in its history books.

Who I’d hire:

  • Chassis engineers
  • Interior stylists
  • Exterior stylists

Who I’d fire:

  • Acme Hard Plastic Company
  • Ergonomics and UI engineers (if GM has any)

BUILD INTERIOR PERFORMANCE HANDLING STYLING VALUE OVERALL
RATING 4.0 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.0 4.5 4.3/B+


Chevrolet Equinox Photo Gallery

2010 Chevrolet Equinox

2010 Chevrolet Equinox Specs

Official website for Chevrolet cars, hybrids, trucks, and SUVs – www.chevrolet.com

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5 Responses to 2010 Chevrolet Equinox Review – Shiny on the outside, GM on the inside.

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  3. Joe says:

    I drove the Equinox and was truly impressed. It is quiet, responsive and roomy. I also drove others but narrowed my choice to two. the Subaru Outlook and the Equinox. But, in light of the problems with GM and my personal belief that we should BUY AMERICAN i was happy with my choice of the Equinox, that is, until i found out it was MADE IN CANADA. Ugh. GM. They take our money and then build out of country. So, you can imagine my shock when i discovered that the Subaru Outlook is made in the USA. too bad GM. Keep our money working here. I will buy the outback.

  4. Steve H. says:

    This looks like an impressive effort by the folks at GM. I saw the car in person at the Sacramento Auto Show (a totally loaded 4-cylinder FWD model) and in the brief stationary review it looked great.

    I had driven the previous generation Equinox as a rental and was underwhelmed by the old pushrod V6 and the vague electric power steering. However, I did find the car to be roomy, quiet and comfortable. It appears that these issues have been addressed and the good points enhanced along with some very nice styling updates.

    I hope to test drive the 4 cylinder version… as the fuel-economy seems really outstanding (at least on paper) and it’s really all I need for commuting and kid-hauling duties. Too bad they don’t offer the Cobalt SS turbo-charged ecotek four-cylinder. Another 100 horsepower and great fuel-economy would make for a cool niche product.

  5. Peter Anastopulos says:

    Love the description of the Equinox which seems like a good useful vehicle with a some style.What I will contest an assertion that you made about station wagons .Since Subaru Outbacks and Impreza,Mazda 3,Toyota Matrix, Venza and Prius,Honda Insight and Element,Scion XD,are all really station wagons.When you add them in with the German/Swedish sport wagons it turns out to be a big number.It’s silly to think a station wagon is that different from a Crossover .There is a big case for a station wagon since Crossover and many SUV’s have horrible ground clearance so why destroy your aerodynamic coefficient by being so tall?A wagon or Shooting Brake is so much more slippery .Cars have evolved so much further then trucks that I will always choose a car based vehicle that can cheat the wind.





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