2012 Chevrolet Equinox Expert Review

3.9 Overall Score
Performance 3.4Comfort 4.0Styling 3.9Value 3.6

Editor's Overview

Despite being one of the largest compact SUVs in the category, the 2012 Chevrolet Equinox offers excellent fuel economy and surprisingly precise steering. The Equinox utilizes its larger dimensions to provide its occupants with generous legroom and ample cargo space for their gear.

You'll Like The 2012 Chevrolet Equinox If...

If you like the idea of driving a small SUV, but you want carlike ride and handling, excellent gas mileage, cutting-edge navigation, audio and cell-phone connectivity and you demand it all in a vehicle with a strong sense of style, the 2012 Chevrolet Equinox will likely meet all your criteria and then some.

You May Not Like The 2012 Chevrolet Equinox If...

Those who cannot live without a third-row seat will have to live without the 2012 Chevrolet Equinox SUV. What's worse, to get a third-row seat you'll have the difficult decision choosing among the Toyota RAV4, Mitsubishi Outlander and Hyundai Santa Fe.

What's New

The 2012 Chevy Equinox compact SUV gains blind-spot mirrors on all trims, while Bluetooth is now standard on the LS trim. A rearview camera is added to the 1LT trim and a new 7-inch color touch-screen radio with USB port is made standard on 1LT, 2LT and LTZ. Later in the model year, Chevrolet's MyLink infotainment and safety system becomes available.

Interior Features

While the interiors of the Hyundai Santa Fe and Honda CR-V may be newer than the 2012 Chevrolet Equinox crossover SUV, we still think the Equinox has one of the most visually dynamic instrument panels and interior layouts in the segment. Aside from some plastics that look a bit cheap, the stunning flow of the center stack and the Equinox's ice-blue ambient lighting and available perforated leather seats make you forget you're not in a luxury crossover. Order the 2-tone Jet Black/Brownstone leather seat package, and you'd swear you were driving in a new small Cadillac crossover rather than in a Chevy. Beyond its good looks, the 2012 Chevrolet Equinox provides excellent room for four adults, a vast cargo hold and lots of clever storage spots for drinks, cell phones and odd and ends. The rear seats can slide forward a full eight inches, creating an even larger cargo area. To help keep the cabin quiet, 4-cylinder models are equipped with active noise cancellation, a system that employs the audio speakers to cancel out intrusive sound waves with counteracting sound waves.

Exterior Features

Unlike so many smaller crossover SUVs that attempt to mimic the styling of their full-size big brothers, Chevrolet wisely gave the 2012 Equinox SUV its own distinctive look. Looking more like a slightly overgrown Malibu wagon than a tough little SUV, the Chevy Equinox stands out with an oversized headlight treatment and the signature 2-bar grille. Eye-catching styling cues include the "floating" foglight bezels and the sharply creased fender flares that give the 2012 Chevrolet Equinox crossover SUV a decidedly racy appearance. While we find even the base trim to be attractive, it's the LTZ trim that makes our hearts race. With its 19-inch aluminum alloy wheels, chrome-covered door handles and neatly placed roof rack, the LTZ really stands out from its competitors' more pedestrian offerings.

Driving Impressions

If the 2012 Chevy Equinox compact SUV has one standout feature, it's the vehicle's roomy, quiet and nicely appointed interior. If you count yourself as someone more interested in fuel efficiency rather than the fastest 0-to-60-mph time, the standard 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine with its 182 horsepower should more than suffice. Teamed to an ultra-smooth 6-speed automatic transmission, the Equinox's 4-cylinder engine has no problem moving the little SUV, and its ability to select the right gear for maximum fuel economy earns the 2012 Chevy Equinox SUV an EPA highway estimated 32 mpg. If you're not trying to squeeze every drop of gasoline from your tank, the 264-horsepower 3.0-liter V6 delivers a much more robust performance. V6-powered models also offer more optional equipment, such as the Lane Departure Warning and Forward Collision Alert systems. Finding a comfortable position behind the wheel is a breeze thanks to the tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and power adjustable seat. The Equinox's sliding rear seats make it easy for rear-seat passengers to get comfortable, especially those with long legs.

Pricing Notes

The 2012 Chevy Equinox SUV has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting just over $24,000 for the base Equinox LS, and tops out at about $37,000 for a fully loaded AWD Equinox LTZ model. We expect our Fair Purchase Price values to reflect real-world transaction prices within a few hundred dollars of sticker price. Comparable base models of the Ford Escape and Toyota RAV4 start closer to $23,000 and top out around $33,000 and $36,000, respectively. As for resale, we expect the 2012 Chevy Equinox to hold strong 5-year residual values, better than the Ford Escape and Kia Sorento, nearly equal to the Toyota RAV4, and just below the Honda CR-V.

Notable Equipment

All models have a 6-speed automatic transmission, while an "eco" mode on models with the 4-cylinder engine alters shift points to improve fuel economy. Safety and convenience are enhanced with standard OnStar, while XM Satellite Radio provides added entertainment value. The "smart" remote-start feature, standard on the 2012 Chevrolet Equinox 2LT and Equinox LTZ trims, also activates the heating and air conditioning.

Notable Options

The 2012 Chevy Equinox SUV offers a rear-seat DVD entertainment system and a power liftgate, both of which are uncommon in the category. Other notable options include the 264-horsepower V6 engine, all-wheel drive, a navigation system, comprehensive premium audio system, remote start, rearview camera, leather seating, heated front seats, and a memory-enabled driver's seat and mirror. Later in the model year, Chevrolet's MyLink infotainment system will allow users to connect their cell phones to the system, accessing such apps as Pandora and Stitcher Smart Radio via voice-activated commands.

Favorite Features

Height-adjustable Tailgate
If you have low garage clearance or limited vertical reach, the 2012 Chevy Equinox SUV allows the tailgate to be programmed to open to a safe or reachable height.

Rear-seat Entertainment
This is an option we think more vehicles in the class should offer. In the 2012 Chevy Equinox compact SUV, the system features two independent seatback-mounted screens on which one rear passenger can watch a DVD movie while the other plays a (self-supplied) video game, for instance.

Under the Hood

Every 2012 Chevrolet Equinox compact SUV includes a fuel-efficient, 182-horsepower, 4-cylinder engine as standard equipment, and all but the entry LS trim level offer the upgrade to the 264-horsepower V6 for around $1,500. The engines feature direct-injection technology and are matched with 6-speed automatic transmissions, both of which simultaneously increase power and efficiency. The 4-cylinder versions offer an "Eco" button that sets the engine and transmission programming to mileage-maxing mode. Both engines are E85 compatible. The V6 offers manual shift control, although we felt it could be more responsive. The 4- and 6-cylinder versions feature tow ratings of 1,500 and 3,500 pounds respectively.

2.4-liter in-line 4
182 horsepower @ 6,700 rpm
172 lb-ft of torque @ 4,900 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/32 (FWD) 20/29 (AWD), 15/22 (E85, FWD), 14/20 (E85, AWD)

3.0-liter V6
264 horsepower @ 6,950 rpm
222 lb-ft of torque @ 5,100 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/24 (FWD), 12/18 (FWD, E85), 16/23 (AWD), 12/17 (AWD, E85)

Editors' Notes

In the 2012 Chevrolet Equinox compact SUV, Chevrolet stretched the boundary of what is considered "compact" to create a small SUV priced and equipped like the segment-leading Honda CR-V, but with more power, more features and more style. Comparatively, the Toyota RAV4 might be a better matchup, as both vehicles have the same larger footprint, offer the option of a V6 engine and are similarly priced. Although unlike the RAV4, the 2012 Chevrolet Equinox SUV does not offer a third-row seat, it does have plenty of room for five and a sizable cargo hold to boot. The Traverse is more stylish than many of its competitors, including the conservatively styled Kia Sorrento and somewhat dated Ford Escape. With some of the best fuel-economy figures in the segment, the 2012 Chevy Equinox continues to draw customers-new and repeat alike-making the most of every penny they spend.

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