The CUV has become the staple for the Canadian family and every month it seems like we see more of them on the roads. For Chevrolet this trend has resulted in increased sales of their 5 passenger CUV the Equinox. In fact the Equinox so popular that it is second only to the Silverado pickup truck in terms of total Chevrolet’s North American sales. Whenever the time comes to revisit the design or packaging of such successful products those responsible for making the final decisions carry a heavy burden of responsibility. Get it right and you could win over new buyers, but make a mistake and the customers will abandon the brand like a sinking ship.
I recently spent some time acquainting myself with the refreshed 2016 Chevrolet Equinox. My review vehicle was the LTZ AWD which is at the top of a new 3 trim level structure- LS, LT and LTZ. In a wise move to win over buyers the powers that be have chosen to increase the appeal of the model by adding to the standard equipment offered at all levels. For example all models now include a 7” touchscreen with revised graphics, Bluetooth phone connectivity and a rear-view camera. While the base model will not stream music from your phone, the focus the company has placed on providing a safer vehicle is easy to see.
The test vehicle I drove featured all of the optional technology packages. First off is the $1,250 Driver Confidence package. It includes Forward collision alert, Lane departure alert, Side blind spot alert, rear cross traffic alert and rear park assist. This is one package that is worth the money. The system provides the alerts visually from a small display located on top of the dash board. It shows a green car when you are driving safely or a red depiction of the accident you are about to have if, for example, the system feels you are following too closely.
The next package is called the True North Edition. For $1,530 you gain a sunroof over the front seats only, a Pioneer Premium 8 Speaker sound system that leaves a lot to desired when compared to premium sound systems in other SUV’s, the ability to stream music via Bluetooth, and GPS. I was impressed by the voice recognition software that controls the stereo, navigation and phone; it works well and surprisingly rapidly. The infotainment system uses the latest version of Chevy’s Mylink software; it even features a 4G LTE WiFi hotspot. While the software works great the smallish buttons can make it difficult to quickly find the desired control. The only glitch I came across was the occasional lack of response from the touchscreen; I would have to select the wanted function 2 or 3 times to get it to respond.
The $260 Interior Protection package which delivers rubber floor mats and a cargo mat was also included. I liked how the cargo mat prevented objects from sliding about, however I would personally go aftermarket and try to save a few bucks.
The interior is typical GM, some nice materials mixed with some cheaper surfaces that make for a good overall impression. The heated leather front seats are quite comfy and the 8-way adjustability means they should fit just about anyone. The rear seats are also nice with enough legroom for adults and the ability to tilt and slide them provides even more comfort and convenience. The interior redesign included some extra storage space such as the new centre stack shelf. The large compartment below the front centre armrest and the multi-tiered door panels give you numerous storage options making the Equinox a very family friendly unit. Behind the rear seats is an ample 889L (31.4 cu ft) of cargo space, but with the rear seats folded this expands to an impressive 1,803L (63.7 cu ft). While hauling drywall may be a stretch it would easily accommodate the hockey equipment of several children.
Much to my disappointment the vehicle I was given did not use the direct injected 301 horsepower 3.6L V-6 powerhouse. No, I had to make do with the standard 2.4L Ecotec 4 cylinder. Developing just 182 horsepower and 172 lb-ft, the base engine felt overwhelmed by the task of hauling the 1,781 kg Equinox around. I often found myself having to fully depress the throttle just to keep up with traffic and I needed every meter of the on ramps to get up to highway speeds. The struggling engine revs high and is rather noisy under heavy loads, thankfully once up to pace the noise is minimal. Having to be hard on the throttle meant the fuel consumption suffered. I was only able to average 10.6 L/100 km of mostly highway driving, which was not as good as the official numbers (11.5 city, 8.2 highway) led me to expect. I suspect the V-6 is the better option, as the higher torque developed will eliminate the need for full throttle acceleration. The 6 also has the added privilege of being one of the segments most powerful; never a bad thing to tell the neighbour.
The handling is exactly average for an SUV. On the road it feels remarkably sedan like. The ride is comfortable but get too frisky and you will be met with all manner of unpleasant motions. I should note that winter tires were fitted which will have had some impact on my impressions. That said the suspension is most certainly set up to deliver a smooth and motion sickness free trip for your family. Feed back to the driver is virtually none existent, but this is a family hauler trying to do the job of the much maligned minivan. If you are looking for a sporty driving SUV you will need to shop elsewhere.
The exterior has only received some minor alterations that serve to bring the SUV in line with the rest of the Chevrolet products. The most noticeable change is the new dual Port grille found elsewhere in the lineup. Other upgrades like the new front and rear lighting and new wheel designs have enhanced the already handsome SUV. A great benefit of not changing the basic structure of the Equinox is it will likely score the same high safety scores as the previous model year. According to the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) the 2015 Equinox scored 4 and 5 star ratings in all tests, even the difficult frontal-overlap test.
It seems the Equinox should continue to be a best seller. It checks all the right boxes and the negatives are few. The easy to maintain interior will be a blessing for those with small children and the Equinox easily offers more space than its competitors. While you will have to forgo an exciting ride the trade-off of comfort and safety may be exactly what you are looking for.
Base model Price $26,795 (LS FWD)
As Tested Price $36,355 (includes current incentives)
2016 Chevrolet Equinox LTZ AWD
- Comfortable seating for five
- Useful and abundant storage options
- Increased safety equipment
- Better standard features
- Base engine has lack-lustre performance
- Premium sound system is not as Premium as the competition
- Handsome but starting to show its age
- Fuel economy less than hoped for
- some cheap looking plastics inside