What's New for 2006
Antilock brakes are standard on all models for 2006. Heated cloth seats are now available on the LT, the LS features body-color fascias and the LT gets body-color rearview mirrors.
The Chevrolet Equinox is the long-awaited replacement for the Chevy Tracker -- a small, underpowered SUV based on the Suzuki Vitara and Grand Vitara. The Equinox debuted for 2005 and is built at GM's plant in Ontario (a joint venture with Suzuki), but this time it is not a reworked Suzuki and instead shares most of its architecture with the Saturn Vue.
In keeping with traditional Chevy truck thinking, the Equinox will compete against the growing population of mini-SUVs priced under $25,000, but it will be one of the biggest of its kind, thanks to an extra long wheelbase. Inside, it offers innovative storage options and reconfigurable seating that add that extra measure of utility to small SUV ownership. The rear seat slides fore and aft (with a nearly 8-inch range of travel) to make way for larger passengers or cargo, and there is an adjustable cargo tray that doubles as a picnic table.
Its interior dimensions are comparable to those of competing SUVs, but the Chevrolet Equinox holds slight advantages in rear-seat headroom and legroom categories. Maximum cargo capacity is 69 cubic feet, which puts the Equinox right behind the CR-V. Unlike the Tracker, the Equinox will look every bit like a Chevy truck with a prominent bowtie on the front grille and a bold chrome bar across the front. The overall appearance of the Equinox is rather trucklike. The arched rear pillar combined with the flared rear wheel wells gives the vehicle a much brawnier appearance than soft-looking SUVs like the RAV4, CR-V and Liberty, and more on par with the tougher-looking sheet metal of the Ford Escape and Kia Sorento.
Unlike some of the competition, the 2006 Chevrolet Equinox does not offer much in the way of powertrain options. A single 3.4-liter V6 engine is standard on all Equinox models, whether front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. The rest of the equipment list offers more variety, as the Chevy Equinox can be equipped with safety items like side curtain airbags and traction control, as well as upscale features like heated leather seats, satellite radio and steering wheel-mounted audio controls. Although several small SUVs can match the Equinox's overall package, it's certainly worth consideration if you're looking for an urban runabout with a flexible cabin design and ample passing power.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
Like most Chevrolet trucks, the five-passenger Equinox is offered in LS and LT trims, both of which are available with either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. Standard equipment on the LS includes 16-inch wheels; air conditioning; a height-adjustable driver seat; cruise control; a six-speaker CD stereo; automatic headlights; power windows, mirrors and locks; an alarm system; and a rear window wiper. The LT adds such features as alloy wheels, foglights and upgraded cloth upholstery. Available options include side curtain airbags, OnStar telematics, satellite radio, an MP3-compatible stereo, leather seating, a power driver seat, heated seats and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
Powertrains and Performance
All Chevrolet Equinox SUVs come with the same 3.4-liter V6 engine. It's good for 185 horsepower and 210 pound-feet of torque. Towing capacity is rated at 3,500 pounds. The Equinox is available in all-wheel-drive and front-wheel-drive configurations, but only one transmission is offered -- a five speed automatic.
Front disc/rear drum brakes with four-wheel ABS are standard. Traction control is optional on front-drive LS models and standard on LTs. Full-length side curtain airbags are optional on all Equinox models. The NHTSA has crash tested the Chevrolet Equinox; the vehicle earned a five-star rating (the best possible) for its protection of front occupants in frontal crashes. It also received five stars for front- and rear-seat occupant protection in side collisions.
Interior Design and Special Features
Inside, Chevrolet designers opted for a simple, industrial look with large, clear gauges and faux aluminum accents. While most of the controls are simple in design, the stereo head unit's collection of small buttons is unnecessarily complicated. Thanks to its long wheelbase, the Chevy Equinox offers plenty of room for its occupants, including class-leading rear headroom and legroom. To make way for larger passengers or cargo, the 60/40-split rear seat can slide nearly 8 inches fore and aft. An adjustable rear cargo shelf expands your loading options after a shopping trip and can also function as a picnic table. The Equinox offers 35 cubic feet of luggage space behind its rear seats; fold down the seats and you've got a total of 69 cubic feet.
The Equinox's 3.4-liter V6 engine has been used in plenty of GM products and has always provided adequate if unrefined power. While driving the Chevrolet Equinox, you can look forward to better-than-average fuel economy. The Equinox's suspension is tuned more for comfort than performance, but some drivers might be put off by the vehicle's slow steering response.