Full 2012 Chevrolet Equinox Review
What's New for 2012
For the 2012 Chevrolet Equinox, new forward collision alert and lane-departure warning systems are now available. Equinox 1LT models also have the rearview camera as standard equipment this year. However, the optional rear seat video entertainment system has been dropped.
Relegated to also-ran status just a few short years ago, the Chevrolet Equinox has moved to the front of the small SUV pack. This second generation of Chevrolet's compact crossover now offers a distinctive look and a level of refinement that makes it a viable alternative to the long-popular category leaders from Honda and Toyota.
With a rear seat that slides back to create an expanse worthy of a prom-night limousine, the 2012 Equinox easily counts rear legroom among its strengths. Ride quality is another plus, with the Equinox delivering a stable, well-planted ride indicative of a bigger SUV. In terms of equipment, the Chevy is fully competitive, with plenty of standard features and some nice upgrades like a hard-drive-based navigation system. Sadly, you can no longer get the optional rear seat entertainment system: a rare and welcome feature in this class.
Under the hood you'll find a choice of either a 182-horsepower inline-4 or a 264-hp V6. Both of these engines deliver respectable acceleration, and the four-cylinder is notable for its above-average fuel economy (even though we've found it doesn't quite meet its lofty EPA estimates).
Like its GMC Terrain twin, the 2012 Chevy Equinox does have a few minor weaknesses. The most notable is a comparative lack of cargo capacity against the likes of the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. It also comes up a bit short in terms of maneuverability and agility when measured against sportier compact crossovers like the Kia Sportage and Subaru Forester. If neither of those issues is enough to put you off, though, the 2012 Chevrolet Equinox's collection of otherwise desirable attributes should be enough to make it a top choice for a small crossover SUV.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Chevrolet Equinox is available in LS, LT and LTZ trim levels.
Standard equipment for the LS includes 17-inch alloy wheels, air-conditioning, cloth upholstery, a partial power driver seat (height adjustment only), a sliding and reclining rear seat, cruise control, full power accessories, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with audio controls, Bluetooth, OnStar and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio and an auxiliary audio jack.
The LT trim level is divided into two different models, with the 1LT adding tinted rear windows, roof rack side rails, heated outside mirrors, a rearview camera, premium cloth upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and an upgraded sound system with a 7-inch touchscreen and iPod/USB audio interface. Stepping up to the 2LT adds foglamps, remote start, automatic climate control, heated front seats, an eight-way power driver seat, an auto-dimming mirror and an eight-speaker Pioneer sound system. Spring for the top-of-the-line LTZ and you'll get automatic headlights, a power liftgate, rear parking sensors, perforated leather upholstery and driver memory settings.
Many of the standard features found on the upper trim levels can be added to less expensive models via optional packages. Other options include 18- and 19-inch chrome-clad alloy wheels, a sunroof, a navigation system and a new forward collision/lane departure warning system.
Powertrains and Performance
Every 2012 Chevrolet Equinox comes standard with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 182 hp and 172 pound-feet of torque. Every Equinox regardless of engine comes standard with a six-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive; all-wheel drive is optional. In Edmunds testing, a front-drive Equinox went from zero to 60 mph in 9.3 seconds, which is an average number for this segment. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 22 mpg city/32 mpg highway and 26 mpg combined with front-wheel drive and 20/29/23 with all-wheel drive. These estimates are very impressive; however, in real-world testing we found that it falls short of them, especially on the highway.
Available on all trims but the LS is a 3.0-liter V6 good for 264 hp and 222 lb-ft of torque. In Edmunds testing of the mechanically identical GMC Terrain, the V6 was good enough for a 0-60 sprint of 8.3 seconds -- a little pokey for the segment. With the V6, front-wheel-drive models return an estimated 17/24/20, with all-wheel-drive versions coming in at 16/23/19.
The 2012 Chevy Equinox comes standard with antilock disc brakes (with brake assist), traction and stability control, front seat side airbags, side curtain airbags and OnStar. A rearview camera is standard on all trims except the LS, and rear parking sensors are standard on the LTZ. A new forward collision/lane departure warning system is optional for the LTZ only. In Edmunds brake testing, an Equinox came to a stop from 60 mph in 122 feet -- a good distance for this type of vehicle.
In government crash tests, the Equinox received an overall score of four stars out of a possible five. Within that rating, it received four stars for overall frontal crash protection and five stars for overall side protection. In frontal-offset and side-impact crash testing conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Equinox earned a top "Good" rating.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Chevy Equinox boasts a stylish cabin filled with premium touches. The available two-tone color schemes are eye-catching, and perfectly complement the dashboard's elegant, swooping dual-cowl design. All in all, the Equinox's interior looks more deluxe than that of most others in this segment. The plethora of difficult-to-distinguish buttons on the center console is a weak point, however.
The Equinox boasts a nice expanse of passenger room, with 60/40-split rear seats that slide back to provide substantial rear legroom. The fact that the seatbacks also recline means second-row occupants may have the best seat in the house. But that space does come at the expense of some cargo capacity. The 31.4 cubic feet behind the rear seats and 63.7 cubic feet with the rear seatbacks folded down should still be sufficient for most buyers, but it is something to keep in mind if maximum cargo capacity is important to you.
Deciding which of the 2012 Chevrolet Equinox's two engines is right for you depends on your priorities. The 2.4-liter four-cylinder delivers decent acceleration while returning excellent fuel economy (although, as noted above, we've found it difficult to match the EPA's estimates). The 3.0-liter V6 delivers significantly better performance in everyday driving, while also upping the towing capacity from 1,500 to 3,500 pounds.
Otherwise, driving the Equinox is an unremarkable experience, with so-so handling and a slightly vague feel to the steering. But realistically we suspect this won't be a significant negative for most buyers. More importantly, the Equinox's quiet cabin and comfortable ride quality make it a great choice for long road trips.