Six years can really fly. That’s the amount of time the second-generation Chevy Equinox has been on the road. Upon its introduction, many lauded the compact SUV’s fresh new looks and modern features. However, the competition has substantially evolved and grown fierce; in fact, only the Volkswagen Tiguan has yet to be redesigned (that will come next year).
For its swan song, the 2016 Chevy Equinox gets a number of tweaks and updates that will hopefully retain consumer interest.
I’ve always preferred the Equinox to its cousin, the GMC Terrain, and so do Canadian buyers: The former currently outsells the latter 2 to 1. In my opinion, the Chevy’s lines are more attractive, but I’ll let you be the judge of that.
This year, designers gave the front end an update to bring the vehicle more in line with the rest of the lineup. The revised grille emulates the one on the new Malibu, yet remains unmistakable. In addition, the headlight signature is different, and new wheel designs are available. Meanwhile, the stacked taillights went from round to rectangular for a sharper look. Overall, I think enough efforts were made to modernize the Equinox in the eyes of potential buyers.
Inside, the changes are more subtle. Keen observers will notice the larger brim hanging over the centre display, while the CD player was discarded in favour of a narrow shelf that’s pretty useless if you ask me. Not too far below, the shifter now features a manual mode on top.
A sign of modern times, the 2016 Chevy Equinox is available with a pair of universal tablet holders mounted behind the front seat headrests in case the rear occupants want to surf the web or watch a movie. Do I need to remind you that all GM vehicles offer 4G LTE with Wi-Fi hotspot capability?
Other than that, the Equinox has virtually stayed the same since 2009. There’s still plenty of room up front, the centre console is capacious (it can easily store a laptop), and the 60/40 split-folding rear bench has a three-position recline feature, and even the ability to slide 200mm for increased legroom or cargo room, depending on your needs. Speaking of which, the trunk is larger than that of many competitors.
Behind the wheel is where the Chevy Equinox falls flat. True, the primary purpose of an SUV is not to entertain passengers with big-time thrills; however, a little bit of fun is certainly appreciated.
The problem comes mostly from the engine. The 2.4L 4-cylinder ECOTEC may be good under the hood of a compact sedan like the Cruze, but with an extra 200kg to haul around, acceleration feels more laboured. The fact that the 6-speed automatic transmission is mainly calibrated for fuel economy doesn’t help, either: It simply won’t hold revs in order to save fuel. On that note, I must tell you that my tester averaged 11L/100km most of which took place in the city.
That smooth, efficient demeanour works wonders in normal driving situations around town. On the flip side, the engine becomes fairly noisy during passing manoeuvres on the highway. Hammer the throttle, and the box will downshift two gears to produce the desired acceleration. The manual-shift option is just there for political correctness; it doesn’t make the Equinox a sporty SUV.
What this Chevy is, more than anything, is a comfortable family hauler. The seats are plush enough for long road trips, while the rigid chassis and soft suspension combine to deliver a stable, relaxing ride. Driving excitement is just not part of its game.
Further proof of that comes from the Equinox’s steering, which felt somewhat numb despite my LTZ tester riding on 18” wheels. It’s nothing major, but if you’re looking for razor-sharp handling and agility, you should turn to the Mazda CX-5 or the ageing VW Tiguan instead.
At just under $35,000, one could argue that the top-of-the-line LTZ model is relatively out of the reach of small families on a tight budget. Fortunately, the 2016 Chevy Equinox starts at $26,795 in base LS trim. For my money, though, the mid-level LT definitely looks like the best value.
Judging by the latest crop of Chevrolet models to arrive on the market, the next-generation Equinox promises to be a lot more interesting. In the meantime, the current edition continues to deliver the goods. With pretty decent reliability and a versatile interior, this compact SUV still has a number of things going for it.