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The Globe and Mail

2010 Chevrolet Equinox: A civilized compact crossover

2010 Chevrolet Equinox

ted laturnus The Globe and Mail

In 2010 General Motors emerged from bankruptcy. Leading the post-Chapter 11 charge – or at least, first out of the gate – was the revamped Chevrolet Equinox, which made its Canadian debut in Toronto and was, and still is, – built in Ingersoll, Ont..

Based on GM's Theta platform, the new Equinox underwent a restyling job – although nothing too drastic – and was offered with two engine choices: 3.0-litre V-6 and the ubiquitous Ecotec 2.4-litre four-cylinder, with either front- or all-wheel-drive. This was also the first time GM fitted a direct fuel injection system to these two powerplants and, according to the company, this increased fuel efficiency, improved cold-start emissions and bumped up the horsepower and torque. Both engines were mated to a six-speed automatic transmission only and GM claimed the best fuel economy in this segment with the four-banger.

GM designers also took another look at the Equinox' interior and re-did both the front and rear compartments. Taking data acquired from the "fifth percentile" of drivers, GM stylists applied this information to the interior design and re-did the seats and overall layout. For your info, the fifth percentile is typically "small" female drivers used during testing.

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The result was a compact crossover that was more civilized than its predecessor – at least on the highway – and more manageable and nimble around town as well. With some 180 horsepower on tap, the four-cylinder Ecotec engine was reasonably lively, delivering more grunt than some V-6 engines and, behind the wheel, the performance differences between this engine and the V-6 were not that great. The Ecotec was better on gas too, by a considerable margin, and was used throughout the company's lineup. For example, the Buick Verano used it as well.

For its just-under $26,000 base price, the 2010 Equinox came with front-wheel-drive, the Ecotec engine, antilocking brakes, GM's StabiliTrak traction control system, air conditioning, cruise control, telescoping steering, remote keyless entry, power windows/doorlocks/mirrors and a full complement or front and side airbags.

Options included all-wheel-drive, power front driver seats, leather interior, block heater, tire-pressure monitor, navi system, XM satellite radio and a rear-view camera. A small note here. The display monitor for the back-up camera is located on the rear-view mirror and the image is tiny. The vast majority of these devices utilize a dash-mounted monitor of some kind and this arrangement takes a little getting used to.

Transport Canada has two safety recalls for the 2010 Equinox. The first concerns a software issue that could render the heater/defroster/ventilation inoperative and, as a result, "increase the risk of a crash," while the second has to do with a body structure compliance issue and was apparently corrected at the factory in 2009, when the first wave of Equinoxes were being manufactured.

However, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has a whopping 103 technical service bulletins on file for the second- generation Equinox and, as you can imagine, they run the gamut. For example, premature frame erosion can be an issue on some models, the HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) system can be wonky, all-wheel-drive models may have a "grinding" noise emanating from the transfer case and, here's a weird one: if you place your iPod or Blackberry on the front passenger seat, it can drive the electronics crazy. In NHTSA's own words: "some electronic devices placed on the front passenger seat may interfere with the electric field generated by the pps system, causing it to enable [turn on] the passenger airbag and safety belt reminder."

Consumer Reports gives the 2010 Equinox good marks in most areas, with the exception of power equipment and the audio system. Both the four-cylinder and V-6 versions garner an "average" rating and comments from owners include: "ventilation system could be more efficient," "rear visibility is the biggest drawback," "expected better mileage with the four-cylinder" and "no problems for first 15,000 miles."

Market research firm J.D. Power, meanwhile, has mixed feelings about this generation of Equinox. While it likes the overall mechanical quality, styling, and accessories quality, it is less than enthusiastic about overall design quality and powertrain design quality.

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Expect to pay anywhere from the high teens to the high-$20,000 mark for a two-year-old Equinox. The all-wheel-drive models seem to be fetching $2,000-$3,000 more than the front-drivers and an AWD, top of the range, LTZ is around $6,000 pricier than the base LS.

Tech specs: 2010 Chevrolet Equinox

Original Base Price: $25,995; Black Book: $18,525-$27,100; Red Book: $15,275-$21,800

Engine: 2.4-litre four and 3.0-litre V-6

Horsepower/Torque: 182 hp/172 lb-ft for four; 264 hp/222 lb-ft for six

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Transmission: Six-speed automatic with FWD/AWD

Fuel Economy (litres/100 km): 9.2 city/6.1 highway; regular gas

Alternatives: Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape, Mazda Tribute, Nissan Rogue, Jeep Compass, Suzuki Grand Vitara, Mitsubishi Outlander, Kia Sportage, Hyundai Santa Fe

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