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car review

2011 Chevrolet Equinox

The Chevy Equinox was the first new model out of the gate after GM's corporate restructuring in 2009.

Made in Ingersoll, Ont., it replaced the Suzuki-built Tracker, and got a bit of a re-do in 2010. For 2011, it was a carryover for GM. Differences between the two years are minimal.

It could be had with two engine choices: GM's ubiquitous 2.4-litre Ecotec four-cylinder or a 3.0-litre V-6. A six-speed automatic was the only transmission choice and you could order this iteration of the Equinox with either front-wheel- or all-wheel-drive. The four-cylinder engine was good for 182 horsepower, while the V-6 developed 264. The Ecotec four engine delivered slightly better fuel economy than rivals such as the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. It was considerably less refined than those two, however.

With 1,803 litres of cargo capacity available with the seats folded, the Equinox had less storage room than either the RAV4 or the CR-V. It also featured a smaller rear door opening and a front seating position different than that of the Honda or Toyota.

On the other hand, it was quieter in operation than either of those two, and assembly quality was head and shoulders above what it used to be – especially the V-6 version.

This edition of the Equinox had the usual modcons, including tilt/telescoping steering, express-down power front windows, cruise control, air conditioning and five cup-holders. Other standard features included an engine block heater, traction control and four-wheel disc brakes with ABS. For RV owners who like to take their regular car with them, it could be towed with all four wheels on the ground. Other extras included a "cargo management" package and XM satellite radio.

Transport Canada and the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have one safety recall for the 2011 Equinox. It concerns the front seat belts, which may come apart during an accident and cause injury to the vehicle occupants. A simple fix, dealers will modify the buckle assembly.

NHTSA also has 64 technical service bulletins on file for this one. These run the gamut, from "popping" and "rattling" sounds that emanate from the fuel tank after cold starts, to a broken floor mat retainer, to wiring issues with the traction control system, to "unwanted and erratic" changes in the heat and ventilation temperature. Considering that this vintage of the Equinox was but two years on the market, 64 TSBs is definitely on the high side.

There's more. NHTSA has a whopping 101 complaints registered against this year of the Equinox and they cover – well, just about everything. Examples: "vehicle started making loud ticking noises from the engine," "while driving at 50 mph, the check stabilization system light came on … the engine cut power without warning" and "navigation unit defaults to Washington and clock resets hours off regular time every time you turn on the car." By far the largest number of complaints concern the engines.

Consumer Reports gives the V-6 version of the 2011 Equinox an "average" used-car prediction, while the four-cylinder models are rated worse than average, possibly because the Ecotec engine is rougher around the edges than the V-6, with considerably less power. Comments from owners include: "Lots of power passing and comfortable ride and handling [V-6]," "engine problems [four-cylinder]," "unbelievable rear legroom" and "I would buy another Equinox, but would probably buy the V-6."

J.D. Power gives the 2011 Equinox "better than most" grades for overall performance and design and predicted reliability, but "about average" for overall quality. What owners say: "smooth and quiet at all speeds," "surprising pickup speed [four-cylinder]" and "gas mileage does not live up to what is advertised."

From a base price of less than $26,000 for a four-cylinder FWD model in 2011, the Equinox has dropped by about half, depending on the model and equipment level. AWD versions are fetching $2,000-$3,000 more than the front-drives, while the V-6s are worth about $1,000 more than the four-cylinder models.

Tech specs

2011 Chevrolet Equinox

Original Base Price: $25,995; Black Book: $20,150-$25,850; Red Book: $13,775-$21,450

Engines: 2.4-litre four-cylinder and 3.0-litre V-6

Horsepower/Torque: 182 hp/172 lb-ft for four; 264 hp/222 lb-ft for V-6

Transmission: Six-speed automatic

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

Alternatives: Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento, Mitsubishi RVR, Ford Escape, Mazda Tribute, Nissan Rogue, Suzuki Grand Vitara, Dodge Journey, Acura RDX, Subaru Forester