2011 Car Comparison: Chevrolet Equinox vs Ford Edge vs Hyundai Santa Fe

Last Updated: Dec 13, 2011

The Competitors
In this crossover SUV comparison, we compare the 2011 Chevrolet Equinox, 2011 Ford Edge, and 2011 Hyundai Santa Fe. Crossover SUVs with efficient car-type understructures have replaced beefier truck-based SUVs as America’s family vehicle of choice. This Equinox vs. Edge vs. Santa Fe comparison picks a winner based on price, features, and performance.

The 2011 Equinox and Santa Fe offer models that start under $24,000, while the Edge’s least-expensive model is priced from $27,995 (all base prices in this comparison review include the manufacturer’s delivery fee).

The 2011 Chevrolet Equinox is America’s top-selling midsize SUV. It was fully redesigned for model-year 2010, and the 2011 Equinox receives minor upgrades, including standard Bluetooth and USB iPod interface for the 1LT model and standard heated front seats for the 2LT version. The 2011 GMC Terrain shares Equinox’s understructure and powertrains but has different styling.

The 2011 Ford Edge gets freshened styling and a renewed engine lineup, the first substantial changes since its model-year 2007 introduction. Edge is America’s second-best-selling midsize SUV. The 2011 changes include addition of Ford’s EcoBoost turbocharged four-cylinder engine intended to provide the power of a small V-6 with the fuel-economy of a big four-cylinder. Edge is based on the Ford Fusion midsize-car platform and shares its basic design with the upscale Lincoln MKX crossover.   

The 2011 Hyundai Santa Fe continues largely unaltered after model-year 2010 revisions that included new engines and styling tweaks. Santa Fe sales are healthy, but trail those of its corporate cousin, the Kia Sorento. South Korea’s Hyundai owns Kia and the two crossovers have different styling but share a basic design and are built in the U.S., the Santa Fe at Hyundai’s plant in Alabama and the Sorento at Kia’s in Georgia.      

The Similarities

  • The 2011 Chevrolet Equinox, 2011 Ford Edge, and 2011 Hyundai Santa Fe are all crossover SUVs because they combine the weight-saving unibody construction typical of cars with the wagon shell, elevated seating position, and all-wheel-drive common to SUVs. All are midsize crossovers and are larger than compacts like the Honda CR-V but smaller than full-size models such as the Chevrolet Suburban. All have four side doors and a rear cargo liftgate.
  • Each offers a choice of a four-cylinder engine for the fuel-economy minded and a V-6 for faster acceleration and greater towing ability. All rely on modern six-speed automatic transmissions programmed to balance efficient performance and good gas mileage. These automatics also give the driver a degree of manual-type gear selection for better control of engine speed when ascending hills or towing. Only the Santa Fe offers a true manual transmission, but it’s a price-point gimmick and accounts for a tiny fraction of sales.
  • Each of these crossovers is based on a front-wheel-drive layout that enhances wet-weather traction by locating the engine and transmission over the wheels that also propel the vehicle. Each also is available with all-wheel drive (AWD), though none is built for serious off-roading. Rather, their AWD systems are intended to provide all-weather security by automatically shuffling power between the front and rear wheels to maintain traction. No driver-intervention is required.
  • Thanks to their automotive underpinnings, each furnishes a reasonably smooth ride with predictable, car-like handling. Their elevated seating position affords a better view in traffic than you get from a car. But their SUV image dictates higher ground clearance, so these crossovers require a bit more effort to climb into and out than a passenger car. All are rated to tow trailers weighing up to 3,500 pounds, more than today’s cars can pull but to tow more, you’ll need to an SUV with a V-8 engine or a truck-type frame.
  • The 2011 Equinox, Edge, and Santa Fe comfortably accommodate five passengers with two front bucket seats and a three-passenger rear bench seat. A roofline taller than a car’s means generous head room at all seating positions. Each has between 31 and 34 cubic feet of cargo volume behind their third-row seat, plenty for a family’s vacation luggage. All have rear bench seats that fold in two sections to create a flat load surface and increase cargo volume, though Hyundai pegs the Santa Fe’s maximum cargo volume at 78.2 cubic feet, while Ford lists the Edge’s at 68.9 cubic feet and Chevy the Equinox’s at 63.7.
  • Safety and convenience features abound. All three of these crossovers come with head-protecting curtain side airbags for both seating rows that are designed to deploy in side collisions and in rollovers. All also offer the latest in infotainment tech, including Bluetooth hands-free mobile-phone connectivity, USB iPod interface, navigation systems with voice recognition, and road-trip-friendly rear-seat DVD video entertainment systems.

The Differences

  • The 2011 Equinox and 2011 Santa Fe are more affordable than the 2011 Ford Edge. The base-model 2011 Chevrolet Equinox LS starts at $23,490. The better-equipped volume-selling 1LT and 2LT versions are priced from $26,155, and the top-line LTZ lists for $30,565. All Equinox models are available with AWD for an extra $1,750 or so, and all but the LS can upgrade to the V-6 engine for an additional $1,500. Features exclusive to the Equinox include remote engine start via a button on the keyfob, standard emergency assistance through GM’s OnStar coverage, and the ability to program the opening height of the power liftgate to clear garage doors and the like.
  • The 2011 Santa Fe is the most aggressively priced crossover in this group. Its front-drive, manual-transmission, marketer’s-special starts around $22,500, but the heart of its lineup is the automatic-transmission GLS at just under $24,000 with a four-cylinder engine. The V-6-only Santa Fe SE model is priced from about $27,000. Like the Equinox LTZ and Edge Limited, Santa Fe’s top-line Limited model comes with leather upholstery, heated front seats, and other amenities. But at around $28,000 to start (just under $30,000 with a V-6), it undercuts the comparable Chevy by about $1,000 and the Ford by some $5,000. To these Hyundai prices add about $1,700 for AWD. The Santa Fe boasts the most generous warranty of the three, at 5-years/60,000-miles bumper-to-bumper and 10/100,000 powertrain. Edge and Equinox have 3/36,000 bumper-to-bumper coverage, with powertrain at 5/60,000 for the Ford and 5/100,000 for the Chevy.
  • The 2011 Ford Edge is positioned slightly upmarket of the Equinox and Santa Fe, designed to appeal more to fashion-conscious couples than to value-focused families. Indeed, it has the boldest styling of the three and is the only one with a dedicated Sport model that features a handling-tuned suspension and flashy 22-inch-diameter alloy wheels, largest on any midsize crossover. That 2011 Edge Sport starts at $36,995 and tops a line that begins with the $27,995 SE model and ascends through the volume-selling $30,995 SEL and the luxury-trimmed $34,995 Edge Limited. AWD adds $1,850 and is available on all but the SE. Edge seeks to be the connectivity leader in its class with MyFord Touch, the latest iteration of Ford’s Microsoft-developed Sync system. Available as an option, MyFord Touch includes a slightly wider range of navigation and audio functions than available in the Equinox and Santa Fe but its chief distinction is a significant degree of control through touch-sensitive dashboard surfaces rather than conventional buttons.
  • The 2011 Edge offers the broadest engine roster in this group. Its four-cylinder is the only turbocharged one in the bunch and rates some 237 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque for fairly lively throttle response. By comparison, the four-cylinders in the Equinox and Santa Fe feel just adequate to the task, with 182 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque in the Chevy and 175 and 169 in the Hyundai. At more than 4,200 pounds, the Edge is 300-400 pounds heavier than the Equinox or Santa Fe, so its mainline V-6 needs its 285 horses and 253 pound-feet of torque to provide performance similar to the acceleration Equinox gets from its V-6 (264 horsepower, 222 pound-feet) and the Santa Fe from its (276 horsepower, 248 pound-feet). Exclusive to the 2011 Edge Sport is a Mustang-derived V-6 with a class-leading 305 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque.
  • For fuel economy, the four-cylinder 2011 Equinox is the leader of this pack. It’s the only model here to rate more than 30 mpg, at 22/32 mpg city/highway with front-wheel drive and 20/29 with AWD. That beats the EcoBoost Edge’s top preliminary rating of 19/28 mpg. The four-cylinder Santa Fe is closer to the Equinox, at 20/28 with front-wheel drive and 21/27 with AWD. (Santa Fe’s front-drive, manual-transmission model rates 19/26.) With a V-6, however, the Santa Fe turns the tables, at 20/26 mpg with both front- and all-wheel drive. Give the V-6 Edge credit for its laudable 19/27 front-drive, 18/25 AWD rating (the Edge Sport rates 18/25 and 17/23, respectively). The V-6 Equinox brings up the rear at 17/25 with front-drive, 17/24 with AWD.    
  • Each of these crossovers has a different personality on the road. The 2011 Edge is the sharpest handler, especially its Sport version, though the Ford’s chassis is the most willing to transmit jolts from bad bumps and ruts into the cabin. The 2011 Equinox has the softest ride, with terrific bump absorption, and while its handling is by no means sloppy, you’ll need to be a fan of light-effort steering to feel at home behind the wheel. The Santa Fe is a good compromise between the two. It’s got a buttoned-down feel and a bit of steering weight you’ll not find in the Chevy and a greater resistance to impact harshness than you’ll enjoy in the Ford. Note also that the Hyundai is the easiest to maneuver in tight spaces, as evidenced by a relatively tight 35.4-foot turning circle, some 4 feet shorter than required to U-turn the Equinox or Edge. 

The Winner

The 2011 Chevrolet Equinox. Equinox beats Santa Fe by a nose in this comparison. Its ride comfort is hard to fault and its styling is livelier and less derivative. Passenger room is a wash and pricing is close for comparable four-cylinder models, which account for the lion’s share of sales for both models. Hyundai’s warranty is grand, but Chevy’s is quite comprehensive and we’d venture that come resale time, the Equinox will retain more of its value than the Santa Fe. In this comparison, the Edge suffers from its narrower focus on sporty road manners, its lower fuel economy, and its higher prices.