2012 Chevrolet Equinox Review and Prices

Last Updated: Oct 20, 2011

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2012 Chevrolet Equinox Buying Advice

The 2012 Chevrolet Equinox is the best midsize crossover for you if you want to sample America’s top-selling SUV and discover a nicely styled and competitively priced five-seater with a roomy cabin and engaging overall performance.

The 2012 Chevrolet Equinox adds new infotainment and crash-avoidance features ahead of a more extensive freshening expected for model-year 2013. Debuting in the 2012 Chevrolet Equinox is Chevrolet’s MyLink infotainment system. Similar to Ford’s Sync technology, MyLink enables hands-free voice control of select functions and streaming Internet content to the audio system via a smartphone. Also newly available for 2012 is GM’s Forward Collision Alert and Lane Departure Warning system. Offered on Equinox’s top-line LTZ model, it can warn the driver if they’re inadvertently wandering across lane markers or if a crash is imminent. The 2012 Equinox belongs to a design generation introduced for model-year 2010.

Should you buy a 2012 Chevrolet Equinox or wait for the 2013 Chevrolet Equinox? Buy a 2012 Equinox if you like its looks and fancy avoiding the almost inevitable model-year price inflation. Wait for the 2013 Equinox if you want to see how Chevy tweaks the styling. Sources say some new sheet metal may be in the cards but the heart of the design won’t change and mechanical alterations shouldn’t be dramatic.

2012 Chevrolet Equinox Changes back to top

Styling: The 2012 Chevrolet Equinox continues without significant styling modifications. This four-door wagon has a one-piece liftgate and square-cut good looks that have proved a selling point. Chevrolet’s bold horizontal-split grille again highlights the roundish front-end treatment. Bulging wheel arches lend character. Overall, Equinox shows a bit more visual pizzazz than some rivals without resorting to excesses.

The 2012 Chevrolet Equinox’s basic dimensions keep it near the size midpoint for five-passenger crossovers in its price class. The Equinox does, however, ride on a longer wheelbase than obvious rivals such as the 2012 Kia Sorento and 2012 Ford Edge. Wheelbase is the distance between the front and rear axles. A long wheelbase not only contributes to a roomier interior, it helps ride quality and handling by pushing the wheels close to the leading and trailing edges of the body.

The 2012 Chevrolet Equinox shares a basic structure and major components with its corporate cousin, the GMC Terrain. The Terrain does have more rugged styling, in counterpoint to the Chevy’s suburban-chic appearance. Both are crossover SUVs because they’re built with unibody construction in which body and frame form a cohesive unit. This is in contrast to old-school SUVs, which use truck-type construction in which the body and frame are separate units. Unibody design is lighter and promotes car-like driving attributes. It also enables lower ride heights and better fuel economy. Truck-derived SUVs are fast becoming a vanishing breed but have an advantage over the typical crossover in terms of hauling and towing abilities and off-road ruggedness.

The 2012 Chevrolet Equinox’s interior design likewise carries over largely unchanged. Attractive and functional, it easily accommodates four big adults. A fifth passenger can wedge into the middle position of the rear seat, but three-across comfort isn’t great.  Some midsize crossovers, such as the Sorento and the 2012 Ford Explorer, offer a third-row seat for nominal seven-passenger capacity. Chevy directs buyers who need more than five seats to its larger Traverse crossover.

Equinox’s rear seat slides fore or aft several inches to maximize legroom or cargo space. The rear seatbacks can fold flat on a 60/40-split basis to expand the cargo area. The 31.4 cubic feet behind the rear seat and 63.7 cubic feet with the rear seatbacks folded is about par for an SUV of Equinox’s overall size.  

The 2012 Chevrolet Equinox returns a four-model lineup. It begins with the entry-level LS and continues through the volume-selling 1LT model, the better-equipped 2LT, and the top-line leather-upholstered LTZ.

Mechanical: The 2012 Chevrolet Equinox offers a choice of a four-cylinder engine or an optional V-6. Both are modern designs that leverage such technology as direct fuel injection to help maximize power and fuel economy.

The four-cylinder is a 2.4-liter with 182 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque and should suffice for most buyers. (Think of torque as the force that creates acceleration, horsepower as the energy that sustains momentum.)

Equinox buyers who frequently transport a full load of passengers or crave additional thrust ought to consider the 3.0-liter V-6. It has 264 horsepower, though no real abundance of torque, at 222 pound-feet. Still, compared to the 2.4-liter four-cylinder it furnishes an extra measure of on-ramp merging and highway-passing ability.

A six-speed automatic remains the only transmission with either Equinox engine. It has a floor shifter with a mode that allows manual-type gear control. The version used with the four-cylinder engine also has a driver-selectable “Eco” mode. This changes shift points, essentially attaining higher gears sooner. This helps fuel economy by reducing engine rpm for a given vehicle speed. Unfortunately it also tends to slow acceleration a bit, though some motorists may notice little difference.

The 2012 Chevrolet Equinox comes with a choice of front-wheel drive or extra-cost all-wheel-drive (AWD). As in any front-wheel drive application, the weight of the engine and transmission is over the tires that propel the vehicle. This gives a decided advantage over rear-wheel-drive in terms of wet-road traction and should suffice for most buyers.

Those who drive the snowbelt or need to climb steep gravel driveways or tackle other traction-limited surfaces should strongly consider the AWD system. It affords an extra measure of grip by automatically sending engine power to the rear wheels when necessary to counteract front-tire slip. As with virtually all of its crossover competition, the Equinox is not designed for hard-core off-roading.

As mandated by federal regulation, antiskid stability control is standard to help prevent the Equinox sideways slides during fast cornering or emergency maneuvers. Traction control is also on hand to help launch the vehicle on slippery surfaces. Antilock brakes, which help maintain control in sudden stops, are also included.

Features: The 2012 Chevrolet Equinox is the first Chevrolet model to feature the automaker’s new MyLink infotainment technology. Chevy hopes MyLink is as attractive to younger and tech-savvy buyers as Ford’s Sync system has proven to be.

MyLink enables hands-free voice control of the audio system and the available Bluetooth mobile-phone link. Users can make phone calls by tapping a steering wheel-mounted button and simply saying “call [contact name].” They can also request and play songs stored on their phone or a connected USB device or flash memory card, summoning them by artist or title.

In addition, smartphone users can use MyLink to stream music from Pandora Internet radio or Stitcher SmartRadio Web music services. MyLink also displays such information as song title, artist name, genre, and album-cover art on a dashboard LCD screen. Trim-level availability and pricing on the MyLink system was not available in time for this review.

Also newly offered on the 2012 Chevrolet Equinox is GM’s Forward Collision Alert and Lane Departure Warning crash-avoidance system. Also debuting in the 2012 GMC Terrain, this is a less complex and at $295, a more affordable alternative to similar systems offered by other automakers. Here, instead of multiple cameras and sensors, a single high-resolution camera is mounted on the windshield ahead of the rearview mirror. It scans the road ahead for vehicles and lane markers.

Operating at speeds over 25 mph, the system gives the driver audible and visual warnings if it determines the Equinox is following a vehicle too closely, is inadvertently crossing a highway lane marker, or if a front-end collision is imminent. In the case of an impending collision, the system pre-charges the brakes for quicker full-force engagement. Availability of the optional Forward Collision Alert and Lane Departure Warning system is limited on the 2012 Equinox to the LTZ model equipped with the V-6 engine.

Among other changes, the audio system standard on the 2012 Equinox LT and LTZ models features a new seven-inch color touch-screen that also displays a rearveiw camera image for easier and safer backing.

Returning on the 2012 Chevrolet Equinox is a wealth of standard features, including head-protecting curtain side airbags for all four outboard seating positions; they’re designed to deploy in side-impact collisions and in impending rollovers.

Also standard across the 2012 Equinox line is GM’s OnStar communications system that can automatically call for help in a crash, remotely unlock the doors, and help law-enforcement authorities locate the vehicle if it’s stolen. Other items common to all trim levels include power locks, mirrors, and windows, air conditioning, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, a digital compass, and 17-inch alloy wheels.

All models come with a CD audio system with XM satellite radio but you need to move up to the 1LT level for an Equinox equipped with such items as a USB iPod interface, Bluetooth wireless cell-phone connectivity, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel that features handy audio system controls. The Equinox 2LT model further includes heated seats, a 250-watt Pioneer audio array, and a remote vehicle starter. The top LTZ version dresses the 2012 Equinox in body-color bumpers, leather seats, and a chrome-trim package.

Stand-alone options, depending on the trim level, include 18-inch alloy wheels for LT and LTZ models and 19s for the LTZ, a GPS navigation system, and a power liftgate that can be set to open to either of two heights to avoid bumping low garage ceilings. A dealer-installed adapter can turn the Equinox into a rolling Wi-Fi hot spot for connecting portable devices to the Internet.

2012 Chevrolet Equinox Prices back to top

Base-price range for the 2012 Chevrolet Equinox is $24,260-$31,700. Note that those are prices with the four-cylinder engine. The V-6 is not available on the entry-level LS model but adding it to a 2012 Equinox 1LT, 2LT, or LTZ model costs an additional $1,500. (Base prices in this review include the manufacturer’s destination fee; Chevrolet’s fee for the 2012 Equinox is $810.)

Base price for the 2012 Chevrolet Equinox LS is $24,260 with front-wheel drive and $26,010 with AWD.

The 2012 Equinox 1LT model starts at $25,780 with front-wheel drive and at $27,530 with AWD.  The 2012 Equinox 2LT model is priced from $27,600 with front-drive and from $29,350 with AWD.

At the top of the line, the LTZ starts at $29,950 with front-drive and $31,700 with AWD.

Among key 2012 Equinox options, the navigation system for 2LT and LTZ models costs $795. A power sunroof is offered on all versions except the LS model and costs $900. The 2LT models can be equipped with leather upholstery for $800 and the programmable power liftgate for $495; both of those features are standard on the LTZ model.  

2012 Chevrolet Equinox Fuel Economy back to top

EPA fuel-economy estimates for the 2012 Chevrolet Equinox keep the four-cylinder version among the highest-mileage non-hybrid crossovers in the midsize class.

With the four-cylinder engine, the front-wheel-drive 2012 Chevrolet Equinox is rated 22/32 mpg city/highway and 26 mpg combined city/highway. With AWD, it’s rated at 20/29 city/highway, 23 mpg combined.

Fuel-economy ratings for a 2012 Chevrolet Equinox with the V-6 place it roughly midpack for six-cylinder crossovers at 17/24/20 mpg with front-wheel drive and 16/23/19 mpg with AWD.

The V-6 is flex-fuel capable, which means it can run on E85 fuel (85 percent ethanol, 15 percent gasoline), regular-grade gas, or any combination of the two. E85 sells for a dime or two less than gasoline in many areas but it’s not as efficient as gas so you’ll go 25-30 percent fewer miles on a gallon.

2012 Chevrolet Equinox Release Date back to top

The 2012 Chevrolet Equinox went on sale in September 2011.

What's next for the 2012 Chevrolet Equinox back to top

The Chevrolet Equinox kicked off its current design generation for model-year 2010 and isn’t likely to get its next full redesign until model-year 2015 or 2016. It is on track, however, for what’s known as a midcycle refresh for model-year 2013.

The typical midcycle freshening includes minor styling changes, usually a revised grille, perhaps some new wheel designs and some cabin upgrades. But sources suggest Chevy has more extensive changes in mind for the 2013 Equinox. These could include new body panels to alter its appearance more than would a mere grille-and-wheel tweak In either case, the wheelbase and basic understructure would be unchanged, as would key interior dimensions.   

In conjunction with any styling changes, Chevy might offer the 2013 Equinox with a fairly aggressive appearance package or even with actual performance upgrades to help lure younger buyers.

As for engines, the 2014 Equinox will reportedly be offered with GM’s eAssist system that debuted in the 2012 Buick LaCrosse and Regal models. This uses a small 15-watt electric motor to augment the 2.4-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine. To reduce fuel consumption the motor assists the gas engine during acceleration and in certain cruising situations. The system also automatically shuts off the engine when the vehicle is stopped to save additional fuel. The eAssist electric motor never entirely powers the vehicle, as in a full hybrid system. In the Regal, this powertrain is EPA-rated at 25/36 mpg city/highway, 29 mpg combined, and similar ratings would seem be possible in a front-drive Equinox.

2012 Chevrolet Equinox Competition back to top

Ford Edge: Ford’s five-passenger crossover casts a more urbane image than the Equinox, but it’s pricier, too. The 2012 Edge is available with the MyFord Touch operating system that eschews most gauges and switches for configurable touch-screen LCD displays. While MyFord Touch can be a bit complicated to master, Ford’s Sync voice-operated control system is also included and makes things easier to sort out. Powertrain choices include a 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbocharged version of Ford EcoBoost engine (a $995 option), the standard 3.5-liter V-6, and a 3.7-liter V-6 included in the top Sport version. While reasonably nimble, Edge feels bigger on the road than it looks. The EcoBoost four is available only with front-wheel drive and rates 21/30/24 mpg. The 3.5 V-6 rates 19/27/22 mpg with front-drive, 18/25/21 with AWD. The 3.7 V-6 rates 19/26/22 with front-drive, 17/23/19 with AWD. Base-price range for the 2012 Edge is $28,465-$39,650.

Subaru Outback: Don’t be fooled by this crossover’s inflated-station-wagon styling. The Outback has more passenger volume than the Equinox, more cargo space, and an inch more ground clearance, too. It comes standard with a highly capable AWD system and, like all Subarus, with horizontally opposed engines. Four-cylinder Outbacks have 170 horsepower. They can feel a bit lethargic but rate a very competitive 22/29/24 mpg with their continuously variable (automatic) transmission; their model-year 2012 base-price range is $25,070-$29,470. Six-cylinder versions get up and go with 256 horsepower, rate 18/25/20 and have a $29,070-$32,470 base-price range. All Outbacks seat five and are highly appealing alternatives to faux-SUVs.

Kia Sorento: You may not be familiar with this conservatively styled product of South Korea’s Hyundai/Kia cooperative. But Sorento is among the top-selling midsize SUVs and well worth considering against the Equinox. Some versions come with a miniscule third-row seat suitable for miniscule people. With the five-passenger configuration, Sorento beats Equinox for passenger volume and cargo space in a package with exterior dimensions tidier than those of the Chevy. There’s good value here, too, with prices starting at $23,950 for 175-horsepower front-drive versions with automatic transmission; these rate 21/29/24 mpg. The best buys in the 2012 Sorento line are the direct-fuel-injected 191-horse four-cylinder models. They start at $25,600 with front-drive, $26,150 with AWD and rate a laudable 22/32/25 and 21/28/33 mpg, respectively. V-6 Sorentos have 276 horsepower. They’re priced from $25,750 and rate 17/24/19 mpg with front-drive and from $27,450 and rate 16/22/19 mpg with AWD.

2012 Chevrolet Equinox Next Steps