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      TEST DRIVE: 2010 Chevrolet Equinox

      Photo Credit: Photo: Mike Woolfolk

      The New Equinox: A Diamond in the Rough As a big fan of big sports utility vehicles, my interest in small SUVs and crossovers has been limited to helping my mother select possible vehicles for lease. She bought two Buick Rendezvous crossovers, on my recommendation, and loved them. When GM discontinued the model, Mom went back to a sedan, choosing the award winning Saturn Aura, again, on my recommendation. I TMm ready to go three-for-three: Mom, if you want to go back to driving an SUV or crossover next year, get the all-new Chevy Equinox!It is an easy recommendation to make. My mother, as a company retiree, only drives General Motors vehicles. If she wants to return to the comfort, practicality, and sure-footed traction of a crossover/SUV, the new Equinox is the ticket.Chevy has done a great job designing this latest generation of the popular Equinox. With competition from the class-leading Honda CR-V and the popular Toyota RAV-4, and the rough landscape for American automakers, Chevy really needed to hit a home run with the second generation Equinox. After spending a week in the Equinox LT with front wheel drive, I am left thinking that front-to-back, side-to-side, top-to-bottom, the new Equinox is winner.Exterior AppearanceOn the outside, the new Equinox looks larger than the previous generation and takes advantage of GM TMs many styling improvements. The standard Chevy grill with body-colored bar through the middle and the trademark Chevy bow tie logo, new headlamps, fog lights, tail lamps, fender flares and side panel lines combine to give the vehicle TMs small body and more muscular look. Add the optional 18-inch or 19-inch wheels and you have some real beef. This moves the Equinox from a soft, female oriented vehicle to a harder, more unisex model in my mind.PowerUnder the hood, the Equinox comes with a 2.4 liter, I-4, direct injection engine producing 182 horsepower and 172 lb.-ft. of torque. A 3.0 liter, V-6, direct injection engine producing 264 horsepower and 222 lb.-ft. of torque is optional. My test model had the standard engine, which I found to be surprisingly adequate. While I would prefer the more powerful V-6 setup, the four-cylinder setup will be just fine for those who place less emphasis an acceleration and require less than 1,500 pounds of towing capacity. Also, these power ratings match or nearly match the Honda and Toyota competition. Any differences are so minor they are negligible.As for efficiency, my energetic driving style allowed my to manage only 18.3 MPG in city driving during my week in the Equinox. EPA fuel economy ratings for the Equinox are 22 MPG in the city and 32 MPG on the highway. These figures match or surpass the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV-4.Interior Appearance and ComfortThe new Equinox has a far more attractive interior than the previous generation. Seating appears more upscale. My test model included optional leather appointed seating, which was quite comfortable. Leg, head and shoulder room is plentiful, both front and rear. The most notable and welcomed improvement, in terms of interior appearance, is the center console. I never liked the former styling, which looked more like a mini-van console than an SUV console. The 2010 model now employs a more traditional SUV console with the gear shifter, and cup holders in the expected positions.FeaturesStandard features on the 2010 Equinox are plentiful. Among the safety features are antilock brakes, dual front and side airbags, and a rearview camera system that puts the video screen right in the rearview mirror. Outside the vehicle, heated power sideview mirrors, roof rack side rails and fog lamps are all standard. Inside, you will find GM TMs trademarked Multi-Flex sliding rear seat, a premium 8-speaker audio system with CD player and AM/FM/XM radio, and Bluetooth connectivity for your cell phone. GM has also, finally, combined the key with the key fob in switchblade style. But, the best feature is the cargo space. With rear seats upright, it is large enough to accommodate your golf bag! Impressive, considering the larger HUMMER H3 cannot make the same claim.SummaryThe 2010 Chevrolet Equinox is one of the vehicles General Motors is counting on to help fuel is rebirth and return to prominence in the auto industry. The first new vehicle introduced after bankruptcy, the Equinox is a great start for the New GM. It has the look, the feel and the features to make this large SUV lover consider the smaller package.