2012 Chevrolet Equinox FWD 2LT road test: A roomy, comfortable, compact cruiser

Handling is more car-like than SUV-like, thanks to the four wheel independent suspension,

The four-wheel antilock, vented disc brake bring the 3,800-pound vehicle to a stop smoothly and quickly, but the electric steering is a bit numb. It follows the driver’s instructions  accurately on the two-lane roads but it doesn’t send back many signals abut what is happening down where the rubber meets the road.

The 40-foot turning circle, however, means backing up will be required for u-turns on many tight two-lane roads.

Equinox rear seat

Equinox rear seat

Complementing the Equinox’s handsome, modern exterior is an equally good looking interior, with materials that are far above the so-so fabric and trim in the last model.

Importantly, although the Equinox has 7.8 inches of ground clearance, 5-footers will not have a problem climbing into the vehicle. Also, the rear seat slides fore and aft up to 8 inches to accommodate legs of almost all lengths.

Since the 2LT is second highest in the Equinox model line-up, it was not surprising to find lot of safety features and a number of standard amenities built into the base price of $27,680, which includes the $810 delivery charge. Among them are heated front seats, power adjusters for the driver’s chair,  automatic air conditioning, Bluetooth hands-free phone connection and a premium 8-speaker audio system.

Options which bring the total suggested retail price to $30,980, included the V-6 engine ($1,500) and perforated leather seats ($800).

One more thing to consider: Should you get front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive?

Obviously, if you will be driving in New England or the Northwest, all-wheel drive will be  necessity. But if you live in an area where there are only occasional chances of severe weather, front-wheel drive should be sufficient.

I found, during my many winters in the Mid-Atlantic States that front-wheel drive and a good set of snow tires were sufficient to get me through just about anything Mother Nature threw my way. I never could justify the extra cost and lower fuel mileage of AWD.

There are a lot of good compact crossover vehicles on the road these days, but prospective buyers in the market for one should delay a final decision until they have thoroughly checked out the 2012 Chevrolet Equinox.