2016 Chevrolet Equinox FWD LT review: Chevy’s most popular car, if you don’t count the truck

2016 Chevrolet Equinox FWD LT

2016 Chevrolet Equinox FWD LT

Believe it or not, the Chevrolet Equinox is Chevrolet’s second biggest seller, behind only the Chevrolet Silverado pickup. Americans seem to have decided that the crossover is the vehicle of family choice, and for Chevy, the Equinox is favored. Among the home team, it lies between the smaller Chevrolet Trax and larger Chevrolet Traverse. It doesn’t have direct competitors outside of Chevyland, falling for example between the Ford Escape and Ford Explorer.

To pick on something its own size, the Equinox is stuck with the GMC Terrain, the Chevy crossover’s corporate fraternal twin, mechanically identical but, except for the windshield and roof, wholly different on the outside.

2016 Chevrolet Equinox FWD LT interior

The 2016 Chevrolet Equinox FWD LT interior looks sharp in light titanium/jet black. (click to enlarge)

We’ve visited the Chevrolet Equinox as well the Terrain a number of times, but as we noted in our coverage of the 2015 Chicago Auto Show, the Equinox received a refresh for 2016, so here’s a refresh from us.

Chevy put the most noticeable change right up front, literally, with a new grille and headlights, which fall more in line with the new Chevrolet design language. There’s a small upper opening with a larger lower one. Chevrolet calls it “chrome-accented dual-port,” in case anybody asks.

The headlights are reshaped as well, better to accommodate the projector beam headlights standard on all models. We’ll take a break here to note that the headlights are noticeably brighter, and that’s a good thing for anyone who ventures out beyond where the streetlamps go. And because everyone else is doing it, the LT and LTZ models get LED running lights at the bottom on the headlight cluster.

2016 Chevrolet Equinox FWD LT cargo area

The 2016 Chevrolet Equinox is generous but isn’t easy to use it all with a load floor that isn’t flat. (click to enlarge)

Chevrolet took advantage of the refresh the model lineup was simplified for 2016. There were just too many stops, especially all the options available, to follow what goes with what. So the range now runs from L, LS, and LT to LTZ. The LT1 and LT2 have been consolidated.

The bottom end of the range benefits with a seven-inch-diagonal “Color Touch” radio (including Bluetooth phone connectivity), and rear-vision camera now standard on L and LS models. That’s another good thing for anyone who, well, backs up in a vehicle that blind to the rear as the average crossover.

More new stuff: Chevrolet reconfigured the center console and center stack. A bin with a cover and a USB plug was added at the front of the console, and the multi-information screen slides up at the touch of a button to reveal another storage bin, it too with a USB port. And while we’re at it, there’s a beige chunk of plastic in a large bin under the center console with a USB socket and auxiliary socket. Sorry, but it looks like a cheap Radio Shack add-on. The big also has a 12-volt power plug for discrete device charging.

There were no mechanical changes on the Chevrolet Equinox this year, with the 2.4-liter four cylinder and 3.6-liter V-6 available on all trim levels and with front or all-wheel drive. We’ve driven the V-6 in earlier tests of the Equinox and Terrain and have wondered how the 2.4 would compare. Well, it’s not as fast, but you knew that. If a burst of power is needed to move into faster moving traffic, stomping on the gas pedal results in the transmission shifting down a couple of ratios and…not much in the way of added speed. It’s what happens when you ask 184 horsepower to move 3,800 pounds of vehicle.

2016 Chevrolet Equinox FWD LT rear

The rear of the Chevrolet Equinox was updated for 2016 but it’s still unremarkable. (click to enlarge)

The payback is in money. Specifying the four saves $1,500 off the sticker price versus the V-6. And according to the EPA, fuel savings are significant. With front-wheel drive, the Equinox with the four gets 22/32 mpg city/highway, versus 17/24 mpg city/highway for the six. All-wheel drive shows similar savings, 20/29 compared to 16/23 mpg.

Our experience with a 2012 Equinox the V-6 with front-wheel drive was 19 mpg, a 2012 GMC Terrain with the V-6 and all-wheel drive got 19.7 mpg. A 2010 Terrain, still with the largely the same four as the 2016 and front drive, recorded 20.1 mpg. This time around our test vehicle with the I-4 and front drive racked up 22.2 mpg. These can’t be directly compared, of course, because of different weather and testing venues, but take them for what they are.

The 2016 Chevrolet Equinox comes with an “eco” button which, like similar buttons, slows throttle response and makes the transmission upshift sooner. It may save fuel but it makes the vehicle feel sluggish, something the four-cylinder doesn’t need more of. Compromise: Use it toddling around town, but turn it off on the road.