Our particular test Equinox was a front-wheel-drive, four cylinder LTZ model powered by the 182 horsepower, direct injected, 2.4 liter Ecotec engine which turns out to be a good choice for this vehicle. Usually, the only reason not to check the box for a bigger engine is the option's price or inordinately worse mileage. Not here however. The optional 264 horsepower 3.0-liter's extra weight and puzzling lack of dynamic edge makes its $1500 premium easy to avoid. This was particularly apparent during our Figure Eight test, wherein the four-banger Equinox was delightfully eager to turn-into the corners, notably unlike a V6-equipped GMC Terrain -- a twin to the Equinox in terms of vehicle dynamics -- we tested the same day. The only caveat, obviously, is that if you need genuine towing capacity or require AWD (or both), you'd better pluck down the $1500. However, if you can get away without either, the 2.4 liter/FWD combination will reward you with a sprightlier driving machine plus class-leading mileage: 22 mpg city, 32 on the highway (26 mpg being the combined number).

The Equinox's appeal seemed to touch all the basses. Lassa: "Its acceleration seems on par with its Honda and Toyota competitors, and the direct-injection Ecotec four doesn't compare badly in terms of refinement. Meanwhile, its ride quality seems even better than any RAV4 or CR-V I can remember". Ed Loh: "It's ride is smooth, light-feeling, and almost Japanese in its subtly damped feel, but with a well-smoothed, American-style ride over bigger hits".

And the controversial? While Lassa viewed the interior's materials as "a big step up, with a level of plastics and materials equal to, or better than, the Toyota/Honda standard", Ed Loh disagreed: "Knobs and buttons don't have that soft touch, quality feel." Personally, I think the materials are still behind, but only by a whisker now. Additionally, Ed felt the Equinox's interior "apes Honda by going too far with the button-crazy center stack". And while that's true -- it's still awfully attractive. As well as -- finally -- a credible player in the small SUV field. Just in the nick of time.

2010 Chevrolet Equinox LTZ
Base price $28,790
Price as tested $28,790
Vehicle layout Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV
Engine 2.4L/182-hp/174-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Curb weight (f/r dist) 3825 (56/44%)
Wheelbase 112.5 in
Length x width x height 187.8 x 72.5 x 66.3 in
0-60 mph 9.2 sec*
Quarter mile 16.9 sec @ 82.4 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph 127 ft
Lateral acceleration 0.74 g (avg)
MT Figure Eight 29.0 sec @ 0.56 g (avg)
EPA city/hwy fuel econ 22 / 32 mpg
CO2 emissions 0.76 lb/mile
* Performance numbers for GMC Terrain.