Since its debut in 2010, the second-generation Chevrolet Equinox has been a solid seller for General Motors, consistently being among the top selling SUVs in the market. Handsome and roomy for its class, the Equinox straddles the compact and midsize segments in the SUV market. It's bigger than the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV-4 and Ford Escape, but slightly smaller than the Nissan Murano, Toyota Highlander, and Dodge Journey. Size-wise, its closest equivalent other than its corporate twin, the GMC Terrain, is the slightly shorter but slightly wider Ford Edge.

The Equinox makes a good first impression with a tight, squeak and rattle-free body, good noise, vibration and harshness isolation, and an appealing-looking cabin and dash. Our 2012 LTZ tester was equipped with the optional 3.0-liter 264-hp direct-injection V-6, which can be spotted in a crowd by its twin polished tailpipes.

Much has been discussed about the relative merits of this engine compared to the much more frugal standard 2.4-liter 182-hp four-cylinder engine. On paper, the 82-hp difference seems like it would result in a night-and-day difference over the four-banger from behind the wheel, but in everyday driving conditions, the difference is not quite as dramatic. The V-6's 7.8 second 0-60 time is only about 1 second quicker than that of the four-cylinder.

Relative to the four-banger, the six-cylinder brings the overall power and responsiveness up to adequate levels and should satisfy all but the most power-hungry drivers -- but at a cost. The front-drive four-cylinder achieves a frugal 32 mpg highway, compared to the V-6's 24. The gap is slightly smaller on the all-wheel-drive models, with the four-cylinder posting 29 mpg compared to the V-6's 23. The case for getting the V-6 will improve considerably for 2013, when the 3.0 is replaced by a 3.6-liter V-6 that will bring an extra 37-hp and 50 lb-ft to the table without sacrificing any fuel economy.

One of the most impressive aspects of the Equinox, other than its noteworthy refinement for the class, is its capacious rear seat. To a person, everyone commented on how roomy it was. Official stats bear this out, with the Equinox measuring in with best-in-class legroom at 39.9 inches, besting the Honda CR-V, Ford Edge, 2013 Ford Escape, and Toyota RAV4. However, maximum cargo capacity trails the class leaders, with 31.4 cubic feet behind the second row and 63.7 behind the first row with the rear seats folded. The Toyota RAV4 tops the class in this category with 37.2 cubic feet behind the second row and a cavernous 73 cubic feet behind the first row with the seats folded.

We've discussed the Equinox's relative refinement for the crossover class, but that's not to say there aren't areas of potential improvement. The Equinox's dash and front seat area is pleasing to the eye, but the dashboard material betrays itself as soon as it's touched. To the eye glance, it appears it could be soft-touch, but a rap with the knuckles confirms that it's hard plastic. And in regard to the styling of the dashboard and console overall, despite its stylish, avant-garde, the steeply-raked dash forces the driver to lean forward to reach many of the controls, somewhat of a surprise in a class of vehicles characterized largely by their functionality.

As-equipped, our front-drive, V-6-powered Equinox came in at $32,645. In addition to the bigger engine, that got us Chevrolet's new MyLink multimedia interface though, confusingly, the touch-screen does not come with navigation standard (its a $795 option). Despite that, when taking the vehicle's size, refinement and equipment into consideration, it's not a bad deal and certainly less than a fully-loaded 2013 Escape or Edge. The economy of the 2.4-liter engine is impressive on paper, but that of the V-6 is not, on paper, or in real-world driving. We wish there were an intermediate engine option that combined power and fuel economy, perhaps a turbo four-cylinder. If you're willing to sacrifice a few MPGs for more power, we suggest waiting for the 2013 V-6 model.

2012 Chevrolet Equinox LTZ
BASE PRICE $30,045
PRICE AS TESTED $32,940
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV
ENGINE 3.0L/264-hp/222-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6
TRANSMISSION 6-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 3958 lb (58/42%)
WHEELBASE 112.5 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 187.8 x 72.5 x 66.3 in
0-60 MPH 7.8 sec
QUARTER MILE 16.1 sec @ 86.0 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 123 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.77 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT 28.6 sec @ 0.59 g (avg)
EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON 17/24 mpg*
ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY 198/140 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS 0.99 lb/mile
*Regular fuel; 12/18 on E85