An all-new model in 2005, the Equinox rolls into 2006 with only minor cosmetic changes. There’s a revised shifter knob and HVAC controls; available heated seats with the cloth interior; a body-coloured front fascia on the LS model; body-coloured outside mirrors on the LT; and enhanced door trim panels. The rear cargo panel has been removed for increased cargo capacity, and the rear head restraints are now smaller, for improved rearward visibility. Two new exterior colours join the palette: Black Amethyst Metallic and Bermuda Green Metallic.

There’s also a price break from 2005: LS models are down by $1,240, LT models by $1,080.

Although Chevrolet bills the Equinox as a compact SUV, it’s really quite large, with an overall length only 77 mm shorter than a Trailblazer. It’s built on GM’s Theta platform, which it shares with the Saturn Vue and Pontiac Torrent.

The Equinox comes solely with a 3.4-litre V6 and five-speed automatic transmission, and is available in front- or all-wheel drive. The AWD system is ‘torque on demand’, powering the front wheels until they slip, whereupon it sends torque to the rear. It’s basically meant for urban off-roading: snowy streets, or a gravel path to the cottage.

The Equinox rides like a big car, soft and almost wallowy. The electric-assist steering gains needed resistance on the highway, but it’s vague at lower speeds, often to the point that the steering wheel doesn’t feel connected.

The Equinox’s interior is roomy and practical, although the seats are hard. The front passenger seat folds flat, and like the Malibu Maxx, the clever rear 60/40 folding seat can be slid on its tracks 5 cm forward and 15 cm back, giving the option of more legroom or more cargo space. The front passenger seat also folds flat, further extending the cargo space, and its hard front seatback can be used as a table or desktop.

Both FWD and AWD come in LS or LT trim. The base LS includes air conditioning, automatic power locks with keyless entry, automatic headlights, fog lamps, roof rack side rails, 16-inch steel wheels, full instrumentation, power windows, tilt wheel, and CD player with six speakers. ABS is standard on the AWD model.

The LT adds roof rack crossbars, 16-inch aluminum wheels, cargo net, cruise control, floor mats, dual overhead console reading lights, and premium cloth seats with six-way power driver’s seat. A preferred equipment option package is available for each line; on the LT it adds heated leather seats, 17-inch aluminum wheels, auto-dimming mirror and six-CD system.

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