Should you buy a used Chevrolet Equinox – or GMC Terrain?
Is the fact these GM crossovers are made in Canada reason enough to buy?Mark Toljagic
Published: January 30, 2017, 7:50 AM
Updated: February 4, 2017, 4:56 AM
What makes a car Canadian? Maple wood trim in the cabin? A radio that only finds CBC stations? A sticker price loaded down with taxes?
You wouldn’t know it to look at it, but Chevrolet’s Equinox and its under-the-skin twin, the GMC Terrain, are not only built in Canada, but they’re partially engineered here, too. Hundreds of bright minds are employed at GM’s Canadian Regional Engineering Centre in Oshawa, Ontario, to sweat the details on these two models.
The hot-selling crossovers are (or have been) assembled in Ingersoll, near London, Ontario, although the pair is so popular that some are being finished in Oshawa and built in the old Saturn plant in Tennessee. (The Equinox will continue to be built in Ingersoll but GM recently announced that Terrain production is being moved to Mexico.)
But is being built in Canada reason enough to buy one of these GM crossovers, which are now becoming readily available on the used market? Here’s what we can tell you.
Features and powertrains
The second generation of Chevy’s compact crossover hit the streets in June 2009, just as General Motors filed for bankruptcy. Despite the poor timing, the Equinox found a ready audience looking for a right-sized crossover that fit five, worked as a reliable commuter and pinched pennies at the gas station.
Well, one out of three isn’t so bad.
The all-new 2010 Equinox and its GMC Terrain sibling made use of the extra-rigid TE platform, a combination of the old Theta and new Epsilon architecture first seen under the updated Saturn Vue, an Opel design.
It rode on the same wheelbase as the outgoing Equinox, although it was about 3 cm shorter overall and 3 cm wider. The windshield was raked back for better aerodynamics and the body had that pumped-up-with-an-air-hose look that seems to make friends easily. The Terrain adopted more angular styling.
The biggest improvement was found in the cabin, where the sweeping instrument panel was rendered in a variety of silver, grey, and chrome materials, set off with blue ambient lighting that made for an inviting environment. Configured for five occupants only, there was enough room for the rear bench to slide 20 cm fore and aft to fine-tune the best-in-class legroom.
The Equinox got two new, aluminum, direct-injection engines. The base 2.4-L DOHC four cylinder produced 182 hp and 172 lb-ft of torque; decent numbers thanks to an 11.4:1 compression ratio and dished pistons. The optional 3.0-L DOHC V-6 was a smaller version of the 3.6-L six found in the Cadillac CTS. It made 264 hp and 222 lb-ft of grunt.
Both engines were tied a six-speed automatic transmission with manumatic shifting. Front-wheel drive was standard, while all-wheel drive was optional with both powerplants. The power steering system was electric, not hydraulic, on four-cylinder models.
The crossovers came equipped with four-wheel antilock disc brakes (with brake assist), traction and stability control, a bevy of airbags and GM’s OnStar communications system. The Equinox/Terrain twins earned the highest, “good,” rating in U.S.-based Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash testing.
For 2013, Chevrolet turned up the wick by replacing the 3.0-L six with a new 301-hp 3.6-L V-6 that came bundled with sportier suspension settings. Also new was an optional safety package that included lane-departure warning, forward collision warning and rear parking assist. The 2015 models saw the addition of OnStar with 4G LTE and built-in Wi-Fi hotspot, along with a three-month data trial.
The Equinox earned a long overdue refresh for 2016 that included a new front grille, fascia and headlights, as well as redesigned tail lamps. Inside was a new gear selector and more storage nooks. The MyLink infotainment system was standard on all trims.
Driving the Equinox
Saddled with unsightly weight, the Equinox is a hefty locomotive that cried out initially for more engine: zero to 97 km/h took 8.7 seconds with the four-cylinder and one second less with the 3.0-L six. The newer 3.6-L V-6 did the deed in a relatively speedy 6.8 seconds.
Noteworthy is the fact that most of the competition is no longer stuffing V-6s into this class of crossover, which makes the Equinox/Terrain a bit of a rare animal.
All that mass does make for a supremely quiet conveyance, however, which consumers often equate with quality and worth. It feels big and safe, but the driving dynamics are merely competent, rather than anything approaching responsive.
At its launch, GM honcho Bob Lutz had promised a fuel-efficient SUV, but the Equinox barely delivers on that score. Owners clogged the Internet with complaints about the four-cylinder’s high fuel usage, typically no better than 10 L/100 km (23.5 mpg US) on the highway. City trips yield not much better than 13 L/100 km (18 mpg (US).
Equinox drivers adore the sport-ute’s upmarket interior, spacious back seat and luxury ride – but dislike the car’s thirst for fuel, shiny interior trim and lethargic four banger. More significant, however, is the Equinox’s propensity to break down.
Some 2.4-L four-cylinder engines may be candidates for new pistons and piston rings. On models built before March 2011, there is a strong correlation between leaking high-pressure fuel pumps diluting the oil and resulting ring wear. An updated fuel pump has an improved seal, and the top compression ring in the rebuild kit has a more robust coating.
The four-cylinder Equinox/Terrain is notorious for chugging or jerking badly; eventually the engine can destroy itself when the timing chain stretches and jumps the gear teeth. Plenty of timing chains and camshaft actuators have been replaced outright, sometimes more than once.
“At a little over 1,600 km it decided to randomly stall while driving. The cam actuators have been replaced three times,” reads an unhappy post. When an Equinox starts impersonating a Massey-Ferguson tractor, it’s time to make a service appointment.
Plenty of others noted voracious oil consumption by the four-cylinder engine, some finding little oil on their dipsticks, which can lead to self-destruction.
“My Equinox started consuming oil at an outrageous rate. In between oil changes I am constantly adding 2 to 4 quarts. I have to constantly check my oil, usually at every fill-up,” confessed the owner of a 2012 model.
Transmission failures have also been reported, and jerky shifts are common.
The 2013 Equinox and Terrain were recalled for faulty windshield-wiper linkages that can rust and separate from their mounts, which can cause one or both wipers to become stuck or inoperative.
Problems that haunt all models include short-lived air-conditioning condensers and batteries, worn hub assemblies, inoperative instrument panels and sagging headliners.
The V-6 models are the better choice, although oil leaks are not unknown. It’s best to avoid the 2010 to 2012 four-cylinder models. To be frank, there are better compact crossovers on the market that are more reliable and more fuel-efficient, too.
2010-16 Chevrolet Equinox/GMC Terrain
Typical price range: $9,500-$30,000
> Quiet as a library during spring break
> Solid as a bank vault
> Made in Canada
> Sluggish four-cylinder engine
> Overstated fuel economy
> Timing-chain and other engine woes
Things to Watch Out For:
> Jerky or hesitating automatic transmission
> Engine rattling or chugging
> Rapid oil consumption
> Non-functioning air conditioner
> Lit warning lamps and electrical faults.