Downside: It's GM's problem, not yours. The Equinox and Saturn VUE are quite similar GM products. But the 3.6-liter V-6 VUE is sold at a lower price with a more powerful engine ($24,185 for the VUE with a 250-horsepower V-6 versus about $25,000 for an Equinox LT with a 185-horsepower V-6). Maybe the folks at GM should get together for a talk.
Ride, acceleration and handling: Very decent and enjoyable in all respects for the tested Equinox LS. This is just a good-mannered family hauler. If you can accept it as such, you will be happy with owning one.
Head-turning quotient: Looks rugged. But no one who sat behind the steering wheel or in one of the passenger seats was fooled. Typical comment: "Nice wagon."
Body style/layout: Front engine, available front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, four side doors with rear hatch, unitized construction.
Engine/transmission: Both the Equinox LS and LT are equipped with the same 3.4-liter V-6 that develops 185 horsepower at 5,200 revolutions per minute and 210 foot-pounds of torque at 3,800 rpm. The engine is linked to a five-speed automatic transmission.
Capacities: The Equinox has seating for five people, with good headroom for second-row passengers. Cargo capacity is 35.2 cubic feet with the second-row seats up and 69 cubic feet with those seats down. Fuel capacity/type is 17 gallons of recommended regular unleaded gasoline.
Mileage: I averaged 21 miles per gallon driving mostly on the highway in the front-wheel-drive Equinox LS.
Safety: Anti-lock brakes, side curtain air bags and traction control are available as options.
Price: Base price on the tested 2005 front-wheel-drive Equinox LS is $20,995. Dealer invoice price on that model is $19,357. Price as tested is $22,890, including $1,330 in options and a $565 destination charge. Dealer's price with options and destination charge is $21,120.
Purse-strings note: The Equinox LS, regardless of whether you accept it as a wagon or "compact SUV," represents good value for the money. It gets a strong "buy" rating here.