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DETROIT, Mich. - General Motors was among the first automakers to field a mini-SUV. Way back in 1989, under the import-fighting Geo division umbrella, the Suzuki-based Tracker debuted. Diminutive and undermuscled, the Geo Tracker nonetheless proved popular in Sun Belt regions where its convertible top could be appreciated on a regular basis. A hardtop was also available, but few buyers selected this model. A budget bushwacker that sipped fuel and proved reliable, the tough Geo Tracker developed a loyal, if small, cult following. Years later, in 1996, Toyota crashed the party with the segment-defining RAV4 and rewrote the rules for the segment. Based on passenger car underpinnings and lacking any true off-road capability, the Toyota RAV4 accordingly offered a better ride quality and improved handling response to more competently match the real world driving in which most SUV owners engaged. The Tracker, however, continued with stout truck-based underpinnings and underpowered motors for its 1999 redesign, and General Motors lost market share competing against so-called "soft-roaders" like the upstart Toyota, the Honda CR-V and others.
For 2005, Chevrolet debuts the Tracker's replacement. Dubbed Equinox, this new model is among the largest of today's crop of small suvs, offering plenty of room for five adults and their cargo. Based upon the same structure as the Saturn VUE but using steel rather than composite side panels, the 2005 Chevrolet Equinox is powered by a 3.4-liter V6 engine driving the front or all four wheels through a five-speed automatic transmission.
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Vortec 3400 engine
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Other options include roof-rail side curtain airbags, premium sound with an MP3 player and an in-dash six-CD changer, XM satellite radio, OnStar telematics, heated front seats with driver-side power adjustment, leather upholstery, and a power moonroof.
Wisely, designers have eschewed the body cladding, simulated brush bars and big-knobbed tires that can ruin the appearance of other crossover vehicles. The Chevy Equinox is cleanly styled, and is instantly recognizable as a Chevrolet. The interior borrows more from its Saturn VUE cousin that the exterior, with the simple gauge cluster and jutting transmission selector giving away the Equinox's VUE DNA.
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From our perspective, the VUE is getting better the closer we get to the Equinox.
Photos courtesy of General Motors Corporation
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