Special Coverage

Auto Interiors Conference

It used to be that buyers wanted only a few basic things from the interior of a popularly priced SUV or cross-utility vehicle.

They wanted safety, room for a lot of stuff and interior materials durable enough to withstand years of spilled soft drinks and french fries.

But in recent years, consumers have come to expect attractive design and attention to detail in every household item they buy, whether it is a washing machine, cell phone or the family taxi.

The ’10 Chevrolet Equinox CUV, which is classified as a truck by the Environmental Protection Agency and in the Ward’s vehicle segmentation, meets these rising expectations with an interior that is beautiful to look at in addition to being feature-laden and functional.

Tasteful use of color, handsome stitching on the seats and armrests, and crisp, purposeful styling throughout were a pleasant surprise to Ward’s Interior of the Year judges expecting another hum-drum family vehicle interior.

At $33,435, our test vehicle was not inexpensive, but the high-quality materials, surfaces and textures still look like they belong in a more exclusive CUV. The luxurious atmosphere is enhanced at night by “ice-blue” ambient lighting surrounding the center stack, console cupholders and door handles.

“Probably the best Chevy interior I’ve ever seen,” Associate Editor Christie Scwheinsberg writes on her scoresheet.

The days of squeezing out costs with cheap materials and rat-fur headliners clearly are over at GM.

Product designers did not skimp on basic items such as safety or comfort, either. Six standard airbags helped the Equinox become a top safety pick from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in 2009.

What’s more, both front and rear seats are extremely supportive and comfortable, and there is lots of useful storage. Rear seats that can be moved fore or aft nearly 8 ins. (20 cm) to provide more legroom also scored lots of points.

A closed bin in the instrument panel above the center stack is especially handy for stashing small and medium-size items and got raves from Ward’s judges.

Ward’s Automotive Reports Editor Eric Mayne, our in-house USB-port-location analyst, also gives the Equinox high marks for easy connectivity to personal music devices.

From top to bottom, the Equinox is easy to interact with. The rear backup camera display is cleverly located in the rear-view mirror, buttons and controls on the center stack and steering wheel are intuitive and simple to use and seats are easy to fold down and slide back and forth.

The only negative comments to be found on the judges score sheets noted the lack of a third head restraint in the rear.

Even so, our judges could not stop talking about how impressed they were by the job GM designers and engineers did with the Equinox interior.

With honors from Ward’s for both its engine and interior this year, the ’10 Equinox now officially can be ruled a homerun for GM.

dwinter@wardsauto.com