Automobilemag.com said, "Impressive [highway] fuel economy and smart packaging give the Equinox the opportunity to become a segment leader." And at 32 MPG, Equinox stands out from the rest by offering highway fuel economy that Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and even a Ford Escape Hybrid can't match.
A fuel-saving 6-speed automatic transmission and a 2.4L ECOTEC 4-cylinder engine with direct injection means up to 600 highway miles between fill-ups. The 2.4L engine also features an ECO button that allows you to switch to a fuel-saving mode, which can increase your vehicle's fuel economy when compared to normal operation.
The analysis of Edmunds.com data for November sales since 2002 shows an uptick for SUVs and crossovers (SUV-style vehicles on a car chassis) to 32.4% of new vehicle sales last month, up from 29% a year ago and 25.9% in 2008.
With gas prices rising — now more than $3 a gallon for regular nationally — the comeback is a sign that family haulers are beginning to shake their image as gas guzzlers.
"SUVs are getting slowly but surely more fuel-efficient," says Karl Brauer, senior analyst for Edmunds.com, a car-shopping site. "It's just becoming easier and easier to justify buying them."
SUVs took their share gains from car sales. While pickups' percentage of total sales has remained relatively stable — it was 13.9% last month — cars generated 47.5% of new vehicle sales in November, down from 51.6% in November 2009.
Behind the SUV's comeback:
• Rising gas prices not too high. Regular gas averaged $3.06 a gallon Wednesday in AAA's daily survey, up 20 cents from a month ago and 45 cents from a year ago. But it remains far from the $3.50-a-gallon level that Alec Gutierrez, Kelley Blue Book's lead valuation analyst, says it would take to start dramatically crimping SUV demand.
• Better fuel economy. Many new SUVs no longer have heavy truck frames, but are car-based, with unibodies that integrate that frame and body. That cuts weight and raises gas mileage.
Example: The new Ford Explorer, now a unibody crossover SUV, is rated about 5 miles per gallon better on the highway than the outgoing truck-based model.
Crossover SUVs had half the sales share industrywide of traditional SUVs in 2002, General Motors says. Now crossovers outsell them 3-to-1.
• Pent-up demand. Families that put off new vehicle purchases are starting to open their wallets. "Pent-up demand is slowly being released," GM's Tom Henderson says.
For families, the rolling box is a necessity. "They have always needed 'utilities,' whether it was minivans or sport-utilities or car-based crossovers," Ford Motor sales analyst George Pipas says.
While 2010 auto sales through November are up 11.1% vs. the same period last year, SUV and crossover sales are up 19.3%, Autodata reports. And December results may widen that.
"Trucks and SUVs typically have stronger sales in December because of snowy and icy conditions," says Jesse Toprak, a TrueCar.com vice president.
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