The Chevrolet Equinox competes in the same segment as the venerable Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 where high-quality designs, materials, and assembly are expected. Its strong sales might indicate that Chevrolet has landed a home run, however, taking a closer look shows that there are a lot of opportunities for improvement.
This fully-loaded AWD Premier 2.0T trim checks out at nearly $38,000 although manufacturer’s discounts shouldn’t be difficult to come by to lessen the initial sticker shock and make it more comparable to the equally as powerful Ford Escape, the recently refreshed CR-V, and the all-new RAV4.
The Equinox certainly appears agreeable on paper. There is proximity entry with push-button start, heated and ventilated leather seats with memory positioning, a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, and a crisp eight-inch infotainment display. A high-definition surround-view camera system, wireless charging pad, hands-free power tailgate, and automatic headlights are also onboard and round out the Equinox’s list of notable everyday convenience features.
However, one only needs to look beyond the spec sheet to find several examples of seemingly unfinished designs as if they hadn’t received full buy-in from the styling, engineering, and manufacturing teams before being pushed ahead. The instrument panel is composed of different materials and shapes which create a nice visual flair, although the raised stitching (as well as the different radii parts) leaves obvious rat holes where the panels butt up against each other.
The chrome-plated air vent surrounds are finely styled, however, one of them refused to stay tightly clipped to the instrument panel. The cubby located at the base of the instrument panel is large and includes a wireless charging pad but it looks as if it is made with 15 different parts and several of those edges were notably misaligned.
The seat memory buttons are easy to find on the door panel but the text is rotated 90 degrees from all of the other labels and the center console’s plunger-action light switch – while very effective – looks very 11th-hour-ish.
Lastly, the steering wheel’s controls are easy to use but they’re covered with large rubber-like pads that look and feel overly utilitarian.
The interior’s shortcomings are difficult to justify and frustrating to see from Chevrolet but there are areas where the Equinox asserts itself – namely in the powertrain department.
The 2.0-liter turbocharged engine won’t make anyone’s heart flutter with stirring noises or outrageous acceleration; rather, it excels with its everyday performance. There’s minimal hesitation when getting underway from a stop and the wave of turbo power arrives predictably. The transmission slushes smoothly from one gear to the next while the engine’s strong low-end power quickly and effortlessly gets the Equinox up to cruising speed. The transmission’s logic is finely tuned to call for a downshift when wanted yet quelled any feel of busy shifting despite having nine forward ratios from which to choose.
The automatic all-wheel-drive system struggled to get the Equinox out of deep wet snow, though it was always Johnny-on-the-spot when merging quickly into perpendicular-moving traffic and never let the inside front wheel spin. For efficiency sake, a 2WD-only mode can be selected for more though be forewarned; the front-wheels are easily overwhelmed by the engine’s easily accessible 252 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque.
Just as its powertrain prefers the mellow style of driving, the overall ride has been calibrated to match. The Equinox has a sense of heft that gives it confidence when heading down the highway although bumps are still felt and the heavy steering becomes tiresome when sawing through the parking lot. During my time with the Equinox, which included several cold snowy days and a mix of highway cruising and city driving, I managed to match the EPA’s fuel economy rating of 24 mpg combined.
The space-efficient shape of the compact crossover isn’t lost with the Equinox. The cabin is roomy for four adults and the cargo area is unlikely to become a sore point, though it measures less than the CR-V.
The Equinox competes in a highly popular segment where other manufacturers put forward models that impress in almost every area, which makes any shortcomings that much more noticeable. Despite having been redesigned for 2018, the Equinox already feels in desperate need of a thorough rework to keep up with the quickly progressing class.