2020 Chevrolet Equinox AWD Premier 2.0 Review

Just pretty good in a very tough segment


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: Easy driving manners, great comfy ride smooths out the bumps nicely, great infotainment system, roomy for four adults, solid cargo room.
Negatives: Vanilla design against better-looking competitors, some obvious cheap plastic bits inside, shutting off the auto start/stop is a painful and obscure process, gets expensive when going for higher trims.
Bottom Line: The Equinox is good but not great. It's also too bad that the price point is right there with better vehicles like the Mazda CX-5, which is a better driving experience by far and offers a nicer interior. The Equinox Premier is well-appointed and good to drive, and it has a great infotainment system. The whole package, however, just isn't a strong recommendation.
The small crossover market is truly jam-packed with contestants, so standing out in the crowd takes some serious effort. The Chevy Equinox was redesigned in 2018 for the 2019 model year and carries on into 2020 with some changes. But it has its work cut out for it since truly excellent small crossovers like the Mazda CX-5, the Toyota RAV-4, and the Honda CR-V are at the top of their game. Although you can upgrade the engine in the Equinox (unlike some of the competition), the base trim is special order only, and the next level up (LS) costs a lot more for not many more features. We drove the top trim Premier for a week to see how it fared against some of the most popular competitors. Read on for the full review.
 

Driving Experience

8.2

 

The Equinox definitely exhibits real overall competence. While it's not especially sporty, it does provide a solid driving experience compared to the somewhat tepid RAV4 and the so-so Buick Envision.

Ride Quality: It toes the line between sporty and cushy with the right balance. It's a very competent commuter.

Acceleration: The upgraded engine is solid, as is the automatic transmission which combine to provide a 6.8-second 0-60 sprint.

Braking: The brake pedal modulates well with no grabbiness or mushiness. Stopping distances are good, too.

Steering: Although the steering is light, it's precise and on-center. We had no trouble managing apexes and curvy-off ramps.

Handling: For a small crossover, the Equinox manages body control very well with minimal roll and good balance.

Technology

8.5

 

Chevy's in-car tech is pretty good, and although their infotainment screen is on the small side (and you can't upsize, unfortunately), the system works well. On the downside, we hated their automatic stop/start system which was not only slow but painfully hard to shut off.

Infotainment System: The 7" touchscreen is the only size you can get, but at least it's vivid and easy to read. The responsiveness is very good, and we had no trouble using it.

Controls: The presence of physical controls is nice. We like the easy volume knob and audio buttons below the touchscreen. The climate knobs are also easy, but we're not fans of the cluster of climate buttons between them (versus a linear layout). The gear change buttons on the top of the shifter continue to annoy us (and you have to hit the "+" nine times when you start the car to shut off the automatic stop/start feature).

Styling

6.2

 

The Equinox isn't a bad looking vehicle. In fact, from most angles, it looks decent. The problem is that it looks a bit boring compared to some of the competition. It just doesn't stand out all that much in a very crowded field. The interior also feels very GM parts bin, and that's not a good thing. They still haven't managed to get away from this. For the same price, the Mazda CX-5 looks and feels way more special.

Front: The front end has a split grille and similarly shaped angular headlights. There are a lot of lines going on here, and we're not sure we like it all that much.

Rear: The taillights have a weird squarish teardrop shape for the reverse lights, and the rest of the back end just doesn't seem very unique.

Profile: The Equinox is well-proportioned, but the downward sloping body crease toward the rear quarter panel makes it look odd. We also don't like the chrome window trim in only one area, which makes the Equinox look non-uniform from the side view. We do, however, love the double-spoke alloy wheels.

Cabin: Materials look and feel a bit cheap, from the flimsy leather to the gobs of grey plastic everywhere. The cheap rubber covers on the steering wheel buttons look like they were pulled off a '90s video game controller, and the chrome trim around the HVAC vents has got to go.

Comfort

8.2

 

There's a good amount of room for both front and second row occupants, and the level of seat comfort is also good. The only issue we really had was over the lack of proper steering column adjustment.

Front Seats: Although the seats look pretty bland and uncomfortable, we found the support and cushioning to be pretty good. The seatback and seat were wide and accommodating.

Rear Seats: The rear seats had good leg and headroom. A tall adult can sit behind another tall adult without issues.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): The noise level was kept at bay decently. We didn't notice any serious road or wind noise even at highway speeds. There were also no creaks or rattles in the Equinox.

Visibility: Overall visibility is good, although the tiny rear side windows and angled pillar makes it tougher out back. We found ourselves relying on the camera most of the time in tight spots.

Climate: The heat worked well in the chill of January, and it was nice to have heated seats and a heated steering wheel that both fired up quickly.

Safety

9

 

Families can count on the Equinox to transport them safely. It nailed the crash tests with excellent marks. The safety equipment abounds, as well.

IIHS Rating: It gets the Top Safety Pick thanks to "good" in all crash tests, even the stringent passenger small overlap crash. Headlights get dinged due to "acceptable" and "marginal" scores.

NHTSA Rating: The Equinox scored five stars (out of five) from the federal government.

Standard Tech: There's a lot to love in the Premier trim. It comes with great features like Teen Driver that limits speed, keeps the radio volume down, and also prevent the radio from turning on until occupant seats are buckled. It also provides driver safety reports to parents. There's also features such as Rear Park Assist, Lane Keep Assist w/ Lane Departure Warning, Automatic Emergency Braking, and Front Pedestrian Braking, just to name a few.

Optional Tech: Our tester received Adaptive Cruise Control and the handy HD Surround Vision, both of which worked flawlessly during our review period.

Storage/Cargo

8.3

 

The Equinox has good medium-sized and small item storage, and it does put up some pretty good numbers in the cargo area. The underfloor storage also helps, as does the self-folding rear seats that make going flat a breeze.

Storage Space: Although there are no larger bins for small item storage, the front binnacle is decently sized and has a grippy rubber bottom. The armrest and door pockets are also medium sized and quite usable.

Cargo Room: 29.9 cubes behidn row two and 69.3 with the seats folded flat make it bigger than the Mazda CX-9 and even the Lexus RX.

Fuel Economy

7.2

 

The 2.0-liter engine is a good one, and it gets solid efficiency numbers even when driven on the sportier side. Overall, it was able to get very close to it's combined EPA estimate during our review period. It's too bad the thing takes premium fuel. That won't be fun when prices go up.

Observed: 25.6 mpg

Distance Driven: 125 miles

Audio

6.7

 

Topping out at over $38,000, you'd think this would have an upgraded sound system, but no. The stock 6-speakers system works just fine, but some of our favorite tracks sounded a little flat overall with only a semblance of bass. We would recommend an audio upgrade.



Final Thoughts

When there are so many good options out there for the mid- to high $30K price range, the Equinox is just okay. It doesn't stand out in terms of style, interior comfort, or technology. The Mazda CX-5 drives better, looks better, and has much better materials inside. The Toyota RAV4 has more personality and better build quality. Even the Honda CR-V is a better buy thanks to its huge space and great steering. We enjoyed the Equinox for its easy drivability and good space, but it's hard to win us over when you look at the price.
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