|Positives: Weak sauce four-pot engine is the only choice, cheap interior materials, anonymous styling.
|Negatives: Good handling characteristics, ample amounts of passenger space, solid infotainment tech, attainable price point.
|Bottom Line: The Equinox sells really well, but we don't find it all that compelling of a crossover mostly due to the lackluster engine and cheap cabin materials.
It's almost shocking that one of Chevy's most popular models has but one engine choice now that the 2.0-liter turbo four has been dropped, and it's not a good one. The 1.5-liter turbo four lacks gumption and refinement. Otherwise, the Equinox is actually quite good when it comes to driving manners, which makes it even more disappointing that the engine can't keep up, and that's with a pretty light 3,500-lb curb weight.
Ride Quality: The ride is nicely balanced between firm and soft. It absorbs bumps well without feeling totally isolated from road surfaces.
Acceleration: It's a slug with the turbo four, getting to 60 mph in 8.9 seconds. The weight of the all-wheel drive system and the transmission's reluctance to downshift when pushed hard equates to a less-than-thrilling time behind the wheel.
Braking: The Equinox's brakes are just fine. There's not ton of bite, but there's no vagueness or mushiness in the pedal, either.
Steering: The steering is light but precise. There's not much feedback coming through the wheel.
Handling: Body control is very good, and the Equinox feels pretty balanced in the turns.
We like the fact that GM didn't convolute thing by making the Equinox's tech overly dependent on the touchscreen. The system is simple, easy to use, and crisp. The small driver info display looks a bit dated, unfortunately.
Infotainment System: The screen might not be huge (7 inches is standard, 8 is optional), but it's easy to read, and the icons are big and easy to press when driving. It's just too bad that it sits in a bulky dash instead of on top of a thinner one.
Controls: The audio controls below the screen are easy to operate because of the linear layout. We really dislike the rubber steering wheel buttons that seem to lack proper action that feels like you actually selected something.
Rather than redesigning the Equinox, it got a light refresh that does help a little bit. The grille and headlights, as well as front and rear bumpers, have been updated. The dark RS trim makes it look a little bit more aggressive, as well.
Front: The grille is bolder with new slats and the headlight cluster is now split by the grille's outer wings. The RS gets a black grille with a corrugated pattern. The bumper is also new and the fog lights get pushed further back in their housings with new faux vents.
Rear: The taillight signature is new with a clothespin-like pattern, and the backup lights have moved to the bottom. The lens shape is the same, but the new pattern makes it look more distinctive.
Profile: Aside from the RS's dark trim bits, the body hasn't changed, and the creases add a bit of visual drama to an otherwise conventional crossover sideview. The black wheels on the RS are, however, a nice touch.
Cabin: The RS's red contrast stitching helps a little, but it can't overcome all the grey plastic that's prevalent throughout the cabin. The dated center stack looks painfully cheap, and the dash just looks bulky overall. The new Kia Sportage or the Mazda CX-5 are eons ahead in terms of quality and style.
There are a lot of hard plastics in the Equinox, but at least there's a lot of space for occupants and decent seats. Visibility could be better.
Front Seats: The seats are quite good with the right balance of cushioning and bolstering.
Rear Seats: The 39.9 inches of rear legroom is pretty good. While it's less than the Ford Escape, it is better than the popular Toyota RAV4.
NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): We didn't experience any intrusive road or wind noise at highway speeds, but the buzzy small-displacement engine is annoying when it's asked to do more than it can.
Visibility: The seating position is good, and the slope of the hood provides good maneuvering. The rear view is compromised by the small window and the shape of the pillars.
Although it does well in most categories, it suffered in other aspects. Car buyer should be aware of this when shopping since competitors like the Mazda CX-5 and the Nissan Rogue do much better. The Equinox has good standard and optional safety tech.
IIHS Rating: It didn't win any awards largely due to a "marginal" score in the side impact crash test.
NHTSA Rating: The Equinox earned five stars from the federal government.
Standard Tech: The RS comes with Teen Driver, Chevy Safety Assist that includes Automatic Emergency Braking, Forward Collision Alert, Front Pedestrian Braking, Lane Keep Assist w/ Lane Departure Warning, and Intellibeam Auto High Beam. There's also a tire pressure monitor and the Driver Confidence II Package with Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Lane Change Alert with Side Blind Zone.
Optional Tech: Our test vehicle came outfitted with the $650 Safety Package that comes with HD Surround Vision and Adaptive Cruise Control.
The Equinox is decent when it comes to carrying stuff, but it's far from being capacious. The front row has some good stowage options, but those door pockets could be bigger.
Storage Space: We like the large open binnacle in front of the shifter, as well as the deep armrest. The door pockets are a bit on the small side, unfortunately.
Cargo Room: The 69.3 cubic feet with the seats folded flat isn't huge in this segment. It's more than the Mazda CX-5 but less than just about everyone else, including the RAV4, Escape, Sportage, and the new CR-V. The Equinox's storage compartment under the cargo section's load floor is helpful for flat items.
We were not impressed by the poor numbers we got in combined driving. The small displacement turbo engine and the conservative transmission (along with the light curb weight) should've resulted in better fuel efficiency.
Observed: 20.1 mpg.
Distance Driven: 76 miles.
Our vehicle's RS Leather Package is worth it for the seats but not for the upgraded 7-speaker Bose audio system, which is just ok. The sound didn't blow us away in any one area, but at least there's no distortion we noticed. The bass was mediocre, and the fullness seemed lacking.