Chevrolet’s Compact Crossover Gets Serious
The Chevrolet Equinox was one of the lesser-known compact crossovers in the market, and it didn’t really help that, in terms of size, it was slightly larger than most of its competitive set. Now sized appropriately and packing more tech, the all-new 2018 Equinox is looking to take a bite out of the rapidly growing compact crossover pie. Available with a range of turbocharged engines and a wide variety of convenience and active safety features, the Bow Tie brand’s redesign crossover is now more family friendly. But does it have what it takes to go up against segment stalwarts such as the Honda CR-V? Let’s find out.
Under the hood of our 2018 Equinox test car is a 1.5-liter turbo-four with 170 hp and 203 lb-ft of torque paired to a six-speed automatic gearbox. At the test track, associate road test editor Erick Ayapana found the transmission shifts too early in Normal mode and used the manual shift button to get the quickest run to 60 mph of 9.2 seconds, finishing the quarter mile in 16.9 seconds at 91.2 mph (147 km/h). This makes the 2018 Equinox one of the slower entries in the compact crossover segment alongside the Nissan Rogue, Ford Escape 1.5T EcoBoost, and the Kia Sportage 2.4, all of which took 9.0 seconds or longer to hit 60 mph and the quarter mile in 16.0 seconds or longer. Stopping from 60 mph took 119 feet, which is mid-pack, and it was during the braking tests where we noted that the Equinox had good body control and short pedal travel.
On the figure eight, the 2018 Equinox showed that it had secure handling, thanks to its balance between understeer and oversteer. It finished the figure-eight course in 27.7 seconds with a 0.61g average and produced an average of 0.83g of lateral acceleration on the skidpad. Road test editor Chris Walton noted that the stability control wasn’t fully defeatable and would randomly turn itself back on; however, it didn’t interfere much. The toggle switch on top of the gear lever for manual shifting also proved infuriating due to its slow responses. Walton also noted the lifeless steering, which he described as “very light, numb, and feeling like the proverbial video game.”
Out on public roads the Equinox was pleasant to drive, thanks to its quiet cabin and a comfortable ride on all but the roughest surface. With the optional 19-inch alloy wheels, ride quality does take a hit, and it can get bouncy on poorly maintained surfaces. The steering, on the other hand, lacks feedback and feels disconnected. Handling is stable, but it’s no Mazda CX-5, hinting at the Equinox’s more comfort-oriented mission and making it more ideal for commuting and long drives.
The base 1.5-liter turbo-four, which first appeared in the redesigned Malibu, has more power and torque in the 2018 Equinox. Like most small turbocharged engines, it’s tuned for mid-range torque and doesn’t struggle unless the car is fully loaded and you’re climbing up an extremely steep grade. GM’s six-speed automatic is perhaps the Equinox’s weakest point because its fuel economy-minded tuning means it always wants to upshift to the highest gear. This can get annoying when you’re in traffic and climbing up grades because the transmission keeps kicking the engine out of its powerband and refuses to hold gears, causing it to easily get confused. Manual mode doesn’t help because the transmission is slow to respond to your inputs.
Where the 2018 Equinox distinguishes itself is in its multimedia interface and the amount of available features. Chevrolet’s MyLink infotainment system is one of the easiest in-car multimedia interfaces to use with its responsive touchscreen and intuitive voice commands. A 7.0-inch touchscreen is standard, but our range-topping Premier tester had the larger 8.0-inch touchscreen with navigation. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration come standard on all models, allowing your smartphone to take over as your on-board multimedia system. However, if you like using voice commands, you’ll need to push the voice command button on the screen because the one on the steering wheel still activates the native system and not your mobile phone. Other available features include heated/ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, a 360-degree view camera, full LED headlights, and a Bose premium audio system with crisp sound and plenty of adjustability.
Active safety features such as forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, and a following distance indicator are available, but they’re exclusive to the Premier trim. Adaptive cruise control, however, isn’t available on the 2018 Equinox. Competitors such as the Toyota RAV4 have full active safety suites standard on all models, and the Honda CR-V has it available on all but the base trim.
There’s plenty of space for front- and rear-seat passengers, and even with the optional panoramic sunroof, headroom is still respectable. The lack of a center tunnel in the second row means the 2018 Equinox can easily carry five passengers even on longer drives; however, the sliding second row seat has been removed, making the 2018 Equinox less flexible. Behind the second row there’s a useful 29.9 cubic feet of cargo space, and if that’s not enough there’s some underfloor storage or you can fold the rear seats for a total of 63.5 cubic feet. That’s generous, but it’s still behind rivals such as the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4, both of which offer over 70 cubic feet of maximum cargo space. Higher trim levels of the Equinox also come with a height-adjustable power liftgate with hands-free operation, which helps make it easy to load the car when your hands are full and can minimize the risk of the hatch hitting the ceiling of your garage.
Interior build quality is another weak point of the 2018 Equinox because soft-touch materials have been mixed in with hard, brittle plastics even in areas near touch points such as the door panels, dash, and center console. The steering wheel, in particular, highlights the crossover’s inconsistent build quality because the plastics in the back of the spokes don’t appear to have been glued properly and was already peeling off. Furthermore, there was a rattle in the cargo area of our tester that couldn’t be pinpointed and got louder when you drove over rough road surfaces.
The 2018 Chevrolet Equinox is a step forward, especially when it comes to tech features. It stands apart because of its user-friendly user interface, straightforward controls, and the availability of features usually found in more expensive vehicles. Chevrolet’s MyLink multimedia system is an example of what infotainment units should be: easy to use and shouldn’t require you to pull out a user’s manual in order to figure out its functions. However, the 2018 Equinox suffers from a number of issues such as inconsistent build quality, a transmission that always wants to be in the highest gear, and the unavailability of active safety features on lower trims levels. As a result, an otherwise solid effort falls mid-pack, especially when you consider the $37,295 USD as-tested price. Even with all the features you get at that price, the 2018 Equinox is still a tough proposition especially when you consider its flaws.
|2018 Chevrolet Equinox Premier 1.5T|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$37,295|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV|
|ENGINE||1.5L/170-hp/203-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||3,465 lb (57/43%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||183.1 x 72.6 x 65.4 in|
|0-60 MPH||9.2 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||16.9 sec @ 81.2 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||119 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.83 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||27.7 sec @ 0.61 g (avg)|
|REAL MPG, CITY/HWY/COMB||19.9/30.0/23.5 mpg|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||26/32/28 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||130/105 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.68 lb/mile|