Last year, a new third-generation of Chevy’s compact crossover made its debut in a hotly contested arena.
The DoubleClutch.ca Magazine editorial team had the chance to sample the 2018 Chevrolet Equinox Premier 2.0T AWD, which is the highest trim level in the Equinox range. Where many automakers make their cars bigger and bigger with each generation, General Motors has done the opposite here. The current and third iteration is generally smaller dimensionally – it’s 188 millimetres (4.6 inches) shorter but 1 millimetre wider than its predecessor – but interior space hasn’t necessarily suffered.
Front and rear seat legroom is within an inch of the previous model, at 1,046/1,013 millimetres (41.2/39.9 inches) respectively. Front shoulder room has decreased by about 36 millimetres (1.4 inches), and headroom is down by about 23 millimetres (0.9 inch). Rear cargo space has taken a 45 litre (1.6 cubic feet) hit with the rear seats upright, but remain just about unchanged when they are folded.
Overall, the Equinox should still be able to seat five adults in modest comfort, but taller or wider occupants may find reason to protest a bit sooner. The front seat bottoms have cushions that are too short, resulting in poor thigh support. By comparison, the segment’s packaging king, the slightly smaller Honda CR-V (reviewed here), wins easily on cargo space, gives up on passenger room, and offers more supportive seats.
Also inside, the Equinox Premier gets an eight-inch touch screen with GM’s MyLink 4GLTE connectivity with Wi-Fi. When combined with the slick and versatile Android Auto/Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring capability, phones and other passengers’ devices can have full Internet access via the car’s data plan. There’s also automatic dual-zone climate control, with easy-to-use buttons that are unfortunately surrounded by a slightly confusing button arrangement. As far as colour schemes go, the Jet Black and Brandy leather and trim colour combination gives excellent contrast and a proper upscale feel.
The optional True North edition ($4,000) package adds further features, including a power sunroof, navigation, Bose audio (that didn’t sound particularly great in terms of clarity), low speed forward autonomous braking, forward collision alert, lane keeping assist, automatic high beam, driver’s safety alert seat (that vibrates for safety warnings), ventilated front seats, heated rear seats/steering wheel, and roof rack cross trails. Add to that $495 for the test car’s Nightfall Grey Metallic paint, and the Equinox Premier’s $37,195 base price tops out at $41,690 as-tested.
This puts the top-dog Equinox Premier right in line against the class heavyweights – Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. Where the Chevy carries its advantage is in the power coming out of its 2.0-litre turbocharged four cylinder engine. With rated outputs of 252 horsepower at 5,500RPM and 260 lb-ft between 2,500-4,500RPM, it beats the CR-V by 62 horsepower/81 lb-ft and the RAV4 by 76 horsepower/88 lb-ft, respectively.
With all that extra power on tap, the Equinox Premier’s performance is closer to that of the Kia Sportage SX Turbo (reviewed here) or Ford Escape 2.0-litre EcoBoost. Throttle response and power delivery are closer to that of a naturally aspirated engine, with practically no turbo lag to be seen anywhere. The turbo four quietly goes about its business, with more than adequate acceleration and zero drama. The all-wheel drive system is switchable by a button near the shifter, and when turned on, offers good traction in a straight line. Remember, however, that all-wheel drive only helps you go, and doesn’t help you turn or stop in inclement weather.
Paired to the forced induction engine is a nine-speed automatic transmission. Overall, this is a much more preferable powertrain combination to have compared to the base 1.5-litre turbo and six-speed automatic. Refinement levels are much higher, and the extra cogs in the gearbox really liven things up. It also results in decent fuel economy performance, with nominal ratings of 10.9L/100km in the city, and 8.3L/100km on the highway. This performance is very close to the lower-powered RAV4, but can’t touch the CR-V (which does 8.7L/100KM city and 7.2L/100KM highway).
Despite a boatload of cold weather and snowy driving conditions, observed economy was 10.4L/100km in mixed driving. Fuel capacity is 59 litres, and premium octane is recommended. Worthy of note – the automatic start/stop feature cannot be manually defeated. In certain stop and go driving conditions, this may get annoying.
When behind the wheel, noise, vibration, and harshness are well controlled, and highway cruising makes for good refinement in the cabin. Steering is light but precise, and is as expected for a vehicle in this class. Brake pedal feel and firmness are excellent, resulting in confident stops, even though the test car was paired with softer 19-inch winter tires that can squirm away some of the performance.
As expected for a crossover sport utility vehicle, handling isn’t a strong suit compared to a normal sedan, but is still lightyears better than the body-on-frame SUVs of decades gone by. The suspension is tuned to be on the firm side, which results in good body control over bumpy roads, at the expense of some comfort.
The 2018 Chevrolet Equinox Premier 2.0T AWD stands out as a decent effort by General Motors, and buyers should not feel bad about going with one. Against its peers, it’s in the middle of the road – you can do better for cargo space in the CR-V, for simplicity (and potentially long term durability) in the RAV4, and for driving dynamics in something like a Mazda CX-5 (reviewed here). The Equinox isn’t the worst in any of these extremes in the compact crossover class, but it’s also not the best. Considering that it is also a relatively average value for the money when considering the manufacturer’s suggested retail price, the lower actual selling price consumers are often able to negotiate (via incentives, for example) may be able to sweeten the deal.