I have a hard time getting excited about Chevrolet products these days. Other than the Camaro and Corvette, most of the cars in the Chevy lineup have been 86ed. And the SUVs are more functional than fun.
The Chevrolet Blazer RS I tested recently might be the one exception to the automaker’s humdrum SUV-heavy existence.
While I didn’t not like the 2019 Chevrolet Equinox, there isn’t anything exceptional about it either. It’s perfectly fine.
The exterior design on the Equinox has strong horizontal lines. And if you catch the light just right, you can see an interesting S curve that swoops along the door panels.
The front manages an austere, stiff-upper-lip kind of look while the back is just plain boring. The overall effect is, well, fine.
The interior boast slightly better design attributes with a sleek and organized center stack, buttons and dials for all the things you want buttons and dials for and easy-to-reach-and-see dials and controls.
The best design feature, however, is something simple and small: The USB and auxiliary jacks have a lighted outline so that you can easily see where to plug in a cord.
One design element that deserves a small complaint is the way Apple CarPlay was integrated. While each automaker who employs this feature gets the bones from Apple to work with, the automaker has some freedom to implement functions and features to its own specifications.
In the Equinox, I found that if I wanted to access a song or artist that fell toward the end of the alphabet like, say, Twenty One Pilots, I couldn’t easily get there through scrolling on the center stack display screen. I’d have to go to the last song/artist on that screen, click on it, hit back, scroll to the next last song/artist on the screen, click on it hit back – and so on. It probably took me five scroll,-click-back maneuvers to finally hit the T’s.
I understand that Chevrolet would like you to use voice commands, but they’re still iffy. I want to scroll. So, instead of using the in-car system, I often found myself unplugging my phone, getting the artist/song I wanted and then plugging my phone back in to play.
This is true for all General Motors products as far as I can tell, and it drives me nuts.
Ride & Handling
The Equinox drives neither big nor small. It’s right-sized for its segment, and it does what you’d expect it to do. The turning radius isn’t as tight as I wanted it to be for urban spaces – it often swung a bit wide as I was trying to back into my garage space.
But overall, it’s comfortable over rough-hewn street surfaces and quiet on highways.
The test vehicle came equipped with the top-tier 2.0-liter turbocharged, 4-cylinder engine that delivers 252 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque.
Other than the non-optional stop/start engine feature, this powertrain does well for the Equinox. It was quick off the line and behaved aggressively in passing maneuvers.
Other powertrain options include:
- 1.5-liter, 4-cylinder turbocharged engine delivering 170 horsepower and 203 pound-feet of torque
- 1.6-liter, 4-cylinder turbodiesel engine delivering 137 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque (Note: This powertrain will be discontinued in 2020)
The EPA estimates the AWD Equinox with the 2.0-liter engine should achieve 22 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway.
I don’t say this very often, but the test vehicle actually achieved what the EPA said it should. I averaged 24 mpg in combined driving – and that’s spot-on what the combined average should be.
Tech & gadgets
One of the best things about GM vehicles is the connectivity. With subscription-based features such as OnStar, 4G LTE hotspots and SiriusXM services, you can have a very smart and connected vehicle.
While I don’t necessarily like the GM application of Apple CarPlay (see below in “What I can leave”), I do have to appreciate that both CarPlay and Android Auto are standard even at the base trims – which can’t be said for some of its competitors. (Cough, Ford Escape.)
One of the coolest tech features standard on the Equinox is the Teen Driver system that lets parents set parameters for teens driving the vehicle. In addition to a speed limiter and muting audio under certain conditions, it also includes a “buckle to drive” feature that delays shifting into drive if a driver hasn’t hooked the seatbelt.
Other tech features of note include wireless charging, USB-C charging ports and a multi-view camera display.
There are four trims available for the 2019 model year:
L ($24,995): This base trim is only available with the 1.5-liter engine and with a front-wheel-drive platform. Standard features include Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, push-button start, passive entry, a 7-inch touchscreen display, Teen Driver technology and WiFi hotspot.
LS ($27,095): This trim is only available with the 1.5-liter engine but adds all-wheel-drive availability. It adds a compact spare tire, compass and a keyless entry keypad.
LT ($28,395): This trim is available with all three engine options as well as both FWD and AWD platforms. It adds features such as high-intensity discharge headlights, a power driver’s seat, a multi-color driver’s information display, outside heated mirrors and deep-tinted rear glass.
Premier ($32,295): This trim is available with all three engine options as well as both FWD and AWD platforms. It adds features such as leather seats, heated front seats, rear cross-traffic alert, blind spot monitoring, a hands-free power liftgate, dual-zone automatic climate control, remote start and an 8-inch color touch-screen display.
The test vehicle was a Premier trim with AWD. It added the Confidence & Convenience Package ($2,145), which added ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, forward collision alert, lane keep assist, intelligent high beams and adaptive cruise control. Other options added included the sunroof ($1,495) and the Cajun Red tintcoat ($395). The as-tested price was $40,930.
While the Equinox does offer all the bare minimum safety equipment consumers expect – including front and side airbags, ABS, rear-view camera and tire pressure monitoring – it doesn’t include any of the up-level equipment that is starting to be the norm in non-luxury vehicles.
Not only does Chevrolet force you to pay extra for things like automatic emergency braking and blind spot monitoring, but you also can’t get these features at all on lower trims.
Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are options included in the Confidence & Convenience Package at the LT trim, so you’ll spend at least $30,340 to get those two features alone.
You can’t get anything else until you upgrade to the Premier trim and add the Confidence & Convenience II Package, so you’ll spend at least $34,440 to get automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control and intelligent high beams.
In terms of crash test, ratings, however, it does well. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives it an overall 5-Star Rating, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives it all “Good” ratings in the “crashworthiness” category.
It should be noted however, that the Equinox does not achieve one of IIHS’s coveted Top Safety Pick awards because it only has a “Marginal” headlight rating.
Not sure what the safety ratings mean? We break it down for you here.
New for 2019
Equinox was all-new for 2018, so there aren’t any major changes for this model year. New items of note for 2019 include 4 standard USB ports, available front pedestrian braking, available adaptive cruise control and two new blue exterior colors.
A few of my favorite things
I’m agog that the fuel economy hit its mark in combined driving. This is a huge win for this vehicle and this engine because I rarely hit these numbers in real-world testing.
What I can leave
The GM implementation of Apple CarPlay is more distracting than helpful. Because it doesn’t give me the functionality I want, I often found myself unplugging my phone from the system to get the song or playlist I wanted, then I’d plug it back in to listen. I’d rather do without CarPlay than have it implemented like this.
I’ve probably railed against the forced auto stop/start engine in every article I’ve written about a General Motors vehicle since this feature was implemented. So, I won’t continue the tirade here, but I still don’t like that GM won’t give you a button to turn this feature off.
The bottom line
With the launch of the all-new Ford Escape ($26,080) and Toyota RAV4 ($26,770), competition in this smaller SUV segment is starting to heat up. Not to mention the fact that Equinox has the potential to be cannibalized by its cooler, similarly sized sibling, the Blazer ($29,995).
While the fuel economy numbers ring true and the interior is well designed, there’s a lot of humdrum in this vehicle. It doesn’t offer a hybrid. It’s not terribly sporty. And the exterior styling is just OK.
I don’t think the Equinox is a bad vehicle, I just don’t know that I could recommend it over its competitors.