Sunday Drive: Chevy Equinox makes a name in the compact SUV market
The 2023 Chevrolet Equinox comes into the new year as the best-selling SUV in the Chevy line, but it has some very stiff competition from its peers amongst those in the market for a small, affordable SUV. It contends against vehicles like the Mazda CX-50, Honda CR-V, VW Tiguan and Ford Bronco Sport.
So far this year, the Equinox ranks second in sales across the country (up from fourth place last year), being beat by the Toyota RAV4. It seems the automaker has done something right to get to this spot with the Equinox, which has a unique and interesting 17-year history as it has grown and shrunk within the SUV domain.
When first introduced, the Equinox sported a 3.4-liter V-6 engine and was 189 inches long, slotting it very nicely into the mid-sized SUV category, although it came with only 185 horsepower.
This engine was changed in the 2008 model year to a 3.6-liter size that increased power to 264 ponies, making the Equinox a much more engaging drive (if not a better choice for gas mileage).
The second generation of the Chevy model was introduced in 2010 with a number of different engine choices, and the 3.6-liter V-6 got a boost to 301 horsepower in 2013, making it the most powerful version of the Equinox to that point.
In 2018, Chevrolet took a turn with the size of the Equinox and, in our opinion, their target market. At that time, the carmaker seemed to be designing the Equinox as more of an entry-level SUV that would appeal to smaller families and even the older generation like ourselves who were looking for more room and a comfortable way to get around every day while still having the all-wheel drive feature that would manage bad weather.
It was then that the Equinox lost over 6 inches in length and was classified as a compact SUV. At the time, the new Chevrolet Blazer was introduced, taking the place of the Equinox in the Chevy lineup. It was about that same time that the auto manufacturer indicated it would move to making more SUVs and phasing out all of its sedan line as consumers were opting for SUVs far more often than sedans.
The 2022 Equinox got a facelift that was put off for a year because of the pandemic. New also was the RS version of the Equinox, which got larger tires — 19 inches — with black-clad wheels and a completely black interior with red accent stitching. What would have been an LTZ just a few years ago is now named Premier.
Gone also with the third generation of the Equinox was the V-6 engine. It has been replaced this year with only one choice of engine: a 1.5-liter turbocharged power plant that puts out 175 horsepower (up 5 from last year’s engine) and 203 foot-pounds of torque mated to a six-speed transmission.
Interestingly enough, we thought most buyers in the past would have opted for the larger and more powerful engine, but that was not the case. Only 7% of buyers went with that option. So, in 2022, Chevy chose to follow the market and offer only one engine size in the Equinox.
Craig was able to take a longer drive in the Equinox from Provo up to the Standard-Examiner office in Ogden. In fact, three coworkers tagged along for the drive. The Equnox performed quite well; however, he did find that it struggled a bit when he needed speed to get on the freeway. Once at speed, it was fine, with the cruise control set at 75 for the entire trip.
Having more folks in the SUV allowed him to stay in the HOV lane during the trip. Having the addition of the adaptive cruise control through the “confidence and convenience package” made all the difference during the 90-mile trip on Interstate 15. It is always so much easier to drive in heavy traffic when you don’t have to worry about changing your speed all the time because the vehicle is doing all the work.
The compact SUV handled it all very well. Even with the smaller engine, it held its ground on the heavy mountain grades encountered along the way. This was a pleasant surprise as we anticipated these roads might slow the Equinox down.
After a week of utilizing the Equinox daily, we were very impressed with our gas mileage numbers. We got over 31 mpg on the freeway and kept it over 28 for the entire week, which included mostly urban driving. We had put over 450 miles on the odometer by the end of the week.
To us, this was a great number as we were the first in our region to get time in the Equinox (which is not usually the case). It arrived at our home with only 567 miles on the odometer, and it is 505 miles from Denver to our home.
Inside, the creature comforts in the Premier model were fantastic. We especially enjoyed the heated seats during our week of November driving. The mercury dipped into the high 20s during a large part of our time in the SUV. There was also the advantage of a heated steering wheel.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also wireless in the Equinox no matter what trim level a buyer chooses. This is a great addition if there is no navigation and provides the driver with the added value of being able to text and communicate other options to Siri without looking at one’s phone.
With safety in mind, also included in the vehicle were blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, pedestrian detection, forward collision warning and mitigation control.
The Equinox turned out to be a joy to drive for the week, and it would be a genuinely good everyday driver with lots of space in the rear compartment for the stuff that comes with kids and life in general.
Base price: $33,100
Destination charge: $1,395
Price as driven: $38,860