To put it simply, the 2018 Equinox is the most important vehicle Chevrolet has launched in years. The nameplate represents the brand’s second-best seller, behind the Silverado. And even as the outgoing Equinox began to lose its relevancy in the face of new offerings from Honda, Mazda and others, it remained a strong seller, with its most successful years being the last three. Since the second-generation Chevrolet Equinox launched in 2009, the compact crossover segment has emerged as the highest-selling, one of the most competitive, and most saturated spaces in the entire automotive market. Just about every major automotive brand offers up their take on the crossover, from Acura to Volvo.
Today, the 2018 Chevrolet Equinox is the newest ship to set sail in this red ocean market, guided by more focused proportions, a high-tech interior, and the legacy of selling over 1.56 million units from 2010 to 2016.
This is the segment that can buoy Chevrolet in ways that halo cars like the Camaro and Corvette cannot. Because the Equinox’s segment is both massive and full of fickle buyers, none of which would stop short of either lamenting or praising their new crossover to their inner circles, or worse, social media. Repeat: it’s paramount for General Motors that the 2018 Chevrolet Equinox is a winner. And in the Blue Ridge Mountains region of North and South Carolina, we were able to see if that’s the case for ourselves.
From an design standpoint, the 2018 Chevrolet Equinox is equal parts sleek, modern and cosmopolitan. Yet it’s easy to consider the looks as perhaps too generic. Perhaps too anonymous. That front fascia could have come from any brand. But when we approached Chevrolet about the Equinox’s new looks, it was made clear that the ubiquitous design language is intentional. After all, the new Equinox is set to launch in 115 markets globally, and needs to look as universally accepting as a glass of water. We just hope that incidents involving Honda drivers mistaking a gray 2018 Equinox for their own CR-V in the Costco parking lot are kept to a minimum.
On the inside, the 2018 Equinox is unmistakably a modern Chevrolet. Which is great. A standard push-button start, 7-inch MyLink touchscreen, and a total of six USB charging ports round out some of the highlights. The touchscreen unit centers a minimalist setup – rather opposite from the outgoing Equinox, which has been described in the past as overly buttony. Other standard features include OnStar 4G LTE WiFi, Teen Driver mode, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Higher trim levels offer the 8-inch MyLink screen, while the Sun, Sound and Navigation Package (a very premium $3,320 option) rolls in a panoramic sunroof, 7-speaker Bose audio, and 19 inch wheels. The massive sunroof was a pleasant surprise in a segment that’s been known for more utilitarian buyers, as was the surround-view backup camera system and safety alert seat. Other safety features include six standard airbags, including curtain airbags in the unfortunate event of a side-impact collision. For the less attentive, the 2018 Chevrolet Equinox includes forward collision alert, low-speed forward automatic braking, lane keep assist, rear cross traffic alert, and the new rear seat reminder.
While it’s true that the 2018 Chevrolet Equinox has compressed its exterior dimensions, the overall space within the five-seat cabin remains relatively unchanged. Cargo capacity drops by just .2 cubic feet from 63.7 cubic feet to 63.5 cubic feet, and the front seats were, subjectively, nothing to complain about, even for wider bodies. Sure, the generous rear seat legroom enjoyed by the last-generation model will be missed by some, but with more focused dimensions, Chevrolet is able to attack the heart of the market, where its arch-rivals, the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV-4 await further competition. The downsizing also gives the 2018 Chevrolet Equinox a curb weight of 3,375 lbs in FWD configuration, which ties for best-in-class. That’s a weight reduction of around 400 lbs from the previous model. That stat alone showcases the engineering prowess behind this compact SUV, which features only turbocharged four-cylinder engines.
If you were hoping for a V6 option in the 2018 Equinox, sorry. This is not the vehicle segment you’re looking for. For GM to hit the ambitious weight targets, that meant spacing the D2XX frame out just so that only a 2.0L turbocharged engine or smaller could fit. However, the 2.0T, with 252 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque, is not yet available. Neither is the 40 mpg-highway 1.6L turbo diesel engine. Currently, only the base 1.5L turbo engine is on-line, with 170 horsepower and 203 lb-ft of torque. Through our drive route from Asheville, North Carolina to Greer, South Carolina, our 2018 Chevrolet Equinox LT FWD returned 31 combined miles per gallon, through challenging climbs around Caesar’s Head (3,215 ft) and back down into Greer (1,024 ft). Speed and acceleration techniques were kept at sane levels for the sake of realistic fuel economy. Not lead-foot journalist fuel economy. Considering the EPA estimate of 26 mpg city, 32 mpg highway and 28 mpg combined, we left impressed by how neatly the new ‘Nox 1.5L nourishes itself.
To be a passenger in the 2018 Equinox is also enjoyable. So parents, car-poolers and Lyft drivers, this should come as good news to you. In the case of this new Chevy, it’s the little things. It’s things like the omission of dated locking pins in the front door panels. Instead, small LED lights on the lock/unlock buttons will signal if the vehicle is secured or not. Now the front occupants can rest their arms comfortably on the window sills, should they so choose. There’s a wireless charging dock for those that have compatible phones, and enough USB drives to charge those phones that aren’t. The Premier models have a 110-Volt outlet, which means, along with the WiFi, carpooling passengers can prepare for their work day on their laptops for as long as California highway traffic is at a stand still. The cup holders are big enough to swallow most coffee tumblers. There’s a clever mesh pocket on the front passenger’s side for their devices, so that they don’t have to take up space in the center console. The second row features a flat floor, unobstructed by driveshaft tunnel housing. There are optional heated rear seats, bottom and back. All the 2018 Chevrolet Equinox is really missing for its occupants, is a full-service bathroom.
Equally impressive is the ride and handling. The relatively low curb weight aids in overall composure, and allows for a slightly softer spring rate than before. This gives the 2018 Equinox the proficient ability to absorb bumps without feeling too much like the inside of a jell-o bowl. Braking also felt balanced, with a progressive pedal feel. Steering was on the numb side, but that’s to be expected in this category. At highway speeds, wind noise remained fairly hushed, but there wasn’t as much time spent on quiet tuning as, say, the Buick Envision. But since GM is arguably the best these days at delivering muted mobility, it bodes well for how calm the 2018 Equinox is from the inside. If we could wish for anything more from simply driving the new Chevrolet, it would be more power. The 1.5L is a sufficient, quiet and economical baseline powertrain in its own right, but should you require a 55-70 mph passing maneuver, be sure to give yourself some extra distance to build momentum before initiating the procedure. For those that absolutely need more gusto, the 2.0L turbo is coming soon.
While it’s easy to sing praises of the all-new 2018 Chevrolet Equinox, that praise comes at a price. As tested, the 2018 Equinox variant we sampled was $31,980 with over $4,300 in options. That’s with a base engine, a base FWD configuration, and a midrange LT trim level. That’s a couple grand more than the outgoing model in a comparable guise. The Equinox Premier we sampled was an even higher $34,575 with an identical powertrain and $2,890 in options. Unfortunately for the frugal, this MSRP is competitive with the rest of the segment. Stuff just isn’t getting cheaper. And for a market space that makes up more volume than even trucks these days, that could mean some pullback in future sales. This would be because of the plethora of products outside of autos that are also competing for the same dollars that nobody seems to ever have enough of these days.
That said, there remains opportunity. The Millennial demographic is (slowly) coming online with new vehicle purchases here in the US market, and seem to fancy versatile carryalls as much as the Boomers do. Which goes to show, that in a segment this large, there is no one target demographic. Luckily, for a vehicle so universally appealing as the 2018 Chevrolet Equinox, it won’t need to focus on a single audience. And if you liked the old Equinox, you’ll love the new one. So long as you can afford it.