A brief dive into sales figures for compact SUVs (or CUVs, depending upon your viewpoint) are an intriguing endeavor. Few would likely be surprised Toyota’s RAV4 is the king of the hill, selling 448,000 examples in 2019 with the Honda CR-V bringing up second place at 384,000.
But what models round out the top four? Here’s a hint: you are looking at one of them.
Surely it can’t be. A Chevrolet? Yep, a Chevrolet SUV that outsold the mighty CR-V in the first quarters of both 2019 and 2020. The Chevrolet Equinox was the fourth best selling compact SUV in the United States in 2019, with 346,049 units going out the door. That’s only about 4,000 units behind the Nissan Rogue.
The Equinox has been around since 2005 with this 2018 model being the first year of the third generation and realizing healthier sales than its predecessor. Perhaps that is a function of a growing market; perhaps that is a reflection of the improvements to the Equinox itself.
I do possess a marginal degree of familiarity with each generation of Equinox. My grandparents purchased a new 2007 Equinox with front-wheel drive and a V6 (which I should have purchased after my grandmother died), and I purchased three all-wheel drive 2011 Equinii during the brief time I had “fleet manager” as an other duty as assigned where I work.
Having had some seat time in one or two of those 2011 models, that era of Equinox presented itself as being a comfortable, well thought-out conveyance. If one where to get all critical about them, the lackadaisical demeanor of its naturally aspirated 2.4 liter four would be a prime target. The ones I drove had “regular” mode and “eco” mode, with the latter being something best avoided unless one doesn’t mind removing acceleration from the equation.
It would also be fair to say these were of mixed durability. A year or two ago I encountered a coworker who was driving one of the three 2011 models I had purchased. It was still going strong at 200,000 miles of harsh fleet use.
Conversely, another coworker is driving another 2011 but one outside of what I purchased. At around 125,000 miles his particular Equinox acquired a really nasty leak around the exhaust manifold and had suffered a few other issues.
There is one element about the third generation Equinox of which I am certain. Its exterior appearance simply does not appear as tight and cohesive as the second generation, one of the more memorable C/SUV designs of recent times. This third generation just hasn’t gelled, much like wearing tennis shoes with business casual clothing. But automotive styling is highly subjective.
One area in which the 2018 Equinox is objectively superior to the prior generation is under the hood. This particular example has the base 1.5 liter turbo, an engine meager in displacement but ample with its power. Higher trim models have an available 2.0 liter turbo. There had been a 1.6 turbo diesel for this generation, although a quick perusal of the Chevrolet website currently makes no mention of it.
One item I did discover on the Chevrolet website is the Equinox having won the 2019 J.D. Power award for initial and long-term quality. Take that for whatever you want.
For my recent jaunt in this base model, employer owned, front-drive Equinox, there was a wide variety of driving conditions ranging from city streets to low volume rural roads to four lane and interstate highways.
As an aside, it was nice getting out and seeing things green back up; like countless others I’ve been staying at home. I drove all over Laclede County, a mostly rural county in Southwest Missouri that is known for having a long segment of the Old Route 66 plus containing Bennett Spring State Park (not pictured), a trout hatchery and fishing hole extraordinaire.
The county seat is Lebanon (sometimes truncated locally as “Leb-nun” although correctly pronounced as “Leb-uh-nun”; saying “Leb-uh-non” is incorrect for this locale). For a town of 14,400 souls it continually has more CC’s per capita than anyplace I’ve ever visited, as I once found an R-body 1981 Chrysler Newport and a Dodge Mirada within five minutes of each other. Lebanon has also touted itself as the “Used Car Capital of the World”. From driving around town countless times over the years, the claim holds abundant merit.
I mention Lebanon on purpose as it’s 85 miles from where I started. With the other driving I did that day, I clocked around 250 miles or so in this Equinox. If one is going to form an impression about any vehicle this distance and variety of driving environments is certainly enough to do so.
This 1.5T is decently matched to the Equinox, providing ample power for all encountered situations. Having driven this particular Equinox about eighteen months ago with two other adults onboard, it had no problems keeping speed on hilly terrain. One trait I discovered then is still present now.
Some of the hills on US 54 in the Lake of the Ozarks area, which is along my route, meant the 1.5 had to downshift for hills. While no big deal, the gearing was such the engine was at or just over 3,000 rpm, with a nasal sounding drone emanating from the engine compartment. Turning up the radio could have camouflaged this.
Speaking of – the radio sounded great with decent reception of faraway stations. Whether or not is has Apple CarPlay or Android Auto (or it is Audio?) is something I did not investigate.
The driver’s seat is highly comfortable, able to be manually adjusted up-and-down, in addition to fore-and-aft. Finding a happy spot, which for me is high and somewhat more vertical than what others prefer, meant the lip of that damned console was digging in between my shin bone and knee cap. That got old, fast.
This is the first time I’ve dinged GM for their consoles. They’ve generally had the best in the business. Then again, if consoles were simply downsized….or even eliminated…..Be a trendsetter, GM.
The Equinox has idle shut off, which is far less intrusive than what I recently experienced in a 2020 Ford Escape. One quirk of the Equinox’s fuel saving scheme came about a time or two. I would be stopped in drive and the engine would shut off. Going to place the transmission in Park would result in the engine restarting so I could…shut it off.
Another item I realized from sitting in the driver’s seat brought a smile to my face. There is a refreshing amount of hood that can be seen. But the overall shape, with the high points being on the left and the right, strongly reminded me of the view from the driver’s seat of the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette I reviewed several years ago. The resemblance was that strong.
While I’ve never sat in the rear seat of any Equinox, adjusting the front seat for my 5’11” tall and 32″ inseam self resulted in ample legroom. That was refreshing to see.
Were there any glaring deficiencies with the Equinox? No, there were not. This has presented a struggle of sorts as deficiencies give reviewers a starting point. However, there weren’t any overwhelmingly unique traits or obvious assets, either. This highly agreeable presentation is likely a key part of GM’s intention.
Chevrolet has had good success with the Equinox, building it in Ingersoll, Ontario; San Louis Potosi in Mexico; Alvier in the Corrientes province of Argentina; and in the capital of the Chinese province of Hubei, a city named Wuhan (wasn’t it in the news?). GM has readily made the Equinox available for the fleet market, recently winning Fleet SUV of the Year. Availing oneself to the fleet market is simply good business; Toyota had roughly 10% of its 2018 United States sales volume go to fleets, primarily daily rentals, and nobody is besmirching them.
Good business is a habit to which Chevrolet appears to have returned. If one is in the market for a compact C/SUV, the Equinox is definitely worthy of consideration. While GM still has some challenges, don’t write them off. They have some really good product these days. Their biggest challenge is overcoming the doubters.