By Derek Price
Sensible and stylish, crossovers like the Chevrolet Equinox have replaced sedans as the “family car” of contemporary America.
After driving one for a week, it’s easy to see why.
The Equinox has all the strong points of an SUV — an upright seating position, good visibility, rugged styling and flexible cargo space — without many drawbacks. Its fuel economy and comfortable ride rival the best-selling sedans for sale today: the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord.
Today’s vehicles hand out turbochargers like candy at a parade, and the Equinox is no exception. All three of its engine choices are turbo’d, and all three deliver a distinctive flavor profile.
The base engine, a 1.5-liter four-cylinder, offers good gas mileage and reasonable performance at the lowest price point. It makes a mundane 170 horsepower and more impressive 203 pound-feet of torque. With front-wheel drive, it’s rated for 32 mpg on the highway (30 with AWD).
Drivers who want the best performance will upgrade to the 2.0-liter, 252-horsepower engine. It felt and sounded fantastic in my Equinox tester, with smooth shifts and quick response paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission. Perhaps more importantly, it’s rated to tow a useful 3,500 pounds.
The most interesting engine, though, is one none of its competitors offer: a diesel.
While “clean” diesel engines have gotten a bad rap thanks to Volkswagen’s emissions-cheating sleaze, they still make a lot of logical sense. Diesels can deliver fantastic fuel economy — GM estimates up to 40 mpg on the highway, in the Equinox’s case — along with torquey acceleration and clean emissions, as long as you’re willing to fill it with a special fluid every few thousand miles.
Diesel engines also enjoy a reputation for durability, something that helps in the used-car market. If I had to bet on resale value, I’d figure the $30,795 price of the diesel LT trim would return the most of any Equinox when the time to sell arrives.
I wish Chevy offered its advanced driving features at lower price points, though, something its competitors are starting to commonly do. If you want adaptive cruise control — something that comes as standard equipment on even the cheapest Toyota Corolla, for example — Chevrolet makes you buy the top-level Premier trim on the Equinox. That feels greedy to me.
Even on the Premier trim, it’s an optional upgrade. Adaptive cruise is part of the $2,145 Confidence and Convenience II package on my tester, which comes with a number of other active safety features including lane keep assist and forward collision alert.
On the bright side, the newly designed Equinox gets the all big things right, starting with its cabin layout.
It’s spacious and smartly designed, with reasonable knee, hip and shoulder room, along with a very usable cargo area in back. Even the old, worn-out gripe about Chevrolets from the ‘90s and ‘00s — too much hard plastic — seems fixed in this new-generation Equinox, particularly on the upper trims with their supple, soft materials and wonderfully quiet, well-insulated cabins.
It comes with four standard USB ports, with two additional ones available as options, something vital in any modern family car where smartphones and tablets are often an integral part of the driving experience.
Pricing starts at $24,995 for the base L model with the 1.5-liter engine. The 2.0-liter is available from $30,895 on the more fully equipped LT trim and tops out at $36,895 when you opt for all-wheel drive on the comfort- and luxury-oriented Premier level.
At A Glance
What was tested? 2019 Chevrolet Equinox AWD Premier 2.0T ($35,600). Options: Confidence & Convenience Package II ($2,145), cajun red tint coat ($395). Price as tested (including $995 destination charge): $39,135
Wheelbase: 107.3 in.
Length: 183.1 in.
Width: 72.6 in.
Height: 65.4 in.
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder (xxx hp, xxx ft. lbs.)
Transmission: Nine-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 22 city, 28 highway
Why buy it?
It offers impressive gas mileage, a refined driving experience and very family-friendly cabin. It’s also available with something unusual in small crossovers: a diesel engine.