CARS.COM — The Chevrolet Equinox has surprised us in the past, most recently by taking second place out of seven models in 2015's $28,000 Compact SUV Challenge despite being five years past a significant update — and based on the same platform since 2004 (still in use for the 2017 version). An early, static look reveals improvements in areas where the current Equinox fails to impress.
Related: 2018 Chevrolet Equinox: First Look
The 2018's styling is sleeker and modern, and more in keeping with the brand's cars, almost all of which now share a stronger resemblance than ever before. The rear's horizontal taillights especially improve on the outdated current model's lights, which perch atop the rear haunches and aren't even integrated into the liftgate.
The original Equinox was never particularly space efficient, so even though it's about 4 inches shorter from bumper to bumper, the 2018's cabin volume is a bit greater. The front seat travel is good, sliding back far enough for long-legged drivers, and the driver's height adjustment range is remarkably wide, enough to mash my head into the ceiling or, conversely, to sink too low to drive safely. Unfortunately, the seats themselves are now ordinary within the compact SUV class; the 2017's are uncommonly large and comfy.
We haven't been on the road in the 2018 Equinox, but it seems like outward visibility isn't much better in the redesign — forward or back. The rear head restraints hinge down, but they still obstruct the driver's rearward view more than in some models.
Thankfully the baffling hodgepodge of buttons on the dashboard are gone, improving on one of the earlier generation's shortcomings. If you don't mind the way it tilts upward like the Malibu's, the touch-screen is larger and modernized. Now if Chevy would just stop using the rubbery blister buttons on its steering wheels; cheap, cheap, cheap. The earlier generation supported fewer features, but at least its steering wheel had real buttons.
The preponderance of hard plastic is also gone. The door panel tops are still hard, but in this early prototype there's a low-gloss, rubbery coating that makes a decent impression on the front doors. The rear doors are not finished in this way, but there's always a chance small things will change, here and elsewhere, before the vehicle goes on sale. The armrests themselves are padded, all around.
The backseat no longer slides fore and aft, which we've always respected as a way to give room where it's needed most, cargo or passenger. Perhaps others aren't as enthused. It's still pretty roomy, though. The 60/40-split backrests recline — in more ways than one: There are just two positions, and the more upright one leans back a bit more than I like. My knees were a bit raised but not uncomfortably.
Perhaps in place of the sliding rear seats is spring-loaded folding, actuated via levers in the cargo area — another good feature. A shallow under-floor bin in the cargo area includes customized storage space for a retractable cargo cover.
The loaded Premier trim level showed all the signs of extensive electronics support — including an easily accessed wireless smartphone charging pad, two USB ports in the dashboard, another two under the center armrest and two more (for charging only) for the backseat, which also has 12-volt and 120-volt household outlets.
Other criticisms of the current Equinox include acceleration and ride quality on some surfaces. To judge those, we'll just have to try out the new powertrains and chassis. Stay tuned.