The 2015 Chevrolet Equinox remains a half-size larger than most of its competition, which makes for better ride quality and comfort, but its poor visibility and lack of driving fun will turn off some shoppers.
The same is true for the Equinox's corporate twin, the GMC Terrain. (Chevrolet and GMC are sibling brands under parent company GM.) Click here to compare the two, here to stack up the Equinox's trim levels or here to compare the 2014 and 2015 Equinox.
The Equinox's multimedia system gets subscription-based Wi-Fi for 2015, but other changes are minimal. We tested a midlevel Equinox 1LT against six competitors in Cars.com's $28,000 Compact SUV Challenge, which you can see here.
Exterior & Styling
The Equinox's face courts little controversy, with Chevrolet's familiar two-bar grille and perky headlights leading into a plus-sized profile. It's aged well since it debuted in summer 2009, and next year's 2016 face-lift will change little (click here to see early details).
Still, the size is bound to turn away some shoppers. At 187.8 inches long, the Equinox is noticeably larger than competitors like the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and Ford Escape. Its turning circle, at 40 to 42.6 feet (depending on wheel size), is as much as 7.8 feet wider than the RAV4's. In a parking lot or back alley, that's bound to annoy.
How It Drives
Five years in, the Equinox is still a champ in terms of composure. At highway speeds, road and wind noise are hushed. The car exhibits minimal bounciness over broken pavement, and the suspension handles ruts with clean, polished reactions.
None of that straight-line composure helps when the road gets curvy, where lethargic steering, mushy brakes and a body prone to leaning blunt the Equinox's nimbleness. Part of the blame goes to the SUV's hefty weight; its bigger size adds as much as 500 pounds versus some competitors. That also means the standard four-cylinder can feel overtaxed in uphill stretches and during highway passing. The drivetrain has adequate power for lesser demands, with a smooth-shifting six-speed automatic transmission and little engine noise below full throttle.
Our test car lacked all-wheel drive, which adds around 150 pounds. That's probably enough to make the case for the Equinox's 3.6-liter V-6. We've driven that engine, and its exceptional output (301 horsepower and 272 pounds-feet of torque) turn the Equinox into a quick, capable SUV.
Capability plus weight rarely equals efficiency, however, and the V-6 Equinox gets just 20 mpg in combined city/highway ratings by the EPA (19 mpg with all-wheel drive). The EPA rates the four-cylinder at 26 mpg combined (but just 23 mpg with all-wheel drive). Taken as a whole, its ratings are unimpressive; most small SUVs beat the Equinox in one or more configurations.
Still, the SUV's extra girth makes for excellent passenger space, with a high driving position and large front seats that make competitors' chairs seem economy-class. The backseat has copious legroom and headroom, plus a high, adult-friendly seating position; it also moves forward/backward and reclines a few degrees.
Unfortunately, the packaging pays little heed to visibility. The small rear window sits between bulky C- and D-pillars, and the rear-quarter windows are more of a technicality. Chevrolet placed last in our 2014 comparison of blind-spot visibility among small SUVs (read it here), and nothing has changed since then.
Cabin materials are basic, with low-gloss materials but cheap, hard plastics in a lot of places where competitors swap in richer stuff. GM has had five years to update the center control panel, but it's still an assortment of confusing buttons that, despite the quantity, lack dual-zone climate controls. That's a must-have option in this segment. The Nissan Rogue, Jeep Cherokee and redesigned 2016 Hyundai Tucson thump the Equinox in cabin materials and layout. GM needs to step it up.
Ergonomics & Electronics
Bluetooth phone connectivity and a CD stereo with iPod/USB compatibility and satellite radio are standard, but you have to upgrade to the 1LT or higher to get Bluetooth streaming audio. That setup also gets a 7-inch touch-screen with Chevrolet's MyLink system. Pioneer premium audio is optional.
For 2015, the Equinox gets 4G LTE internet connectivity and a Wi-Fi hotspot with a three-month/3-GB trial through GM's OnStar telematics service. After that, it's subscription-based at $5 to $50 a month depending on how much data you want. It sounds cool, given GM also offers short-term data packages that don't require an OnStar subscription if, say, you want the kids to have Wi-Fi on the family vacation. But many smartphones can create Wi-Fi hotspots that use your carrier's data plan and service multiple devices, and that's often cheaper. OnStar's claimed advantage is better reception through the car's rooftop antenna than your smartphone might get, but you'll pay for it. An extra gigabyte of data on my iPhone's plan runs $10, while, as of May 2015, OnStar charged $5 for just 250 megabytes.
Cargo & Storage
Bulky wheel wells limit cargo space to a modest 31.5 cubic feet behind the backseat. The Rogue, RAV4 and CR-V have upward of 35 cubic feet. Fold the seats down and a plastic floor panel effectively bridges a cargo-catching gap no matter where you've adjusted them. Still, the Equinox's 63.7 cubic feet of maximum volume trails others' maximum figures, in some cases by nearly 10 cubic feet.
With top scores in all crash tests from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the 2015 Chevrolet Equinox earned Top Safety Pick status for 2015. Click here to see all its safety features and here to see our Car Seat Check.
A backup camera — widely standard in this class — isn't included until you get up to LT models. Lane departure and forward collision warning systems are optional, but the latter does not include auto-braking. That's a provision most such systems now provide. A blind spot warning system is unavailable, but GM is adding it to the 2016 Equinox.
Value in Its Class
Prices range from around $23,000 for a front-drive Equinox L to more than $40,000 for an all-wheel-drive V-6 LTZ with all the factory options. That's a decent bargain for the L, but it's bound to leave some LTZ shoppers with sticker shock.
Suffice it to say, there are many flavors and prices of the Equinox. Its age is showing in a big way, as its quality and athleticism have been leapfrogged by most competitors. But its strengths run deep, and that, plus an established history of above-average reliability, should retain a steady stream of shoppers.
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