The compact crossover segment is large (and getting larger). Every automaker seems to have a unique approach to this growing space, making it tough for consumers to pick the model that best suits their needs. The 2020 Chevrolet Equinox represents a multi-pronged approach, offering engines for both the frugal and flush, and all-wheel drive as an option across the board. Now, Chevrolet has discontinued the diesel engine option, which set the Equinox apart from nearly all its competition, but then, we also weren't particularly fond of it. Fortunately, there's plenty about the Equinox that keeps it relevant to modern buyers, including a respectable suite of standard tech and comfort features that come at a reasonable $24,995 starting price. That value starts to degrade, however, as packages and feature content are added.
We want to like the Equinox. On paper, Chevy's compact has a lot to offer, between its satisfyingly punchy optional engine and its comfortable interior. In the real world, it's let down a bit by a smaller-than-average cargo area, so-so driving dynamics, and fuel economy that drops off drastically as highway speeds climb. Others in the segment offer a better power and handling balance, more cargo room, and better fuel economy, though not necessarily all in the same package.
What's new for the 2020 Equinox?
The most significant change for the 2020 Equinox is the discontinuation of the diesel option, reducing the number of available engines to two. Apart from that, the changes were minimal. A new "Midnight Edition" available on the LT trim adds black exterior and interior trim, gloss black wheels, darkened fog light surrounds and blacked out Chevy Bowtie emblems.
Some new paint colors have also been made available, including Cayenne Orange Metallic (which will cost you extra) and Chocolate Metallic. Jet Black leather-trimmed and perforated seats have also been made available on LT models.
What's the interior and in-car technology like?
In its simplest form, the Equinox is comfortable but somewhat sparsely appointed. Pile on the options, and the interior feels more premium. The two-tone, leather-appointed seating option offered on the Premier trim is both attractive and pleasing to the touch.
The 2020 Equinox is a fairly recent design, which means Chevrolet hasn't had a chance to fall behind in terms of tech features and compatibility. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration are both standard on the base "L" trim, as are keyless entry and ignition. All models also offer active noise cancellation to mitigate unwanted sounds from its four-cylinder engines.
Chevy's infotainment systems are fairly easy to use as a general rule, and the Equinox is no exception. Some home screen icons can be a bit confusing at first blush, especially for those who are unfamiliar with GM products, but the learning curve is forgiving and the system's flexibility (especially when using smartphone integration apps) provides added convenience and functionality. A larger touchscreen and built-in navigation are available on higher-trim models, but the real upside is the extra display real estate.
How big is the Equinox?
The word "compact" used to conjure images of small, workhorse sedans like the Honda Civic and Nissan Sentra. Today, it extends to crossovers like the Equinox, which, despite this label, tend to be more equivalent to midsize family sedans in terms of both their comfort level and capabilities. "Compact" in this sense really refers to its wheelbase, which is where these crossovers and traditional sedans overlap. In the real world, this means that these larger family cars have approximately the same footprint as a traditional compact hatchback. The Equinox's 37.4-foot turning radius, for example, is actually slightly smaller than that of the discontinued Chevy Cruze, meaning it'll be easier to maneuver in tight spaces.
The Equinox offers reasonable headroom both with and without a sunroof, and rear-seat passengers will be plenty comfortable too, thanks to abundant legroom (39.9 inches). On the flip side, the Equinox offers large-car practicality, with just under 30 cubic feet of cargo capacity behind the second row, or nearly 64 cubes with the rear seats laid flat. This is less than what you get with a Honda CR-V (39.2 and 75.8 cubic feet, respectively) and the Nissan Rogue (39.3 and 70.0 cubic feet).
What's the performance and fuel economy?
The base engine is a turbocharged, 1.5-liter inline-four that makes a respectable 170 horsepower and 203 pound-feet of torque. This is on par with other entry-level engines in the segment. In fact, some competitors don't even offer a high-output engine. Honda, for example, offers only a 1.5-liter, 190-horsepower turbo engine in the CR-V. The 1.5-liter is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission, a combo rated at 26 mpg city, 31 highway and 28 mpg combined with standard front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive drops those figures to 25/30/27 mpg.
Moving up from the 1.6 is a 2.0-liter turbo inline-four making 252 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. As we mentioned above, higher-output engines aren't a given in this segment, and of the few offered, this one is certainly competitive. GM's newer nine-speed automatic transmission is featured with the 2.0 turbo. This combo returns 22 mpg city, 29 mpg highway and 25 mpg combined with FWD and 22/28/24 mpg with AWD.
What's the Equinox like to drive?
The Equinox is a reasonable agile handler for a tall crossover. Even with the Premier trim's large wheels and thinner tire sidewalls, it's not going to carve up any canyons, but for a family car, the chassis reacts quickly enough when changing directions and is rock-stable through sweeping turns. The steering isn't quite as enjoyable as the chassis, though. It's fairly sensitive and precise everywhere except just off-center, and it weights up well. Yet, there's not a ton of feedback from the wheel, and iffy road conditions (such as standing water or snow and ice) can create some cross-your-fingers moments. On the flip side, the Equinox exhibits excellent ride quality. It's firm enough to inspire confidence, and larger bumps will come through (especially with the aforementioned larger wheels) but comfort is far and away one of the Chevy's strong suits.
If fun-to-drive is your primary shopping goal, we'd point you in the direction of Mazda's CX-5, which offers both nimble reflexes and a punchy, turbocharged four-cylinder engine that offers nearly as much power as the Chevy's 2.0-liter that we've found to be pleasantly punchy and predictable in its power delivery.
It's important that we touch on the Equinox's unusual (and optional) all-wheel-drive system. Most AWD cars utilize a system in which the front wheels are powered all of the time, and when they slip, some portion of available power is routed automatically through a center coupling (whether a clutch pack or a differential) to the rear wheels. The Chevy Equinox's AWD system can only transfer power rearward when it's turned on, making it a part-time system and actually similar to the 4WD systems you might find on a full-sized truck or SUV. This means the driver has to choose to turn it on when conditions warrant it, setting up the possibility of forgetting to do so and missing out on the benefits of AWD when they need it most. Now, this system does offer the promise of improved fuel consumption, but the Equinox's fuel economy is far from class-leading.
What more can I read about the Chevy Equinox?
Our first take from behind the wheel of the 1.6-liter Equinox.
We went back to sample a 2.0-liter Equinox for comparison purposes.
What features are available on the Equinox and what's the price?
The Chevrolet Equinox L starts at $24,995 (including destination) with the 1.5-liter engine and front-wheel drive. Standard equipment for the Equinox includes 17-inch alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights, push-button start, cloth upholstery, a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration, rear seat USB charge ports , active noise cancellation for unwanted engine noises and Chevrolet's "Teen Driver" valet mode that allows owners to place restrictions on certain drivers.
The LT trim is where the Equinox really starts to shine. With this model, the 2.0-liter engine becomes available, opening up every potential powertrain combo a buyer could want. The LT also comes with HID headlights, a power-adjustable driver's seat with lumbar support, a color instrument panel display, and remote releases for the fold-down second row (located in the hatch area).
If you're configuring your own Equinox, we suggest you start with the LT as besides the extra standard equipment, several packages are available that allow even more flexibility in deciding just what equipment you think is worthwhile. One potential must-have bundled included on the LT is the Driver Confidence package, which adds several safety features, which we outline in the next section.
Here's the full breakdown and pricing for the 2020 Equinox lineup, but you can find a full breakdown of these trims levels' features, specs and local pricing here on Autoblog.
- L: $24,995
- LS: $27,495
- LT: $28,695
- Premier: $32,595
What is its safety equipment and crash test ratings?
Standard safety equipment for the 2020 Chevrolet Equinox includes six airbags, forward collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking, an in-cluster following distance indicator, lane keeping assist with lane departure warning, and automatic high beams.
The Confidence & Convenience package adds a few more niceties, including rear parking sensors and blind-spot and rear cross-traffic warning systems. An add-on package to higher trim models, dubbed "Confidence & Convenience II," adds adaptive cruise control and a haptic feedback seat alert system.
The 2020 Equinox was awarded a Top Safety Pick — it's second-highest recognition — by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety for its best-possible crash worthiness and prevention scores. It fell short of the Top Safety Pick+ nod due to the performance of its headlights, only one version of which earned an "Acceptable" rating. On the government side, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration awarded the 2020 Equinox an overall five-star crash test rating.