On Earth, the northern and southern hemispheres experience roughly equal amounts of daylight and darkness twice a year. It is a kind of equinox. A new Chevrolet Equinox, however, comes around much less often than that. After six years on the market—and more than 1.6 million sales—the current Equinox is showing its age. Its automatic transmission offers only six forward gears. Its segment-leading powertrains—a 252-hp turbo four paired with a nine-speed, as well as a 43-mpg turbodiesel—were discontinued before the pandemic. COVID delayed the Equinox refresh for more than a year, and when it finally hit, a trio of fast-paced EVs and the Corvette Z06 lightly restyled Equinox looked like placeholders, a relic of the 2010s who hung on long enough to be a witness. The arrival of its dashing electric successor. Yet, even in its state of neglect, this compact SUV is still the second most popular Chevy behind the Silverado.
At the Chevy dealer, the Equinox presents itself as an easy option. It’s sensibly sized between penny tracks and tall-boy traverses. The Blazer looks hotter but offers nearly the same interior room at a cost of 10 grand more. The Trailblazer is a tight squeeze, and its top trims are expensive. An Equinox, however, seems like a fair deal for an all-wheel-drive LS with a $29,595 base price. Fuel economy is decent, there’s plenty of space, and there’s almost always a factory incentive, even in these buyer-unfriendly times.
If you visit the other dealers at your local auto mall, though, you can get a feel for why the Equinox is our 13th choice when ranking compact SUVs. Horsepower is up five for the new year, but the 175 ponies fighting against 3627 pounds are ready for a slow, drawn-out battle during every highway merge. Granted, this isn’t unusual in this segment, even for brand-new entries like the Honda CR-V and Kia Sportage, but it’s disappointing for a vehicle that once offered 252 horses. The 1.5-liter turbo four is at least smooth and free of the gnarly, grating noise that characterized GM’s older naturally aspirated fours. Off-the-line acceleration is ample as all 203 pound-feet of torque arrives at 2000 rpm and is sustained until 4000 rpm. Our 8.0-second 60-mph time bested the 2018 Equinox 1.5T by the better part of a second, and in every performance test, the 2023 model was significantly faster despite its similar weight and identical powertrain. (For the record, the turbo 2.0-liter Equinox hit 60 in 6.6 seconds.)
We’re not sure why this latest Equinox 1.5T has such an acceleration advantage. In both cases, the fastest run was with all-wheel drive disabled. That extra productive wheelspin at launch in front-wheel drive helped us reduce our time to 60 mph by 0.3 to 0.4 seconds. Unlike nearly every other all-wheel-drive crossover, the Equinox doesn’t automatically route torque to the rear axle when the front tires slip. There’s an AWD button the driver must press to activate the system, and it’s easy to forget. On the road, indicated to turn left, you will panic when the front wheels light up in the middle of the intersection with cars approaching you from both directions. Pro tip: Unless you’re drag-racing an ’07 Altima, always turn on AWD.
Once you get underway, the transmission ratios have a wider gap than a New York subway platform. Going from 50 to 70 mph in top-gear takes six painful seconds. Every other automaker except Mazda ditched the six-speed transmission in crossovers, and we remember how well-behaved the nine-speed was in previous Equinox models.
This outmoded powertrain is a major stretch on the otherwise A-grade General Motors chassis. Vibrations are nicely damped, body roll is minimal, and the steering has some real feel. Braking is above average for the class at 159 feet from 70 mph. For 2023, Chevy swapped out the vacuum booster and master cylinder for an electrohydraulic system, which reduces both weight and complexity. We didn’t notice any difference in pedal feel. The body structure and excellent ride compliance make for lively, predictable handling, even when the all-season Hankook tires only brace for 0.82 grams of lateral grip. With these solid bones and a 2.0-litre engine, the Equinox is performing at Audi Q5 levels from a few years ago. With his stardom fading, Equinox may be ready to take up residence in Las Vegas.
Appearance-wise, the RS trim with a blacked-out grille, wheels and bow-tie badge is as sleek as it gets, although this version has to be better than the sci-fi Kia Sportage and the frumpy Subaru Forester. Inside, materials are adequate for the Equinox’s sub-$30K starting price. The RS’s optional leather – which feels like vinyl – includes red piping on the seats and red stitching on the steering wheel, armrest and gear shifter. At $38,010 as tested, other crossover interiors wear it better.
Hard plastic dominates the doors and much of the lower portion of the dash, though Chevy thanks its habit of using cheap-feeling grain. The front seats have also abandoned their rigid ironing-board construction for real comfort. Rear passengers enjoy ample legroom and headroom, although other compact SUVs such as the Nissan Rogue and CR-V offer significantly more cargo space with the seats folded down. Still, 64 cubic feet will swallow a small bureau and the short-bed Silverado’s capacity with a one-ton cover is approx. The optional 8.0-inch touchscreen is crisp and easy to use, with the ability to download apps and upload vehicle settings to Chevy’s cloud so you can load them into another connected GM vehicle. 360-degree cameras offer very clear images with about a dozen views.
The Equinox will finally get a reboot when production of the beautiful Equinox EV begins in late 2023. liter turbo was mated to a 48-V hybrid system. Maybe we’ll find something like this after a revolution or two around the Sun.
2023 Chevrolet Equinox RS AWD
Vehicle Type: Front-Engine, All-Wheel-Drive, 5-Passenger, 4-Door Wagon
Base/as tested: $33,695/$38,010
Options: RS Leather Package (Bose premium audio system, black leather seat upholstery), $1580; Power Sunroof, $1495; Safety and Infotainment Package (heated steering wheel, 2 USB data ports, 120-volt power outlet, 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment, wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, surround-view cameras, heated exterior mirrors, adaptive cruise control), $1,200; Front-license-plate bracket, $40
Turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve inline-4, aluminum block and heads, direct fuel injection
Displacement: 91 in31490 cm3
Power: 175 HP @ 5600 rpm
Torque: 203 lb-ft @ 2000 rpm
Suspension, F/R: Struts/Multilink
Brakes, F/R: 11.8-in Vented Disc/11.3-in Disc
Tyre: Hankook Kinergy GT
235/50R-19 99h M+S TPC 3161MS
Wheelbase: 107.3 inches
Length: 183.1 inches
Width: 72.6 inches
Height: 65.4 Inches
Passenger Volume, F/R: 52/47 ft3
Cargo Volume, Rear F/R: 64/30 ft3
Curb Weight: 3627 lb
CD Exam Results
60 mph: 8.0 sec
1/4-mile: 16.3 sec @ 85 mph
100 mph: 24.6 sec
120 mph: 46.2 seconds
The above results leave a 1-ft rollout of 0.3 seconds.
Rolling start, 5–60 mph: 8.7 seconds
Top gear, 30-50 mph: 4.6 seconds
Top gear, 50-70 mph: 6.0 seconds
top speed (CD Est): 125 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 159 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft skidpad: 0.82 g
EPA Fuel Economy
Combined/City/Highway: 26/24/30 mpg
CD test explained
Clifford Atiyeh is a reporter and photographer car and driver, specializing in business, government and litigation news. He is vice president of the New England Motor Press Association and is committed to saving both the manual and the old Volvo.