A Camaro nose? A Caddy engine? A safety-feature rethink? Changes ahead for 2020 Chevrolet Equinox crossover

2020 Chevrolet Equinox

What changes will make the 2020 Chevrolet Equinox different?

Freshened styling and a new flagship engine are on tap for the 2020 edition of Chevrolet’s top-selling crossover. More vital, however, would be for Chevy to expand availability of key safety features. That would correct a policy that has limited autonomous emergency braking and other important driver assists to Equinox’s most expensive model.

Expect the 2020 updates to include minor appearance tweaks and a new top-of-the-line turbocharged four-cylinder engine with less power but potentially better all-around performance than the engine it replaces. The ‘20 Equinox should also remain one of just two compact crossovers to offer an optional diesel engine.

The 2020 changes would be the first notable alterations to this third-generation Equinox since its model-year 2018 introduction. That was an auspicious turning point as engineers shrunk the five-seater to true compact-crossover dimensions. The 2010-2017 generation straddled the line between the compact- and midsize-crossover segments.

The downsizing apparently has contributed to strong sales. Demand rose 14.5 percent in 2018 and is up 7.5 percent through the first quarter 2019, a surge that elevated Equinox to second place in compact-crossover sales, just behind the Nissan Rogue and ahead of the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. Equinox may actually be the No. 1 seller in the segment because Nissan combines sales numbers for the Rogue with those of the smaller Rogue Sport subcompact crossover.

Note that driving impressions and other subjective opinions contained in this review are based on road tests of the 2019 Chevrolet Equinox. In areas where the ’20 might be different, we will reserve judgment.

Should I wait for the 2020 model or buy the 2019?

Wait for the 2020 if you’re shopping the lower rungs of this crossover’s model lineup. Otherwise, feel free to snap up a 2019 Equinox.

Our reasoning is that Chevrolet may democratize driver-assistance features, making them at least optional on all versions of the 2020 Equinox. On ’19 models, technology such as autonomous emergency braking, lane-maintaining automatic steering, and adaptive cruise control were available only on the range-topping Premier trim level, and then only as part of a $2,145 option package.

Even safety features such as blind-spot and rear cross-traffic detection were limited to Premier and the second-most-expensive trim level, LT. These important driver assists are already standard on all grades of top Equinox rivals, including the CR-V, RAV4, Rogue, and Subaru Forester. Chevy needs to get with the times.

Expect the 2020 Equinox lineup to return L, LS, LT, and Premier trim levels, although leave open the possibility of a new sporty grade, possibly called the RS. Chey could also follow a trend in this class and add trim with off-road appearance cues, such as prominent wheel arches.

Every ’20 Equinox – except perhaps any new off-road-trim model — would again come standard with front-wheel drive. Traction-enhancing all-wheel drive (AWD) would be available on all but the L and could be standard on an off-road trim. Equinox will also continue to share elements of its underskin engineering with the more expensive GMC Terrain and the premium-class Buick Envision.

Will the styling be different?

Yes, although to what extent wasn’t clear as of this review. Spy images of camouflaged prototypes hinted at a heavily revised front fascia sporting a revamped grille and headlights. For some idea of the new look, see Chevy’s just-introduced five-passenger midsize crossover, the Blazer, and how it mimics the Camaro sports coupe.

In dimensions and in profile, the 2020 Equinox won’t change much. The tail will undergo some modest tweaks. One spy photo revealed quad exhaust outlets. These could be newly standard on models equipped with the most powerful available engine and could also be a feature of an RS-type model.

Count on several cosmetic packages to return. Some will include blackout trim, others plenty of chrome bling. In the absence of a performance model or off-road version, the optional Redline Edition package would again be the most aggressive-looking of the lot, with emblems, mirror caps, and underbody side skirts done up in black and badges and wheels in black with red accents.

Interior updates are also likely to bring the ’20 Equinox more in line with the Blazer. The size of the gauge cluster could grow and offer more comprehensive readouts. The infotainment screen would likely become a tablet-like display atop the central dashboard. That would be a welcome ergonomic improvement. The screen on the 2018-19 Equinox rests against the dashboard, canted away, and compels the driver to stretch to reach some functions. Count on standard connectivity to include Apple CarPlay, Google Android Auto, and GM’s OnStar telematics with built-in 4G LTE WiFi hotspot.

Don’t expect changes in passenger room, which should again be an Equinox strong suit. There’s good room in front and enough rear-seat knee and head clearance to accommodate six-footers. The rear seat is nicely elevated and its backrest reclines.

No reason to think ’20 Equinoxes won’t again enjoy exceptional insulation from road and wind noise, making them among the quietest compact crossovers. We would urge Chevy to rethink its approach to cabin materials, however. For 2019, leather upholstery, available in attractive two-tone themes, was exclusive to the Premier. Other models had cloth. Frequently touched interior surfaces were padded, but the general grade of cabin materials was unimpressive below the LT trim level.

Cargo volume should continue at the heart of the competitive set with 29.9 cubic feet behind the rear seatbacks and 63.5 with them folded.

Any mechanical changes?

Yes, but first, the items unlikely to change. These include the base engine and optional turbodiesel. The former is a 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that’ll again produce 170 horsepower and 203 pound-feet of torque. That’s below class-average for horsepower, but above for torque, and torque is the more important when determining how quick a vehicle feels. The result is acceleration that should again be satisfying in most any circumstance short of truly aggressive driving.

Expect the turbodiesel to again be a 1.6-liter four with 137 horsepower and a healthy 240 pound-feet of torque. This engine was optional on the LT and Premier for 2019, and after a finger-snap’s hesitation, propelled them with authority. You continue to notice some diesel clatter at idle and in full-throttle acceleration, but this little oil burner is otherwise well behaved.

The top engine for the 2020 Equinox will again be a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder but it’s a new unit borrowed from the Cadillac XT4 premium-subcompact crossover. Look for it to have around 235 horsepower and 255 pound-feet of torque. That compares with the old 2.0-liter turbo’s 252 horses and 260 pound-feet. However, the new four would produce peak output at lower engine speeds and that should make Equinox’s so equipped feel speedier away from a stop and more responsive once underway.

For 2019, the 2.0-liter turbo was optional on the LT and Premier. If a performance-minded RS version is on the table, it could well get a higher output version of the engine, perhaps with more than 260 horsepower and up to 300 pound-feet of torque.

The 2.0-liter turbo would again link with a nine-speed automatic transmission. Enhancing responsiveness for the 1.5-liter base engine as well as the turbodiesel would be an upgrade to a nine-speed automatic as standard in place of a six-speed automatic. The extra gear ratios would allow each engine to remain in its ideal power band longer and should improve fuel-economy ratings, too.

Don’t anticipate changes to steering or suspension, so the ’20 Equinox will remain pleasant, composed, and comfortable, if again lacking the sporting character of the Honda CR-V or Mazda CX-5. Of course, if an RS model comes to fruition, expect a lower ride height thanks to a firmer sport suspension, plus aggressive tires and maybe even quicker steering. That would add a welcome dose of attitude to what’s otherwise a more family-oriented compact crossover.

Will fuel economy improve?

Count on it, with the base 1.5-liter turbo and the diesel engines benefitting from the upgrade to the nine-speed automatic transmission and the new 2.0-liter being more efficient than the engine it replaces. Expect improvements to EPA ratings of 1-3 mpg city, highway, and combined.

For reference, here are EPA ratings for the 2019 Equinox. With the 1.5-liter engine, Equinox rated 26/32/28 mpg city/highway/combined with front-wheel drive and 25/30/27 with AWD. With the 2.0-liter, ratings were 22/29/25 and 22/28/24 mpg, respectively. The 2019 turbodiesel Equinox rated 28/39/32 mpg with front-drive and 28/38/32 with AWD.

The 1.5-liter engine would continue to use regular-grade 87-octane gasoline. GM would recommend, but not require, premium-grade 91-octane for the 2.0-liter. The diesel engine would use an exhaust treatment fluid that requires periodic refilling.

Will there be new features?

We hope so, starting with those safety features. To recap, the Driver Confidence and Convenience Package available on the 2019 Equinox LT and standard on Premier included rear obstacle detection, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic detection, and heated outside mirrors with turn signal indicators. It was priced at $1,545.

Exclusive to the Premier was the Driver Confidence and Convenience II Package. Priced at $2,145, it included the Driver Confidence and Convenience Package content and added autonomous emergency braking designed to automatically stop the Equinox to avoid a frontal collision with another vehicle, object or pedestrian, but only from around-town speeds and below. It also included forward-collision and lane-departure alerts, lane-maintaining automatic steering, adaptive cruise control, and automatic high-beam headlamps. It also displayed a surround-view video image on the dash screen.

It’s obvious Chevy’s had sales success despite limiting availability of Equinox’s safety features. But upgrading autonomous emergency braking to work even at high speed and equipping every model with all these driver assists as standard equipment would be the responsible move if it wants to keep the 2020 Equinox a family-oriented compact-crossover leader.

Otherwise, it’s unlikely we’ll see significant feature updates for the 2020 Equinox. Expect the entry-level L to reprise keyless access with pushbutton engine start, front floor mats, active noise cancellation, LED daytime running lights, 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system, and OnStar with WiFi hotspot capability.

The LS adds a compact spare tire and rear floor mats. Note that this grade has more optional equipment available than the L.

LT models add high-intensity discharge headlights, power driver’s seat, tinted glass, and other optional features not offered on the LS. Premier grades have leather upholstery with heated front seats, blind-spot alert with rear cross-traffic detection, hands-free power rear liftgate, dual-zone automatic climate control, 8-inch touchscreen infotainment, additional USB charging points, remote engine start, and full LED exterior lighting.

Will 2020 prices be different?

They’ll increase, likely by more than just typical year-over-year inflation. Blame the expected styling and mechanical updates — and recognize that making safety features standard would come at some cost.

Still, expect the ’20 Equinox to remain very competitively priced. For reference, we’ll list base prices and option prices for the 2019 Equinox. Note that base prices include Chevy’s destination fee, which was $1,195 on the ’19 model.

With the 1.5-liter turbocharged engine and front-wheel drive, the L started at $24,995, the LS at $27,095, the LT at $28,395, and the Premier at $32,295.

The LT diesel was priced from $30,795 and the Premier from $34,495.

With the 2.0-liter turbo engine, base prices for the LT and Premier were $30,895 and $35,095, respectively.

Expect AWD to remain a $1,700 option across the board.

Some options packages might be adjusted for 2020, but for an idea of content, here’s a look at key 2019 packages.

Among appearance packages, the $795 Chrome Package included a chrome grille surround, mirror caps, and bumper protector. The $645-$745 Blackout Package had gloss-black badges, a black grille and surround, and black Chevrolet “bowtie” emblems. Bright silver rear bumper protectors, side steps, and machine aluminum wheels were part of the Style and Go Package available for the LT ($1,930) and Premier ($1,630). The Redline Edition, which was available on models with the 2.0-liter engine, cost $1,750.

The LS’ $685 Convenience Package added a power driver’s seat with lumbar adjustment.

The LT’s $1,945 Confidence and Convenience Package included rear-obstacle detection, blind-spot alert, rear cross-traffic detection, remote engine start, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, and programmable power rear liftgate. This package was required to get the $3,240 Lights and Bright Package, which added the content of the Style and Go Package plus additional USB ports, high-definition rearview camera, and imbedded GPS navigation with 8-inch touchscreen.

On Premier models, the $1,125 Infotainment II Package added imbedded navigation, HD radio receiver, and Bose-brand audio system. The previously mentioned $2,140 Driver Confidence and Convenience II Package also included heated outboard rear seats, ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, and surround-view camera.

When does it come out?

Look for the 2020 Chevrolet Equinox to be unveiled in fall 2019 with an on-sale release date shortly before the end of the calendar year.

Best competitors

Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson, Jeep Cherokee and Compass, Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-5, Mitsubishi Outlander, Nissan Rogue, Subaru Forester, Toyota RAV4, Volkswagen Tiguan

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About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to Carpreview.com two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for HowStuffWorks.com, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]