Smaller, smarter, available with a diesel: fully redesigned 2018 Equinox takes a new direction

2018 Chevrolet Equinox

2018 Chevrolet Equinox

What changes will make the 2018 Chevrolet Equinox different?

A full redesign makes this popular five-passenger crossover a bit smaller, gives it fresh styling, introduces a trio of new turbocharged four-cylinder engines, and adds safety features. Interior accommodations are likewise updated, as the reborn Equinox is downsized to more directly compete with the likes of the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV-4.

This is an especially important model revision for Chevrolet, which needs to stay competitive in a critical market segment. Crossover-SUV sales were up a healthy 8 percent over the first nine months of 2016, while passenger-car deliveries dropped 8.2 percent. Crossovers in fact account for eight of America’s 20 best-selling vehicles and the most popular are in the compact segment. The 2010-2017 Equinox had nearly midsize-crossover dimensions but the tidier ’18 shrinks to true compact sized, for easier maneuverability and better handling and fuel economy, with little loss of passenger space.

Why should I wait for the 2018?

To get first crack at a svelte new Equinox with a choice of three new turbocharged powertrains – including a fuel-efficient diesel – fresh styling inside and out, and several new features, including a full array of the latest accident-avoidance safety systems.

The outgoing Equinox was among the oldest crossovers on the road. It was freshened for model years 2013 and 2016, but this is its first full redesign since model year 2010. Waiting for the ’18 gets you a brand-new model that should hold onto its resale value better for the next few years than the version it replaces.
It’ll slot into Chevy’s crossover lineup between the subcompact Trax and the midsize Traverse and be a strong rival for its main domestic rival, the Ford Escape (updated for 2016), as well as the segment’s sales-leading CR-V (freshened for 2017) and RAV4 (redesined for 2016).

Should I buy a 2017 model instead?

Aside from perhaps taking advantage of a model-year-ending clearance sale, one of the few reasons to purchase a 2017 Equinox instead of waiting for the 2018 revision lies beneath the hood. That’s because the 2017 vintage is one of the few compact crossovers that still offers a V-6 engine for those who favor six-cylinder smoothness over a turbo-four’s more rambunctious nature. With 301 horsepower and 272 pound-feet of torque, the current model’s 3.6-liter V-6 makes it a quick little carpooler. (One caution: We’d advise mating this engine to the vehicle’s optional all-wheel-drive system to negate the effects of torque steer, the effect in which a powerful front-wheel-drive vehicle pulls to the side during rapid acceleration off the line.)

Will the styling be different?

Yes, but the look isn’t a revolutionary change. Based on a prototype Chevy revealed to the press, the ’18 Equinox’s side profile will look much the same as the version it replaces — although it’s about four inches shorter overall and rides a wheelbase distance between front and rear axles) shorter by 5.2 inches. The front end adopts Chevrolet’s current signature split grille, flanked by projector-beam headlamps and LED daytime running lamps. The rear will be a bit more expressively cast than before, with horizontal taillights (they’re LEDs in higher trim levels). Inside, a sweeping dashboard design will come finished in high-quality materials and be set lower than with some competitors, which should mean increased outward visibility. It will feature a nicely backlit instrument cluster with a configurable information display. A large touchscreen at the center shares real estate with analog controls for the audio and climate-control systems. Rear-seat room will be similar to the present model with good legroom and headroom. The specs suggest cargo capacity will be a tick smaller, so still a bit below average for the class. Versatility will benefit, though, from so-called “kneeling” rear seats that fold completely flat to create a large load floor.

Any mechanical changes?

Yes, highlighted by a trio of four-cylinder engines new to the Equinox. All are turbocharged, and one is a diesel – the only one in the class. They’ll replace a 2.4-liter four-cylinder that, with 182 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque, felt underpowered. The ’18 Equinox’s base 1.5-liter engine has 170 horsepower and 203 pound-feet of torque. Combined with the new generation’s lighter weight, acceleration should be livelier. Also available will be a 2.0-liter with 252 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. While not as powerful as the V-6, this turbo four should be more fuel-efficient. Both engines mate with a new nine-speed automatic transmission that replaces a six-speed automatic.

The third available engine is a 1.6-liter turbodiesel with 136 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. It should perform make like a much larger engine and, Chevy says, deliver 40 mpg on the highway. It will be paired with a six-speed automatic. In place of standard front-wheel drive will be a new all-wheel-drive (AWD) system that can save fuel by automatically disconnecting the rear axle under normal operating circumstances, thus sending 100 percent of the engine’s power to the front wheels.

Will fuel economy improve?

Yes and no, depending on the powertrain. EPA ratings for the ’18 Equinox were not released in time for this review. Chevy’s preliminary estimates are for highway driving and put the 1.5-liter engine 31 mpg, versus the outgoing 2.4-liter four-cylinder’s 22/32/26 mpg city/highway/combined with front-drive and 20/29/23 with AWD. The automaker says the 2.0-liter should rate 28 mpg highway, versus the outgoing V-6’s 17/24/20 mpg city/highway/combined with front-drive and just 16/23/19 with AWD. Chevy’s estimate for the turbodiesel is an impressive 40 mpg on the highway. That would easily beat such class highway-economy leaders as the Nissan Rogue, Mazda CX-5, and Subaru Forester, which rate around 32-33 mpg.

Will it have new features?

The 2018 Equinox will offer a bevy of new features – including many of the latest safety systems – to help make it more family friendly. Among these is GM’s rear-seat reminder designed to alert parents about a child potentially left unattended in the vehicle. Also aboard is Chevy’s Teen Driver function that allows parents to monitor and set limits on young drivers. A Surround Vision backup monitor will afford a 360-degree view around the vehicle for easier and safer parking. Forward collision, lane departure, blind spot, and rear cross-traffic warning systems will all be available and will work with General Motors’ Safety Alert Seat that gives feedback to the driver via bottom-cushion vibrations rather than beeps or buzzers. A low-speed auto-braking system to help prevent rear-end crashes in stop-and-go traffic will also be available. What’s more, both the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto mobile phone interfaces will be included with Chevrolet’s MyLink infotainment system for maximum connectivity options.

How will 2018 prices be different?

We would expect the redesigned ’18 Equinox to carry higher sticker prices than the outgoing generation, but don’t anticipate a stiff enough boost that might render it uncompetitive in a crowded market segment. Chevy hasn’t revealed the 2018 model’s trim-level structure, but we expect a base version with the 1.5-liter turbo four and front-wheel-drive to start at around $25,000, with a top-of-the-line fully loaded model with the optional 2.0-liter engine and all-wheel-drive to approach the $36,000 mark (including the automaker’s delivery charge, which should be around $900). We’d guess choosing the turbodiesel engine option will likely cost around an additional $1,000 and be limited to one or two trims, with all-wheel-drive adding about another $1,800 to the price across the model range.

When will it come out?

Release date for the 2018 Equinox is spring 2017.

Best competitors

Honda CR-V, Jeep Cherokee, Mazda CX-5, Ford Escape, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, Subaru Forester, Toyota RAV4.

What changes would make it better?

Though pricing and feature availability details were not available as of this writing, we’d like to see Chevrolet make the 2018 Equinox’s important new safety features, especially blind-spot and forward collision warning systems, available on most, if not all, trim levels. Automakers often limit these systems to higher priced versions of a given model range and usually bundle them in option packages with other features, which can make shopping for a safer vehicle an expensive proposition. We’d also like to see a fuel-saving gas/electric hybrid version offered at some point down the road that shares technology with the Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid (49/43-mpg city/highway), if not a full-blown all-electric Equinox that borrows components from the Chevrolet Bolt (with a Tesla-like 238-mile range on a charge).

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to 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, 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]