2020 Chevrolet Equinox Review

Liz Kim | Feb 07, 2020

Introduction

If you’re in the market for a new compact SUV, you have an abundance of choices. After all, they are among the most popular vehicles on the market and carmakers are working nonstop to meet the seemingly endless demand. And while the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V have defined the segment for more than two decades, Chevy’s Equinox is nipping at their heels when it comes to the popularity contest.

The 2020 Chevrolet Equinox is offered in L, LS, LT and Premier trim levels. Most have a turbocharged 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine, with a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine available as an option. All-wheel drive is an option.

2020 Chevrolet Equinox SUV front and side viewFor this review, J.D. Power evaluated a Chevrolet Equinox Premier equipped with a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine, all-wheel drive, the Confidence and Convenience II Package, and a power panoramic sunroof. The price came to $40,040, including the $1,195 destination charge.

What Owners Say…

Before we discuss the results of our evaluation of the 2020 Equinox, it is helpful to understand who buys this compact SUV, and what they like most and least about their vehicles.

In terms of gender and age, Equinox owners are aligned with all owners of compact SUVs. Half of owners at the segment level are female, while 51% of Equinox owners are women. The median age for both Equinox owners and owners across the segment is 59 years. Where they diverge is with regard to median annual household income: Equinox owners report $81,111 while the median for all compact SUV owners is $92,841.

Predictably, 91% of Equinox owners prefer to buy a vehicle from a domestic company (vs. 63% for the segment). For reference, the Equinox is built in Ramos Arizpe, Mexico, and contains 47% U.S./Canadian parts content.

Fuel economy is important to Equinox owners. J.D. Power data shows that 74% of them agree that a first consideration in choosing a new vehicle is miles per gallon (vs. 67% for the segment). Fewer Equinox owners identify as Performance Buyers (4% vs. 11%), fewer agree that they like a vehicle that stands out from the crowd (63% vs. 67%), and more agree that to them a vehicle is just a way of getting from place to place (50% vs. 44%).

Aside from these differences, Equinox owners express the same sentiments about vehicle ownership as do all compact SUV owners.

Specific to the Equinox, owners say their favorite things are (in descending order) the driving dynamics in a tie with exterior styling, interior design, visibility and safety, and storage and space. Owners indicate their least favorite things about the Equinox are (in descending order) the seats, engine/transmission, infotainment system, climate control system, and fuel economy.

What Our Expert Says…

In the sections that follow, our expert provides her own perceptions about how the 2020 Chevrolet Equinox measures up in each of the 10 categories that comprise the J.D Power 2019 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study.

Exterior

Equinox owners say they love the styling of their vehicles. Chevy indeed hits the right notes with the Equinox, giving it an uncontroversial and handsome appearance that fits right in with the Chevy family.

My test vehicle, which wore Midnight Blue Metallic paint and silver 19-inch aluminum wheels, looked upscale and sporty, the attractive detailing on the hood and along the flanks elevating this small crossover’s design.

Interior

Step into the Equinox’s cabin and you’ll notice the abundance of bright, metallic trim pieces that surround the vents and the gauge cluster. It’s a tad overdone, as are the myriad patterns and textures of various plastics that bedazzle the cabin.

Equipped with Brandy-colored leather on the seats with matching stitching and inserts on the dashboard, the test vehicle’s cabin had a high-contrast, two-tone appearance. Upon closer inspection, however, hard and glossy plastics are a rule rather than an exception, making the loaded Chevy’s premium price tag hard to justify.

Nevertheless, serenity was mine thanks to a huge panoramic sunroof that brought the outdoors inside and created a calming, airy environment within the SUV.

Seats

While the test vehicle’s front seats offer plenty of power adjustments to find an ideal position, the seat cushions themselves are a bit short. I thought they could offer more support. They were, however, heated and ventilated seats, making them ready for any kind of weather.

In the rear, two adults will be more comfortable than three, enjoying plenty of shoulder space and legroom without someone squeezing into the center position. My kids always appreciate a rear USB power outlet, and the Equinox provides two, as well as air conditioning vents. Additionally, the test vehicle’s outboard seat cushions were heated, and each side of the 60/40-split folding rear seat reclines for napping.

Climate Control System

Chevrolet uses large, clearly marked buttons and useful knobs for the climate control system, making it easy to use. During testing, Southern California weather was chilly, but the Equinox warmed up fast.

Owners rank the climate system as one of their least favorite things about the Equinox, citing difficulty directing airflow as a chief complaint.

Infotainment System

You might bet that the Equinox’s top trim level to include a navigation system. You’d be wrong. Chevy requires you get an additional, pricey Infotainment II option package ($1,125) in order to get one.

Good thing the standard infotainment system includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration. It means you don’t need navigation. Every Equinox also includes Bluetooth and is prepped for Chevrolet Connected Services including a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot. Wireless smartphone charging is also available, along with a Bose premium sound system.

I find Chevrolet’s latest infotainment systems exceptionally easy to use. In the Equinox, it offers a large volume knob flanked by tuning buttons and quick access to the display’s Home screen. The result is a clean, simplistic appearance without any loss of features or functionality.

Storage and Space

Behind the rear seat, you’ll find 29.9 cu.-ft. of cargo space, with two small trays on each side of the load floor and a sizable storage area (in addition to a spare tire) underneath it.

Fold the rear seats down and the Equinox provides 63.9 cu.-ft. of space, which isn’t terribly competitive. A hands-free power liftgate is available as an option.

Within the cabin, Chevy provides useful storage solutions throughout with a big center console bin and smaller trays, cubbies, and bins located in handy locations.

Visibility and Safety

Thanks to its 8-way power driver’s seat, the Equinox Premier provides a nice, high seating position. Combined with slim roof pillars all around, outward visibility is not a problem.

On the safety front, Chevy is to be commended for making forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking standard on every 2020 Equinox. However, items like blind-spot warning with rear cross-traffic warning and adaptive cruise control can only be had with LT and Premier trim.

The 2020 Chevrolet Equinox gets 5-star ratings in every crash-test assessment conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), while the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rates the Equinox as Good in its crashworthiness assessments. In other words, the Equinox is quite safe.

Engine/Transmission

The Equinox’s standard engine and 6-speed automatic deliver adequate power and responsiveness, but the optional turbocharged 2.0-liter and its 9-speed automatic provide downright vivacious performance.

The engine upgrade brings 252 horsepower and 260 lb.-ft. of torque, and with its quick-shifting automatic transmission and AWD system, the test vehicle provided lively acceleration from a standstill, made easy work of merging into traffic at highway speeds, and supplied plenty of passing power.

Fuel Economy

Equinox owners cite fuel economy as their least favorite trait of the SUV. Given the results of my testing, I can understand why. According to the EPA, my test vehicle should have averaged 24 mpg in combined driving, but it returned just 22.1 mpg on my test loop.

Of course, you could skip the turbo 2.0-liter in favor of the more efficient turbo 1.5-liter, but my previous testing with that engine fell even further short of the EPA rating. With that engine, I averaged 24.3 mpg, a far cry from the 28 mpg that the EPA says it should get.

Driving Dynamics

Equinox owners rate driving dynamics just as highly as exterior styling when it comes to choosing their favorite things about the SUV.

Like most small vehicles, the right-sized Equinox pays dividends when you’re in a crowded area, slipping through holes in traffic and squeezing into small parking spaces. It’s nimble and agile when making U-turns, too, though the 19-inch wheels aren’t doing it any favors when it comes to maximum maneuverability.

Around town, the ride tends to be a bit harsh over bumps, and the Equinox is curiously loud on highways, with plenty of wind and road noise encroaching on the cabin. On the twisty canyon roads section of my test loop, the Equinox proved itself up to the task, displaying little of the untoward body motion or wallow that can sometimes afflict crossovers. It stays nice and flat and can be tossed into corners with ease.

While the AWD system can be helpful during inclement weather, the Equinox doesn’t inspire you to take the path less traveled. Ground clearance measures a paltry 6.9 inches, barely more than most family sedans. According to J.D. Power data, owners have specifically cited this as a primary area needing improvement.

Final Impressions

Overall, the Equinox is good to drive, safe, roomy for passengers, useful for cargo, and unexpectedly stylish, inside and out. However, it is neither fuel efficient nor adept off-road, and when equipped like my test vehicle, the SUV’s size, quality, and execution struggle to support the price tag.

With that said, most people choose an Equinox with LS or LT trim, and few people upgrade to the more powerful engine. Plus, Chevrolet typically offers rebates and other incentives to help reduce this likeable little SUV’s cost. At more reasonable actual transaction prices, the Equinox makes better sense.

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