At new-vehicle launches it’s always a bit suspicious when an automaker spends more time hyping the drive route or how scenic the lunch stop is than they do about the product they’re introducing. Are they trying to draw attention away from a substandard product?

At new-vehicle launches it’s always a bit suspicious when an automaker spends more time hyping the drive route or how scenic the lunch stop is than they do about the product they’re introducing. Are they trying to draw attention away from a substandard product?

Indeed, Chevrolet seemed proud of both the area roads and local cuisine we would experience in the Carolinas (yes, both of ‘em) when they invited AutoGuide.com down to Dixie for a taste of their completely overhauled 2018 Equinox.

Strangely, there was no technical lecture or in-depth walkaround of this new compact crossover; the only formal presentation we got was a marketing spiel that was relegated to the second day. Initially it seemed like Chevy was being a bit evasive about their latest crossover model.

But intended or not, this apparent caginess was completely unnecessary. The new Equinox is a solid product and something they have every right to be proud of.

Who Called Richard Simmons?

One of their greatest feats was getting this vehicle to shed about 400 pounds compared to its predecessor. That’s roughly a 10 percent reduction, which, in engineering terms, is nothing short of astounding. All told, a base front-wheel-drive model clocks in at around 3,327 pounds (1,509 kg), about 20 (9 kg) more than the new Honda CR-V and a good bit less than Toyota’s RAV4. Compared to the trimmest Ford Escape, it’s about two bills lighter (90 kg).

Overall, the vehicle’s body is nearly five inches shorter, something that undoubtedly helped trim the fat, but surprisingly this change had no ill-effect on utility – quite the opposite in fact. Maximum cargo capacity has been increased by around 3.5 cubic feet (99 liters). With the back seats folded down – and they go nearly flat now thanks to an articulated rear cushion – there’s just shy of 64 cubes (1,812 liters) available. Depressingly, that’s about 12 (340 liters) fewer than the CR-V offers.

Enabling these dramatic enhancements is the company’s D2XX architecture, which underpins a number of products across General Motors’ global empire. It provides a rigid foundation that enables the Equinox to offer a pleasant driving experience and expected top-notch safety ratings. The Buick Envision, this Chevy’s sister, earned a Top Safety Pick+ crash-test rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the highest score they hand out.

PowerTRAINING

Motivating the new ‘Nox is a trio of turbocharged engines. Each one features four cylinders with displacements ranging from 1.5 to 2.0 liters. The most exciting of this bunch is of the compression-ignition variety. With a lung capacity of 1.6 liters, this diesel should provide tons of low-RPM twist along with impressive fuel economy.

SEE MORE: 2018 Chevrolet Equinox Debuts with 40 MPG Diesel Option

For now, the only engine available is the base 1.5-liter turbo gasoline unit. Still, it delivers a more-than-respectable 170-horse stable with 203 lb-ft of torque. This compares favorably with the up-level engine in the new CR-V, which displaces the same amount and provides 190 ponies with 179 units of twist.

A six-speed automatic transmission is standard with the 1.5- and 1.6-liter offerings. However, a brand-new nine-ratio gearbox will debut with the top engine, further enhancing performance and efficiency.

Features and Amenities

Like its exterior styling, the Equinox’s interior bears a strong resemblance to what’s found in other recent Chevrolets. Largely constructed of low-sheen hard plastic, it nonetheless looks quite nice. The basic design is sound and there are high-quality soft materials where you want them, like the armrests and upper portions of the dashboard.

Front or rear, seat comfort is admirable. Really, unless you are at one extreme or the other, Chevy’s new Equinox should be able to accommodate you without issue.

Keeping up with the Joneses, or rather, the Hyundais, Subarus and Toyotas, Equinox offers a wide range of advanced driver-assistance technologies, the sort of amenities that are rapidly becoming expected by consumers. Preventing crashes in urban environments is available Low-Speed Forward Automatic Braking. Blind-spot monitoring; rear cross-traffic alert; Surround Vision, a visual parking aid; and a vibrating Safety Alert Seat are also offered.

SEE MORE: 2017 Honda CR-V Long-Term Test Introduction

You can get an Equinox with some pretty generous equipment, but what does it cost? Well, the bargain-basement price is a not-unreasonable $24,475, including $895 in delivery fees ($26,995 in Canada). The range-topping, Premier-trim front-wheel-drive model I tested in Orange Burst Metallic hue went for just shy of 36 large. Max one out and plan on dropping around 40.

The Drive

Sliding the Equinox’s gear selector into “D” and hitting the road revealed in short order that it’s an altogether competent crossover. None of the offerings in the compact segment drive like sports cars, and this Chevy’s no exception.

It may sound like I’m damning this vehicle faint praise, but that’s not my intention; the ‘Nox is class competitive in every way, which is something to be proud of.

The 1.5-liter engine pulls strongest around 3,500 RPM, the heart of its torque curve. Power is adequate, but the vehicle is never particularly enthusiastic. The six-speed automatic transmission works quite well, astutely changing gears without a hint of drama, in fact, it never seemed to miss a shift.

Climbing skyward through the Blue Ridge Mountains around Asheville, North Carolina revealed that this crossover is a little taxed, moseying up the hills even at wide-open throttle. A full load of passengers and parcels would reduce vigor even more.

Still, on flatter terrain or lower elevations the performance provided is perfectly fine for a large swath of crossover customers. Buyers that want more giddy-up can always opt for the 2.0-liter engine, but they’re not going to achieve the same efficiency scores. With front-wheel drive and the base powerplant this vehicle stickers at 26 miles per gallon city (9.0 L/100 km) and 32 on the highway (7.4 L/100 km).

SEE MORE: 2017 Cadillac XT5 Platinum AWD Review

Helping deliver those impressive figures, the Equinox’s body spent more than 500 hours in the wind tunnel. This exhaustive tuning reduced air resistance by around 10 percent compared to the outgoing model.

If there’s a downside to the way this bow-tie utility vehicle drives it’s the steering. I found it decently communicative and the thick-set wheel nicely shaped, but even with the optional lane-keep assist enabled the Equinox wanders, requiring constant correction to keep it within the lane markers. This is, to put it mildly, quite annoying.

The vehicle’s ride is firm without being too harsh, something that helps keep body roll to a minimum. Likewise, its interior remains reasonably quiet at speed, something that’s always welcome.

The Verdict: 2018 Chevrolet Equinox

All new for 2018, the Chevy Equinox doesn’t necessarily feel like a best-in-class crossover, but it’s certainly one of the better offerings. Efficient and refined, spacious and tech savvy, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t give rivals a run for their money in an increasingly competitive segment. Models with the 1.5-liter engine should be showing up at dealerships right now. If you want the up-level gasoline engine or the diesel you’re going to have to wait until the second quarter of the year.

LOVE IT
Reasonable Pricing
Refined Drivetrain
Spacious Interior
Available Diesel
Fuel Efficiency

LEAVE IT
Not as Spacious as a CR-V
Seems to wander
Could be Quieter

Pocket

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