The compact SUV space is hot, and there are a lot of great options for today’s car buyers, from the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 to the Mazda CX-5. In the Chevrolet lineup, the compact but roomy Chevy Equinox offers yet another solid option, though whether it’s truly competitive is another story entirely. In fact, people still view companies like Chevrolet as based in America to compare with foreign car companies like Toyota and Honda, but the Equinox I test drove was made in Mexico with an engine and transmission also manufactured in Mexico.
Nonetheless, I still consider companies like Ford and Chevrolet as American manufacturers, so when Chevy offered me a week behind the wheel of the 2023 Chey Equinox Premier AWD in Sterling Gray Metallic, I was eager to compare it against the other SUVs I’ve recently driven. The Equinox comes in four trim levels, with Premier being the top of the line, and it’s powered by a turbocharged 1.5L four-cylinder engine which lets it eke out some decent fuel efficiency (24/30, for an EPA average of 26 mpg). It also sports some very attractive lines:
As luck would have it, Chevrolet dropped off the car the day before an intense polar vortex weather front swept through the area, with our lowest recorded temperature a brisk -14F (-25C). I bundled up and went outside that morning to see how the vehicle handled an extended sub-zero period and to its tremendous credit, the Equinox started right up within 2-3 seconds of me pushing the START button. Plenty of neighbors were complaining their vehicles wouldn’t start or had dead batteries, so it’s clear that Chevy knows a lot about designing for tough weather.
Moving into the interior, the 2023 Equinox Premier sported an (optional) 8-inch display screen with wireless CarPlay and Android Auto:
The two-tone interior has the lovely names Jet Black and Maple Sugar. As I have said before, I would like to someday be hired to name colors because it seems like one of the best jobs ever. Notice the traditional gear shift with a very comfortable shift knob that reminds me of 70’s Chevy muscle cars. Behind the scenes, there’s a relatively modest 6-speed automatic transmission (most modern vehicles seem to sport 8-speed or 9-speed automatic transmissions). The layout is mostly logical, though a few very modern features are oddly placed, suggesting a redesign might be beneficial. For example, cold weather seat warmer and cooling controls are on the main climate control section:
But you’ll hunt for a while to find the steering wheel heater control, which is actually located on the cross-bar of the steering wheel itself. The front and rear window defrosters are typically mislabeled too: Rear is labeled “Rear”, but why isn’t front simply labeled “Front”, instead of “Max”? Balancing out that clumsy control placement, I really like the temperature control knobs that display the current temperature setting (74F), rather than having it displayed on the infotainment screen or similar.
The main gauge display is also very traditional, with much of the space utilized to display information that isn’t actually relevant to someone driving an automatic transmission vehicle:
The center area can display various information, but this feels more like a 2015 gauge display design than one for 2023 given that it’s almost no additional cost to have the entire display area be an interactive screen that would offer much more flexibility in layout and information display. For example, currently playing music, a map display, or a speedometer that can switch from miles per hour to kilometers per hour.
Then again, Chevrolet buyers might appreciate the somewhat nostalgic design that hasn’t changed significantly since the turn of the millennium vehicles (and earlier).
Stepping out of the vehicle, the legroom is decent for a compact SUV of its class:
If the driver or front passenger is tall, however, pushing the seat as far back as possible will definitely impact legroom for the rear passengers. Still entirely acceptable for a young family, it might not be great for four or five adults sharing the Equinox through winding mountain roads.
While the specs show that the cargo space is a bit small for its class, I found that the storage space, especially with the back seats folded down (and yes, it’s a now-industry-standard 60/40 design) was entirely acceptable:
Is this enough space for a couple of mountain bikes or a full set of skis for the family? Probably not, but isn’t that why people have cargo racks and storage boxes atop the roof of their vehicles? This is certainly enough space for an enthusiastic trip to Costco or an end-of-year dorm move-out if you have a college-age child.
Close the back hatch and the vehicle will project a Chevy logo on the ground. it’s pretty slick looking in a dark parking lot:
What’s more important is that this identifies the power liftgate spot: Wave your foot over the logo and the rear hatch will open up – or close – without you needing a free hand. Lots of vehicles have a projected logo below the driver’s door, which has always seemed a bit daft to me, but this combination of logo and liftgate control is smart and stylish both.
Step back and you can’t but admire the sleek lines of the 2023 Chevrolet Equinox:
I also found the vehicle surprisingly peppy to drive, though much of my driving was a bit more careful with AWD enabled as I tried to avoid slipping on our snowy, icy roads. Unlike many SUVs in its class, the Equinox can be purchased without all-wheel drive and if you do opt for AWD, you still have to enable it. My recommendation: Opt for AWD and leave it disabled if you have optimal driving conditions. When the roads get bad, you’ll have much better traction at the push of a button. What’s not to appreciate?
There really is a lot to like with the 2023 Equinox. I had no issues with two of the biggest industry criticisms of this vehicle: less cargo space, and an underpowered drive experience. Instead, I found it comfortable, quiet, decently powered by its modest 1.5L 4-cylinder engine, and with plenty of room to give my adult children rides on family trips around the neighborhood. As with so many vehicles, you’ll need to drive it yourself to ascertain what pros and cons arise based on your driving and transportation requirements.
2023 Chevrolet Equinox Premier AWD with 1.5L Dual-Overhead Cam turbocharged engine and 6-speed automatic transmission. BASE PRICE: $33,100. Options Included: Confidence & Convenience Package, Power Sunroof, Infotainment II Package. AS DRIVEN: $38,860.00.
Disclosure: Chevrolet loaned me the Equinox for a week in return for this candid writeup. Thanks, Chevy!