Review: 2022 Chevrolet Equinox RS AWD
You don’t think about the Chevy Equinox much. Not when you park next to one, not when it nearly swipes a pedestrian making a careless left turn, not even when you’re driving it. I’d go so far as to call the Equinox a forgettable car. For a large contingent of the buying public, that might just be its most endearing quality.
Let’s review. The compact crossover (Equinox, RAV4, CR-V, etc.) is to the mass-market consumer today what the compact sedan (Civic, Corolla, Jetta) was 15 years ago. These are the cars that upper-middle-class parents buy for the kid they’re about to send off to college in another state. It’s where recent AARP discount shoppers turn when hips begin to complain and knees begin to creak. Pickups may be this nation’s fiercest sales battleground, but these oversized econoboxes represent the largest single segment of passenger cars sold in this country, accounting for nearly a quarter of cars that left dealer lots last year.
The third-generation Equinox bowed in 2017, ditching GM’s aging Theta platform in favor of a new D2XX platform. The D2XX at first underpinned small cars (which were built on the Delta platform) like the Buick Verano, Chevy Cruze, and Chevy Volt. All of these vehicles, as you likely realize, are dead. Meanwhile, the small-to-medium FWD or AWD crossovers that use D2XX, like the Equinox and GMC Terrain, are alive and well. Let that sink in for a moment.
Chevy designers gave the Equinox a facelift for 2022, bestowing it with sharper body lines and more angular front and rear fasciae. The result is … fine. It continues to embody one of the anonymous commuters you vaguely try not to hit while fleeing the police in Grand Theft Auto. Hyundai’s Tuscon carries more playful styling, and within the Chevy family, the recently-revived Blazer is the D2XX offspring chasing looks. That style comes at a premium; Blazer prices start roughly $6000 higher at the bottom end and climb rapidly as you scale the trim ladder.
The RS trim is the third of four trims in the Equinox lineup (LS, LT, RS, Premier, in ascending order of price). It shows off a few style-specific touches like black 19-inch wheels, an accented RS interior, unique grille, blacked-out Bowties, badging, roof rails, and window surrounds. Features like LED lighting front and rear come standard, as does safety tech like automatic emergency braking, front and rear park assist, and lane-keep assist. Just $3125 in options were added to this test vehicle’s $32,895 base price: The RS Leather package ($1580) for nicer leather for the seats and a Bose seven-speaker audio system; the Infotainment package ($895), which adds a heated steering wheel, two additional USB ports, a 120-volt power outlet, and Chevy’s 8-inch infotainment screen with navigation; and the Advanced Safety package ($650), which scored the HD 360-degree surround camera system for parking, alongside heated outside mirrors and adaptive cruise control. The all-in price of $36,020 is not a small sum, but it’s very much within the window of the average new car sold today.
Inside, simplicity is the order of the day. Don’t mistake this for a knock; the Equinox embraces its lack of frills. Rather than a quirky rotary knob or design-forward row of buttons, the gear shift is a familiar lever with a large place to rest your palm. Beyond that it’s the usual stalks for the turn signals and wipers, normal cupholders, and easy-to-understand buttons for the HVAC controls. As new vehicles grow increasingly complex, the modest nature of this cabin is noteworthy, and not worse for its apparent age.
The taller roofline is a boon for second-row seating. A college kiddo can haul easily three or four friends to the library. (Surely that’s where they’re headed at 10 p.m. on a Friday, no?) That second row seating folds flat, too, combining with the existing trunk space to offer up to 63.9 cubic feet of hauling volume. As my wife and I packed the car to head to our family’s cottage for summer festivities, that added space was a relief. I didn’t think twice about throwing in another cooler or bag, just in case.
Wrinkled leather on the front seat bottoms and acres of cheap plastic below the eyeline belie this car’s affordable nature, but neither detract from the overall experience. Most people don’t care enough to notice. The Equinox is safe, generous with door pocket and console storage, and generally unobtrusive. In this segment, those are the data points that matter most.
Here are the nut-and-bolt specs: Power comes from a 170-horse, 1.5-liter turbocharged Ecotec four-cylinder, the only engine offered on the Equinox these days. (A larger 2.0-liter turbo-four used to be available on higher trims, and there was a brief moment where you could get a 1.6-liter turbo-diesel four as well.) A six-speed automatic and front-wheel drive are standard, but our test car had the optional all-wheel-drive setup that—like most—only engages the rear wheels when deemed necessary. It’s a boon for efficiency, and to that end, we saw 26.4 miles over 900 miles of mixed-intensity driving, matching the EPA’s 26 mpg combined rating. I wouldn’t be surprised if a prudent right foot could eke out nearly 30 mpg in similar conditions. Unlike its competitors from Honda, Toyota, and Hyundai, the Equinox offers no hybrid model. It should come as no surprise that GM is skipping it entirely in favor of an all-electric Equinox that will arrive for 2024.
Even with a mere 203 lb-ft of torque on tap, short gearing and a flat torque curve made around-town driving a breeze. Twist falls off after 4000 rpm, but the gearbox makes every effort to keep you in the meat of the torque curve. There’s pleasantly little drone at highway speeds, and enough shove on tap to handle passing without much worry.
The Equinox’s only real demerit is its turning circle, which is frankly abysmal for a machine practically endemic to grocery store parking lots. Toyota’s RAV4 manages a 37.4-foot turning circle in its least nimble configuration; that’s the best the Equinox can do, in LS trim. With the RS’s 19-inch wheels, it’s 41.6 feet. Owners of this car will master the art of the K-turn, whether they want to or not.
The brakes are good—GM tends to have better-than-average brake feel, even on mass-market lumps. The steering is light and devoid of feel, but it’s never a nuisance. There is no playfulness or engagement to the driving experience as you get in a Mazda CX-5, but there’s no depressing CVT drone à la Subaru Forester, either. The whole drivetrain goes about its business in the background, an afterthought at best.
The car’s tech, too, is all about addition by subtraction. An 8-inch central touch screen is on the modest side of today’s price-conscious cars, but the distractions offered by that screen are proportionately minimized. Many owners will dial up Apple CarPlay and carry on with their day, so as to not be impeded by in-car apps (weather is the only useful one). The Bose system is decent, but nothing to brag about.
An all-wheel-drive variant of pretty much any of the players in the compact crossover segment costs at minimum $30,000. In my eyes, the only reason an Equinox buyer would go for the RS is a more favorable lease deal from the local dealership; otherwise, just scoop an AWD LT, add the Confidence and Convenience package ($1795, heated seats, dual-zone climate control, and a few safety features), the Infotainment package ($895, heated wheel, bigger screen, additional USB ports), and the Advanced Safety package ($650, adaptive cruise and that surround camera vision, which you’ll need with this turning circle), and you’ll be on your way for under $34,000.
There’s little point in us lamenting the ways a wagon is a better-driving, more efficient body style. You’ve heard all that before, and buyers have rendered their judgement: they’re willing to pay thousands more for the high seating position of an SUV. At least this Chevy is honest about its mission, rather than cosplaying as an off-road trail rat or wannabe luxury machine. We won’t say it’s the right choice for basic transportation, but where the common denominator is concerned, it’s hard to go wrong with the Equinox.
2022 Chevrolet Equinox RS AWD
Price: $32,895 / $36,020 (base / as-tested)*
*Configuring a similar Equinox on Chevy’s simulator will now run you $33,595 base price and $36,720 as tested. The base MSRP for the car increased by $500, and the destination charge jumped from $1195 for this tester to $1395.)
Highs: Addition by subtraction in nearly every facet of the car—driving experience, styling, interior layout. Fundamentally competent at moving people and things without fuss.
Lows: Lacking any semblance of personality or soul. Lackluster turning circle. Tons of cheap plastic if you look closely.
Takeaway: Set-it-and-forget-it transportation is what the masses want, and the Equinox is for them. Probably not for you.
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