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2019 Chevrolet Equinox Diesel Review: When the Good Outweighs the Bad

High-quality vehicles abound in the compact SUV segment the Chevrolet Equinox plies its trade in. The category even contains a couple of juggernauts in the Honda CR-V and the Toyota RAV4. The Equinox, which has been around since 2005, has never reached the heights of those segment leaders.

That said, the model as it exists now is a much less moribund affair than it was when it first debuted; back then it was frankly outclassed by most of its rivals. The current generation, in place for a couple of years now, even has many of the qualities and features that make the top-selling compact SUVs so attractive.

A bit of detail to start on the Equinox product offering, and more particularly the diesel-powered variant that we road tested.

Photo: D.Rufiange

Three engines
The Equinox can be had with one of three different powertrains. The first two are based on 4-cylinder engines (1.5L and 2.0L), each featuring a turbocharger. The third runs on diesel, but it’s also a turbo-charged 4-cylinder.

But if you want to benefit from the savings at the pump that the latter mill delivers, you’ll have to dig deeper into your pockets to come with an extra $4,200 up front. That’s how much extra Chevy is charging for the diesel, and it’s a lot.

Consider that the diesel engine will allow you to save around 2L/100 km in consumption, and you see you’ll have to drive the thing for quite a long time before you recoup that extra initial cost.

Photo: D.Rufiange

The diesel unit
This 1.6L 4-cylinder turbo engine delivers 136 hp and 240 lb-ft, which translates into decent but not overwhelming power. There are circumstances, like when you’re on a highway onramp, when you’ll find yourself wishing for more punch from under the hood. The unit is bolted to a 6-speed automatic transmission.

Keep in mind that if you’re considering taking the 2.0L engine option, this does affect the configuration of the interior. This engine is tied to a 9-speed automatic transmission, the gear selectors for which come in the form of buttons. The 6-speed transmission, meanwhile, brings with the traditional gear lever on the central console.

In our week of testing, we racked up around 500 km and ended up with an average consumption of 7.2L/100 km.

Photo: D.Rufiange

Upgraded interior
The experience of getting inside a Chevrolet vehicle has been, in recent years, a rather drab, even soul-sapping one, let’s be honest. Bland presentation, bargain-basement materials and the like, all reflected a certain inertia on the part of the manufacturer.

New generations debuting as of 2015 (more or less) have raised standards substantially. It’s still far from perfect, but it’s no longer embarrassing. Which is the important thing, I think you’ll agree.

As for the presentation of the 2019 Equinox, we salute that Chevrolet has integrated the multimedia screen almost completely within the console instead of leaving it floating above it. The two-tone finish you get in the higher trims is also quite successful. Personally, I’m irritated by the dials of the instrument cluster, which are pretty lame in appearance. It’s as if Chevrolet were stuck in time in this respect.

For the rest, storage spaces and bins abound, there’s a wide range of connectivity features including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and that multimedia system is user-friendly and responsive Even the notoriously finicky voice recognition worked impressively well when I was looking for addresses.

Photo: D.Rufiange

Also noteworthy is the comfortable front-row space; the second row is a more Spartan place, however. If you need to pile a bunch of stuff in back, cargo space is no worse or better than others in the segment. The 1,798 litres of available capacity (seats down) is sufficient for most needs, in other words.

The drive: as neutral as it is confidence-inspiring
Don’t count on having your senses get all riled up at the wheel of the Equinox. Comfort is priority number-one… and numbers two and three, it seems. But take the SUV past the legal speed limit (happens to the best of us…) and you discover a pretty solid vehicle, even if it could use a little weight-loss regimen.

In all, the Equinox inspires confidence if little else on the road. And honestly, in that regard it’s responding to what most of its potential buyers want. Toyota and Honda have been playing those cards with success for decades, after all.
And that’s probably the biggest reason why sales of the Equinox have been climbing steadily in recent years. It’s not year at the level of the RAV4 or CR-V in terms of attracting buyers, but GM did move 37,000 units of the Equinox and its close cousin the GMC Terrain combined in 2018.

In comparison, both the RAV4 and the CR-V rack up annual sales in the neighborhood of 50,000 units.

Photo: D.Rufiange

The Equinox is still looking up at the Honda and Toyota models that rule the category, but it’s a product that has no reason to feel inferior versus any other SUV on the market.

And that’s reflected in the closing of the sales gap between the Equinox/Terrain and the category leaders.

The SUV represents a good, solid choice that doesn’t quite measure up to the best in the class, at least not yet.

On the other hand, the diesel variant makes a less convincing case for itself. We’d like to see it offered at a more affordable price, get upgraded performance capabilities and, why not, be even more economical.

Until those things come to pass, best to go with the regular Equinox, preferably the 2.0L engine that is our view the best suited to handle this compact-but-heavy SUV.


Consult our listing of pre-owned Chevrolet Equinox vehicles available in your region of Canada

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