New Equinox more lithe, fuel-efficient and powerful

The compact crossover is one of the most popular models in every automaker’s fleet, and for good reason. The compacts are roomy, ride comfortably, handle competently in bad weather and are capable of mild off-road travel. They may not be able to compete with the seating capacity and cargo-carrying capability of today’s minivans, but they’re more fun to drive, and certainly more stylish.

One of the best is the Chevrolet Equinox. Regular readers will remember we leased a car a year and a half ago, and a leftover 2015 Equinox was the runner-up to the Jeep Renegade. Things might have turned out differently if we’d waited until this year. The new Equinox, redesigned for 2018, is more lithe, fuel-efficient and powerful. We liked the 2015 model, but it fell short of the high standard Chevrolet has achieved with the new model.

Our test car, a top-of-the-line Premier with the 2.0-liter turbocharged Four, 9-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive, had a sticker price of $39,660. The base Equinox L, a special-order model that starts at $24,525, comes with a mild-mannered 170-horsepower, 1.5-liter turbocharged Four, 6-speed automatic gearbox and front-wheel drive. Also available is a 1.6-liter turbodiesel pumping out 137 horsepower, with 240 pound-feet of torque. It’s rated at 39 mpg on the highway, compared with 28 to 30 in gasoline-powered Versions of the Equinox. Our Orange Burst Metallic test car’s versatile transmission and powerful engine gave it a more refined personality than the 2015 model.

In terms of technology, road manners, utility and interior comfort, the Equinox is competitive with the class of the compact-crossover segment — the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, and Mazda CX-5. Also worth a look are the Mitsubishi Outlander, Ford Escape, Kia Sorento and Hyundai Tucson. Most of these models have more maximum cargo room than the Equinox, and a few have third-row seats.

We liked the Equinox’ MyLink infotainment system better than most. Sound quality was excellent, and the system encompassed satellite radio, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and navigation, as well as multiple UBS ports. The safety technology also is top-drawer. Our Equinox’ standard-equipment list included front and rear warning systems as well as blind-spot monitoring. When backing up, the optional Surround Vision system gives a bird’s-eye view of the car and its surroundings.

Equinox sales are surging — up nearly 85% in August 2017, compared with the corresponding month in 2016, and up nearly 17% for the year. Crash tests have not been completed on this redesigned model, but the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rated the Equinox a Top Safety Pick Plus through the 2016 model year.

Chevrolet’s commitment to crossovers extends to the much smaller Trax and larger Traverse. Of the three, we have a strong preference for the Equinox, whose size seems “just right.” It’s easier to maneuver than the Traverse, more spacious and comfortable than the Trax, and roomy enough for most people-moving and cargo-carrying duties.

2018 Chevrolet Equinox Premier 2.0T

Price: $41,460

Engine: 2.0-liter inline turbocharged Four, 252 horsepower, 260 lb.-ft. torque

Transmission: shiftable 9-speed automatic

Drive: all-wheel

Ground clearance: 9.6 in.

Weight: 3,665 lb.

Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear

Wheels: 19-in. polished alloy

Tires: P235/50R19 all-season

Seating capacity: 5

Luggage capacity: 29.9 cu. ft.

Maximum cargo capacity: 63.5 cu. ft.

Fuel capacity: 15.6 gal.

Fuel economy: 22 mpg city, 28 mpg highway

Fuel type: premium unleaded gasoline (recommended)

Steven Macoy ([email protected]) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.

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