2023 Chevrolet Equinox RS — Just 'OK' Equinox fails to inspire

By Jim Prueter

(February 17, 2023) The Equinox is Chevrolet’s second most popular vehicle outsold only by the Silverado pickup. After a mild refreshening for 2022 with a new updated grille design, distinctive headlights, and updated front and rear bumpers Equinox sees only minor changes for 2023 including a small 5 horsepower bump for the 1.5-liter turbo engine — now up to 175 ponies, and three new paint colors.

Equinox is Chevrolet’s player in the popular and crowded compact SUV segment that competes with excellent vehicles like the class leading Mazda CX-5, Hyundai Tucson, Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape and others. Equinox is a decent vehicle that seats five people comfortably with an accomplished ride and driving quality, but numerous rivals offer nicer interiors, sharper exterior styling, stronger engines, more spacious cargo area and more advanced technology. Still, it’s among the most popular compact crossovers when measured by sales volume.

Equinox is available in four trim levels all powered by the same regular gas 1.5-liter inline 175-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine. A six-speed automatic transmission also comes standard and all-wheel drive is either standard or available on all trim levels except for the base LS with front-wheel drive only.

Our mid-upper level all-wheel-drive RS (new last year) adds sporty styling applications such as blacked-out and dark chrome exterior trim, dark 19-inch wheels, unique RS grille and badging, black roof rails with black window surround, and added interior enhancements with red stitching about the seats and cabin, black upholstery and a unique shift knob.

The RS also includes popular standard features like an eight-way power driver’s seat (front passenger seat is manually adjustable), heated front seats, rear power liftgate, and a suite of driver safety assist features – automatic emergency braking, forward collision alert, pedestrian braking, lane keeping assist with lane departure warning, front and rear park assist, teen driver application and more. We were surprised to discover that blind spot warning and rear cross traffic warning missing from this well-equipped RS.

Popular options on our RS included the RS Leather Package that added a 7-speaker Bose Premium Audio system and Jet Black RS leather appointed seats. The infotainment package included a heated steering wheel, 2 front console bin USB data ports, 120-volt power outlet, 8-inch color touchscreen with voice recognition and Bluetooth audio streaming, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, HD surround vision, outside heated power mirrors, and adaptive cruise control.

Our RS had a starting price of $33.395 and jumped to $38,205 including options, a few thousand more than a better equipped Mazda 5 and a better choice vehicle.

We found the build quality good for the Equinox, but the quality of materials looked and felt economy with more hard plastics than most competitors leaving us with an overall feeling of being drab and well short of stylish. The look smacked of “rental car” and insubstantial and switchgear looked and felt cheap.

On the plus side, most drivers will find plenty of room, particularly for head, shoulder and legs. The steering wheel both tilts and telescopes affording a good position for most. The leather seats weren’t especially attractive, but they were mostly comfortable with a good range of adjustment for the driver. Rear seats are roomy with two-position recline adjustment.

On the road our RS handled responsively with a composed ride void of excessive lean in corners and sharper curves and found it easy to park. The cabin was nicely insulated from road noise, but visibility is compromised with wide pillars at the rear of the vehicle.

Engine performance is sluggish with the 175-horsepower feeling underpowered leaving us wishing for more acceleration from stops and when passing. The transmission shifted seamlessly but has been tuned down to improve fuel economy resulting a lack of power when needed. The Equinox can tow up to 3500 pounds when properly equipped and also know that the all-wheel drive isn’t setup nor meant to be taken off-road. We were pleased with our realized fuel economy of just over 27 mpg on combined city and highway driving for our weeklong of testing.

Overall, we slot the Equinox in the lower half of its competitive vehicle class and wouldn’t place it among compact SUVs we’d purchase. It simply doesn’t standout or excel in any single area nor does it break any new ground in its class. It’s missing the fun-to-drive experience of vehicles like the Mazda CX-5 or Ford Bronco Sport and its price doesn’t win any best bang for the money awards like Toyota RAV4 and Hyundai Tucson. Add its weak engine and staid looks Equinox fails to inspire.

Vital Stats
Base Price: $33,395
Price as Tested: $38,205
Engine/Transmission: 175-horsepower, 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel-drive.
EPA Fuel Economy: 24/30/36 MPG – City/Highway/Combined
Seating: 5

Crash Test Safety Ratings: Overall highest possible 5-stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and “Good” rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Where Built: Mexico

Competes With:
Ford Bronco Sport
Ford Escape
Honda CR-V
Hyundai Tucson
Jeep Cherokee
Kia Sportage
Mazda CX-5
Nissan Rogue
Subaru Forester
Volkswagen Tiguan

Roomy interior
Decent fuel economy
Easy to use infotainment system

Weak engine and performance
Looks and feels like a rental car
Missing “Fun-to-Drive” element