2018 Chevrolet Equinox

Ringing the right bells now

"Chevrolet has sold two million units since its launch in 2005 and is the second best-selling model in North America, after Silverado."

"By the looks of it, Equinox shows some of the very familiar elements of Chevy Cruze and Malibu."

"We like the screen icons on the MyLink infotainment system and the response was pretty good!"

"Chevrolet now has it all in the new Equinox to exploit the occasion," said Ershad.

Back in late July, I was invited by Chevrolet to test the new Equinox in Salalah, Oman. I had every reason to join them: One, that it is literally a new car for the region, and two, it was just the kind of short break needed to get away from Dubai (which was boiling in 50 degrees). It was my second trip to Salalah and the second largest city of Oman was very much not "Arabian." You see the temperature ticks within 28 degrees, lots of coconut and banana farms, green all around and a nice mix of mountains and beaches.

Talking about the Chevrolet Equinox, it was quite surprising to know that Chevrolet has sold two million units since its launch in 2005 and is the second best-selling model in North America, after Silverado. While the reasons as to why it took this long to enter the Middle East market are unknown (considering it's a hot segment here), we can tell you that Chevrolet is surely up for the crossover buyers. The refreshed Trax, now the Equinox, and the soon-to-arrive next-gen Traverse are a testament. By the way, Equinox will replace the Captiva, which hardly made a big impact here.

Let's talk about Equinox. The model is available with a choice of two powertrains and three trim levels. A 1.5-liter turbo engine mated to a six-speed transmission powers LS and LT trims. The higher end "Premier" has got a 2.0-liter turbo engine mated to GM's new nine-speed transmission, a regional first for Chevrolet. The 1.5T unit delivers a power of 170 horsepower and 275 Nm torque, whereas the 2.0T engine fires out 252 horsepower with a torque 353 Nm. Now that's a striking proposition in the 2.0T unit. All-wheel drive is available on LT and is standard on the Premier.

By the looks of it, Equinox shows some of the very familiar elements of Chevy Cruze and Malibu. They are simple, yet pretty. LED headlamps and tail lamps are standard features in the Premier, while LS gets projector-beam headlamps and you can see an HID unit on LT. The dual exhaust in Premier is a good silent addition, and LS/LT are equipped with a single exhaust pipe. There are many chrome strips all around - front grille, the edge of the C-pillar and at the rear bumper. The D-pillar is painted black. We were told that the redesigned Equinox we drove has gone through some trimming to cut the weight by 10 percent. The overall visual impression is pleasing and I must say, the right size for a small family.

Step inside the car, and it's all about practicality. Lots of storage slots including the cup holders, and a nice deep cubby box. Move on to the boot, you'll see the best in terms of capacity in the segment. Hands-free power liftgate is standard on Premier. There are a couple of handles to recline the kneeling rear seats that feature tilting bottom cushions for a flat load floor. The second row was spacious and good for three passengers and there's no knee or head butting. In the driver's seat, things are all accessible - you've got a nice position that is adjustable and a good open view up front. The Premier is equipped with nice upholstery - leather-trimmed and ventilated. The full panoramic roof was just perfect for a day in Salalah. I am sure the photos will suggest so. It is available on LT and standard on Premier.

The eight-inch MyLink infotainment screen on the center console had a nice sleek design. (LS and LT get a seven-inch screen.) We like the screen icons and the response was pretty good. The system supports Apple CarPlay and is Android Auto ready. There's a nice wireless charging mat along with a few USB ports right under the control buttons positioned for easy access. It was a humid day outside and the A/C unit kept all in check. The dual-zone automatic climate control is standard on the Premier and LT. There are a couple of air vents along with a three-pin power socket and USB ports for rear passengers. The nine-speaker Bose audio system served well for entertainment.

There's no compromise to safety and the Chevy execs took enough time to brief through the active safety technologies and adaptive crash evading features. Here's a list: Forward Collision Alert with Following Distance Indicator, Safety Alert Seat, Low-Speed Forward Automatic Braking, Rear Seat Reminder, Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning, Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Lane Change Alert with Side Blind Zone Alert.

We got the route map and it explains why the trip to Salalah. We started from the hotel and passed by the city roads to a beach point walled by hill strips. En route to the beach was a rough terrain of gravel and rocks. Then, to the Anti-Gravity point to amuse ourselves. Next up was a hilly road all the way to Wadi Darbat where you see the unlikely water streams surrounded by greenery. So, it's a comprehensive ride - the city, the hill, the beach and some rough roads.

I started with a Premier trim, which is an all-wheel drive. First impression: it's a quick car. I mean, the torque really took the performance up a stroke and there's no sign of any turbo lag - and all this with a turned up howl. The punch keeps up with the rivals, or may even beat them. I want to mention the pretext here; we are referring to something that has 252 hp/352 Nm and so bear with me if it sounds inflated. Comfy on city roads and when tested on the twisty run upwards, it maintained the composure. I must also highlight the fact that there was barely an understeer, which is great. Good road presence and planted well add to the confidence. I felt a "go-easy" attitude throughout the drive, be it steering maneuvers or overall handling.

Moving on to the 1.5T variant meant lesser power, but to be honest, the car did well in city limits. You won't get the punch of a two-liter, but the package flaunts the exact requirement of a small family whose priority is the daily city ride. In our drive uphill, we had to put up an extra effort to rev it harder, hence exposing the unwanted noise. The six-speed gearbox was ok with decent shift rates but kept reminding us about the flawless nine-speed automatic on the Premier that already took our attention. Handling was pretty decent and the overall feel was good.

Verdict
Let me get to the verdict. Chevrolet seems to be ringing the right bells now. They've got a model that is equal to, or even better in some ways, when put against its rivals. A package that includes a comfy ride, good handling, loads of space, good performance and yes, wait for this - "the price bracket." In UAE, the LS starts from AED 77,000 all the way up to the top notch Premier, AED 111,000. That's way better than others. With the likes of Honda CR-V, Nissan X-Trail and Toyota RAV4 dominating the segment, I think Chevrolet now has it all in the new Equinox to exploit the occasion.

Pros: Good looks, handling, spacious inside, safety and practical features
Cons: Lack of punch in the LS/LT, too late to the established segment (identity crisis), some hard plastics inside
Rivals: Honda CR-V, Nissan X-Trail, Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape, Mazda CX-5, Infiniti QX50, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage
one word: smart debut
4 stars

Specs
1.5L turbo 4-cylinder, 170 hp @ 5,600 rpm, 275 Nm @ 2,500-4,500 rpm
6-speed auto, FWD/AWD
LS/LT: 0-100 km/h: 9.2 sec, top speed: 200 km/h, fuel consumption: 6.7-6.9 L/100 km
Weight: 1,508 kg
2.0L turbo 4-cylinder, 252 hp @ 5,500 rpm, 352 Nm @ 2,500-4,500 rpm,
9-speed auto, AWD
Premier: 0-100 km/h: 7.5 sec, top speed: 200 km/h, fuel consumption: 7.4 L/100 km
Weight: 1,508 kg

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