To see it is to forget it. Compact SUV buyers aren’t generally interested in style, but even by these modest metrics, Chevy’s Equinox seems bland. There’s nothing offensive about its design, but the established Mazda CX-5 is a far more stylish alternative, while the forthcoming Honda CR-V also has the drama that’s conspicuous by its absence here. That flared C-pillar is a rare attempt at character (and doesn’t really work), though things are better square-on to the front and rear. The nose is far sleeker than the gawky-looking Subaru Forester, and the Equinox’s relatively clean lines catch the light nicely in certain pearlescent shades.

Built to last? In the last paragraph, we namechecked three Japanese Equinox competitors, and we could have easily mentioned three more besides. For an American SUV to hold its own in this congested market, it needs to offer Oriental standards of finish and reliability. In that regard, the Ontario-built Equinox is at a disadvantage, since Chevys aren’t currently renowned for dependability. Nor is the interior in any way luxurious – it’s a pretty sterile place to be, though at least it’s spacious.

The Equinox makes a stronger case for itself as a budget alternative to its many SUV rivals. For around $28,000, LS trim offers impressive standard safety, with impressive crash-test results allied to automatic emergency braking, active lane control, and automatic high beams. Alloy wheels are also standard on every model, while the seven-inch infotainment system packs wireless smartphone mirroring. We much prefer the eight-inch screen fitted to higher trims, which can also be specified with adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, and a surround-view camera system – albeit at a price.

Comfortable but leisurely. Even if you order your Equinox with available all-wheel drive, this is no high-riding off-road vehicle. Instead, it majors on comfort, with soft suspension cushioning occupants from ridges and ruts while the steering provides a satisfying amount of feedback around corners. Handling is safe and predictable, with FWD ensuring reasonable traction even in the snow. Stay away from the biggest wheels, though, which diminish comfort levels considerably.

Performance from the turbocharged 1.5-liter gas engine is adequate, with 170 hp being pushed through a six-speed automatic transmission that generally maintains a low profile. This is a car for refined rather than dramatic progress, and acceleration is often on the wrong side of leisurely. At least it’s not too thirsty, despite the lack of hybrid support. You’re looking at 28 mpg combined in FWD models, dropping to 27 as an AWD. If economy is a priority, you may be better holding out for the forthcoming EV version.

2023 Chevrolet Equinox Interior

Dressed to impress. Moving up the Equinox range improves the environment for the driver and passengers alike. The most affordable LS trim lacks the power-adjustable driver’s seat found on LT, while the latter can be ordered with a power tailgate and sunroof. The mid-range RS is something of a misstep, with black wheels and stitched interior trim writing checks the Equinox’s chassis can’t cash, while flagship Premier models are laden with chrome and creature comforts. You’ll still need to add navigation and adaptive cruise, taking the cost of a fully-loaded Equinox close to $40,000.

One thing you won’t be short-changed on is cabin space. Nominally a five-seater, the Equinox has comfortable sculpted seats for four, while those in the back benefit from almost 40 inches of rear legroom. The liftgate opens to reveal a 30 cu ft cargo area, which can be more than doubled by lowering the second-row seats.

Final thoughts. In such a ferociously competitive market, it’s hard to see what the small Chevy brings other than an American badge. Competitors outperform it in every measurable regard and most subjective ones, from style and equipment to warranty and off-road prowess. There’s nothing unusual or market-leading here – just a decent car adrift in a sea of great ones.

Flip that argument on its head, and Equinox makes a fair ownership proposition, with few areas of concern or notable disappointments. It’s not expensive to buy or run, safety is good across the range, and there’s loads of space for people and cargo alike. It’s smart enough to look at, smooth enough to ride in, and cheap enough to maintain. You’ll probably be quite happy parking one on your drive, though you could be even happier parking one of its many rivals on your drive instead.

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