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2024 Chevrolet Equinox EV First Drive Review: Finally, Chevy gets compact right

2024 Chevrolet Equinox Ev First Drive Review Finally Chevy Gets Compact Right

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DETROIT –  Last week we reviewed the 2024 Chevrolet Silverado EV RST for the first time. An electric reimagination of the Silverado – Chevy’s best seller and a profit generator for years – what could be more important? How about the 2024 Chevy Equinox EV? We’re serious.

The Equinox is Chevy’s new electric offering for everyone. It’s an attractive and affordable compact crossover with a lot of range. The Silverado EV is expensive and well, obviously, a truck. Not everyone needs that. But the world runs on compact crossovers. While it’s debatable that the current crop of electric crossovers (VW ID.4, Hyundai Ioniq 5, Kia EV6, Nissan Ariya, Tesla Model Y, etc.) belongs to the traditional “compact” segment, especially in terms of price and body style, Chevrolet finally enters that fray. Moreover, it does so with a product that unequivocally lands in the compact SUV segment that’s so popular.

“We really do believe that this is the one that’s going to crack the code,” says Brad Franz, Chevy marketing director for cars and crossovers. “It’s not just about paying $100,000 to get the range that Equinox is going to provide.”

Or as Chevy vice president Scott Bell put it, “We’d be foolish not to get after this business.”

The Equinox EV comes in two main versions. The front-wheel-drive, single-motor model offers 319 miles of electric driving with 213 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque. The all-wheel-drive, two-motor variant can travel 285 miles and produces 288 hp and 333 lb-ft. That isn’t as much of a performance jump as you’ll find in other EVs, which speaks to the rear motor being a smaller induction motor that mostly responds to front-wheel slippage as internal combustion all-wheel-drive systems do. But that also means the price premium is a comparatively modest $3,300. The lineup is further divided into the LT (pictured in blue above) and sportier RS trims (pictured in white above), each of which have several levels of equipment.

Chevy says the Equinox regains up to 77 miles of range in 10 minutes on DC fast charging with its 150-kilowatt maximum (a merely average figure these days, though a big-time improvement on the old Bolt), while Level 2 charging at 11.5 kW, which is a typical home charger maximum, provides up to 36 miles of range per hour. It’s also capable of bi-directional charging, allowing you to turn it into a generator, although you’ll need separately purchased accessories to do it.

Although it doesn’t drop down as low in terms of price, the Equinox EV arrives as the de facto replacement for the Bolt EV. Chevy says Bolt buyers are an educated, relatively affluent set, and it hopes to grab some of them while bringing in a new crowd. And any Chevy owners ready to switch over from their gas-powered cars, well, the Equinox EV is also for them. The brand is casting a huge net, but knows it has a lot of competition. Give or take a few grand, the Equinox EV could be cross-shopped with the various SUVs listed above,  the smaller and cheaper Kia Niro EV and Hyundai Kona Electric, or even some lower-spec Ford Mustang Mach-E models. Not to mention the Chevy Blazer EV, and the Bolt itself, which is returning in 2025.

Plus, Chevy has never made a best-in-class compact vehicle. “We are dealing with everyone else’s Silverado,” Franz admitted.

That said, the Equinox is perhaps the most-anticipated vehicle we’ve tested this year. It has style, range and is built by one of the oldest, most familiar car brands in history. Almost everyone has driven a Chevy at some point in their life.

With that in mind, we approach a red 3RS front-wheel-drive model with black wheels parked outside Detroit’s Shinola Hotel, near where General Motors will relocate its headquarters next year. It’s a fitting starting point for our test drive, given GM’s deep history with the city and the symbolic moment of rebirth for the community and automaker.

It’s a bit heavy to put that all on a compact crossover, especially a Chevy Equinox, but we’re approaching this with keen interest. We make our way through the narrow downtown streets, which spoke out from the river that borders Canada. Fun fact, the same guy who laid out Washington, D.C., designed Detroit’s road grid.

The Equinox FWD is adequately powered. It’s not as quick as a Tesla, but it’s fine for city driving and all of the immediate torque compensates for the modest horsepower rating. Chevy says it will hit 60 mph in under 8 seconds (5.9 for the AWD). Later in our drive, we would have preferred a bit more punch when merging onto Interstate 696 in morning rush hour. The Equinox isn’t slow by any stretch, but we spent a beat longer than desired in the shadow of a semi as we jockeyed for lane position.

The Equinox EV is available with GM’s Super Cruise hands-free highway driving assistance tech, and it continues to not only impress but get even better with each year, model and update that goes by.

The Equinox is proficient in one-pedal driving, which can be cued up via the touchscreen. Lift off the throttle, and the regenerative braking comes on. Even on the high setting, it’s not particularly intrusive. Making our way along the river, we decided to see if we could one-pedal our way through the Grosse Pointe communities, a collection of old-money suburbs bordering the city. The route along Lake Shore Drive is leisurely, and we didn’t need to touch the brakes to slow. As with Super Cruise, one-pedal driving is a feature that is more greatly appreciated in a smaller vehicle, promoting a sense of confidence.

The Equinox EV drives more like a hatchback than a crossover, with light steering and an agreeable suspension. With the Ultium batteries below the floor, it has a solid center of gravity that offers a degree of sportiness, though the Blazer EV is the more athletic sibling despite its greater exterior size.

The Equinox has 26.4 cubic-feet of cargo space behind its back seat, which is about 10 cubic-feet less than ICE compact SUVs like the Honda CR-V and Kia Sportage. It’s also less than a Volkswagen ID.4. Then again, it also has a bit more cargo space than the Blazer EV (25.8), and considering it only has 0.9 inch less back seat legroom, it’s just as well-suited to family duty as its more expensive sibling. We didn’t have a child seat on hand to fully test that theory, but the second row is also reasonably accommodating, with an average-sized adult fitting easily without head or knee bumps.

Speaking of the interior, the Equinox 3RS cabin is stylish, sporty and features nice leather. Unlike the Silverado we tested recently, the Equinox’s interior look and quality are more appropriate for its price point, stacking up well to those we’d consider compact crossovers in the internal combustion realm. The gasoline-powered Equinox’s interior was certainly never this nice through multiple generations, but the new electric version illustrates how GM can finally reach its potential with an attractive cabin at a competitive price point (to be fair, the all-new, gas-powered, mechanically unrelated Equinox gets a similar interior look). While testing a lower-spec model should be illuminating, the fundamentals of a solid cabin are all here.

The colorful, standard 17.7-inch touchscreen is the anchor of the entire space, and the 11-inch driver cluster is useful and informative. We easily toggled among the driver settings, audio and temperature controls, and despite all that screen space, there are still buttons and knobs for the climate system and other key functions. Our primary tester was nicely equipped with heated and ventilated seats, the LED lightbar headlights, 21-inch aluminum wheels, a flat bottom steering wheel and the ‘adrenaline’ red interior color scheme. It starts at $46,795 and felt worth every penny.

The good vibes continue outside, where Chevy designers crafted something that’s eye-catching yet short of striking, which is where the Blazer lands. We would argue the Equinox’s stylish design and overall ethos are actually more significant. They hark back to a time when Chevys like the Bel-Air, Biscayne and Impala were attractive buys because they offered the whole package, design included. Frankly, with its two-tone color scheme available on some trims (look at the blue and white one), you can almost recall the idea of a Chevy Nomad. With judicious use of lights, subtle fender contours and an interesting color scheme, Chevy manages to make an affordable crossover look aspirational. It’s not unlike Hyundai’s approach with the Ioniq 5 and 6.

In many ways, Hyundai has been out-Chevying Chevy for the past 15 years. The original formula of making a compelling product that wins on its own merits was uniquely Chevy at its peak moments, though it helped to have hegemony over the market. That same hegemony would ultimately lead to complacency and its decline. Chevy today stands as a restless giant. Not quite asleep, but not reaching its full potential in sales volume or prestige. While Chevrolet is comparable to Coca-Cola or Jack Daniels in brand recognition, it has neither the halo nor domination of its space.

That’s where the Equinox EV comes in: It looks sharp. It’s priced right. It’s tech-forward. Although Tesla, Ford, VW, Hyundai, Nissan and others arrived with electric SUVs first, Chevy seems positioned to grab a piece of the pie that no one else has quite grabbed onto yet. Perhaps Chevy can simply bring in new customers, much as it did when it made the midsize truck market competitive again 10 years ago.  Even if that doesn’t happen quickly, the Equinox EV is good enough to steal share from existing EV makers. That alone is a success for Chevy.


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