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All-new for the 2018 model year, the 2018 Chevrolet Equinox comes on a new platform and replaces the Chevrolet Captiva.

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The C-SUV market is getting a whole degree more interesting. Over the past couple of years, new entrants have arrived to add choice to an increasingly competitive segment, what with the stalwart models like the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 bringing in new platforms and technology.
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The Equinox thus has a rather busy and competitive segment to address and the new car is thus ideally equipped. It is the first of the offerings on the second generation of GM’s Delta platform and uses a slew of visual connections with the Chevrolet Malibu, including the prominent chrome grille and sweep of chrome around the tail. In terms of size, the Equinox sits on a wheelbase of 2,725mm with an overall length of 4,652mm. The cabin is slightly taller than you would expect at 1,661mm, but the height is used well to produce a roomy cabin. The front-wheel biased car has a reasonable front overhang and a very generous rear bay, so large in fact that we are surprised that Chevy didn’t try to squeeze in a fold down third row. The Equinox makes the most of the five-seater layout, with 846 litres of cargo volume on top of a very generous second row. The seats have a kneeling fold arrangement in order to boost cargo volume to 1,798 litres when folded.
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The design is claimed to be a huge improvement over the older car, using the strong accent of the grille, a sharply raked C-pillar and darkened side panes aft of that to enhance the profile. The tailgate is also worked on to increase the perception of width on the existing 1,843mm. The grille gets a large Chevy badge and aero dampers behind the scenes, that are programmed to divert airflow away from the engine bay and around the hood at times when cooling is not as important.
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The 2018 Chevrolet Equinox is offered in three trims, LS, LT and Premier, with one of two turbocharged 4-cylinder engine (either a 1.5-litre or 2.0-litre). It is the first time that Chevrolet is actually coming to market with only turbocharged engines on offer. On being questioned, Molly Peck, Chief Marketing Officer of the company in the region admitted that they foresee this to be one of the challenges faced for market acceptance, but were very confident of the quality and reliability of their turbo engines.

The smaller 1.5-litre unit delivers 170hp @ 5600rpm with a nice torque offering of 275Nm in the 2,500 to 4,500rpm band. This engine is standard on the LS and LT and comes mated with a six-speed automatic gearbox that is connected with either the base front wheel drive arrangement or the all-wheel drive. The AWD is a carry over from older models, with the ability to selectively deliver under half the torque to the rear axle, while supposedly being able to disconnect and free wheel the rear when not needed.

The larger engine come standard on the Premier trim. The 2.0-litre direct injection turbocharged engine produces 252hp @ 5,500rpm with a very effective torque of 353Nm @ 2,500 to 4,500 rpm. This engine is matched with a 9-speed auto gearbox and the AWD with button over ride is standard.

The interiors of the 2018 Chevrolet Equinox a rather upmarket. The car gets either 7 or 8″ central displays, a dashboard that resembles the Malibu’s with a gearshift arrangement that offers the same +/- shift on the knob head. The upper trims get panoramic sunroof, remote tailgate opening (handsfree), push button engine start and stop (standard throughout the range) and the provision of both 230 volt and USB ports.

The Premier trim gets the option of a navigation system to match its 8″ display, Android Auto and CarPlay as well as leather seat coverings.

Driving Impressions

We drove both engine variants as part of a convoy that took us from the elegant porch of the Anantara Al Baleed in Salalah up into the hills past Mirbat and Taqah, into Wadi Dart and back to the city. While the kilometres clocked were rather limited, we had the opportunity to check out the smaller engine’s capability on the climb as well as get a reading on the car’s NVH levels, which are rather good, except for a rude rattle from the air-conditioner duct on one of the cars. We assume these pre-production niggles will be sorted out on customer cars.
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The 2.0-litre engine is more than adequate for the Equinox. In fact, if the Premier had paddle shift provided, we would have thought that it bordered just that little bit short of an outright sporty SUV. It has loads of usable torque and a good gear range, with shifts being barely perceptible. The Premier also gets all the bells and whistles of the Driver Confidence package which includes lane watch, forward collision alert, rear cross traffic alert, blind zone alert and the like, with some elements rigged to provide you a vibrating warning on the seat squab along with a red band reflected off the windscreen.

The lane departure doesn’t really match up to the poor lane markings of Salalah, but as for the rest – they do work.

It’s really the 1.5-litre unit that needs a second look at. Admittedly, it is adequate and that may be the aim of the brand at the entry level. But there’s more than a hint of lag below 2,000 rpm and you realize that you would have loved having paddle shifters to quickly drop a gear just to compensate on the climbs. In the available arrangement the manual selector is on the gear knob and you have to pop the selector into L and leave your thumb on the +/- rocker for good measure. It didn’t help that the bulk of the climb was done in heavy mist at slow speeds, thereby exacerbating the issue. You have to keep the engine around 3,000 rpm under heavy load requirements and this calls for better gear control. There is also just that little bit extra rasp from the loaded engine.

As for the suspension combination of MacPherson struts at front and 4-link rear, it just works. Springing is surprisingly more European than American and the response off the curves using the electric assisted steering is quite snappy. You get a good balance of ride quality with rebound – though the steering itself veers towards a softer response.

We didn’t really check out the brakes or off-road performance, with only a couple of hundred metres driven on hard packed sand to a beach photo spot. There’s no terrain response or other electronic gizmos to aid you other than an available hill descent control

Verdict

The 2018 Chevrolet Equinox is a C-SUV worth looking at. The take on its styling could be just a bit subjective, but it looks far better than the Captiva did. It has a good selection of options and features and best of all a cabin that is both roomy and well laid out. Take for instance the wireless charging or the Driver Confidence package available on the Premier – it is evocative of a higher class of SUVs. In fact we tried pegging it against the Tiguan and CR-V as well and the Premier does come through as a interesting alternative. What’s even better is the price.

The 2WD version of the LS begins at an MSRP of AED 76,900 while the Premier’s MSRP is 110,900 along with a promised lower cost of ownership and servicing. This is really a rather aggressive price point and should get customers interested in the new Equinox, despite the tough market. The badge comes to showrooms in September this year in the top spec while the entry level will follow towards the end of the year.

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