Pop quiz: Do you know what the best-selling Chevrolet in the world is? Did you guess the SS? Nice try. It’s the Cruze. How about the bow-tie brand’s best-seller in the old U.S. of A — and that isn’t the Silverado? If you said the Equinox, you’d be correct. And while there may not be much on the surface that links these two, they both have something in common — namely the General Motors D2XX platform.
2017 is a lame duck year for the Equinox. An all-new version of the 2018 model will arrive later this year, and the compact crossover will finally make the switch from the ancient GM Theta platform to the more modern D2XX. Once it gets there, it’s safe to say that it’ll be sharing its duds with the Cruze. And while that would otherwise be unremarkable, we happen to think there’s a chance for some overlap between the two.
Now here us out. The Equinox may look like it has more in common with its competitors, like the Toyota RAV4 and the Honda CR-V (and by and large it does). But let’s look at what the majority of crossover buyers want. For one, easy entry and exit, and something that’s easy to drive. They also want something that’s safe, roomy, and that offers a little utility. These are all traits that can be found in a five-door hatch. And what luck! Chevrolet just took the wraps off the Cruze Hatch for 2017.
So before you accuse us of comparing apples to oranges, let’s get rid of the idea that the vast majority of crossover owners buy their vehicles based on ruggedness (they don’t). Additionally, let’s call the new Equinox a tall, five-door people-mover. So how does it stack up against Chevy’s other new five-door people mover, you ask? Let’s find out in this edition of Buy This, Not That.
Tale of the Tape: Chevrolet Equinox
This is, thankfully, a brand new chapter for the Equinox, which has been around in its current form (with gradual changes) since 2009. The 2018 model starts at just under $25,000 for the front-wheel drive version, and that’s powered by a turbocharged 1.5 liter inline four engine that puts out 170 horsepower and 203 pound-feet of torque.
The new crossover benefits from a 400 pound weight loss. This puts curb weight at a downright svelte 3,300 pounds. Inside you’ll find a lower cowl and dash for better visibility. Plus, new “denim-style” upholstery, which should be hard wearing and fresh looking for years to come. Unless, of course, you have kids. Then it’ll be trashed within a week.
The Equinox rides on a 107.3 inch wheelbase. Under the skin, the 1.5 liter engine is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission that’s been geared for fuel economy, which should be good for a combined 31 miles per gallon. There are MacPherson leather struts up front, and a four-link independent suspension out back. The latter, we imagine, will do wonders for the ride. If that wasn’t glorious enough, there’s also a suite of new electronic safety features available to make sure you feel secure and in control.
Now let’s turn to the outside. Chevrolet’s design team made sure to make the crossover look less like its closest relative in the GM family tree, the Buick Envision, and more like the rest of the bow-tie stable (namely the Impala, Malibu, and, of course, the Cruze).
Tale of the Tape: Chevrolet Cruze Hatch
If you’re looking for ride height (and a lot of crossover owners are), the Chevy Equinox has the Chevy Cruze Hatch beat. It’s 57.7 inches taller than the Equinox’s 65.4 inches. But other than that, it’s something of a close race. With a 106.3 inch wheelbase, it’s not much smaller than the crossover. It’s also not much of a sacrifice compared to the Equinox with its 93 cubic feet of passenger volume. (The outgoing model has 100 cubic feet. We were unable to find the volume for the 2018 model.)
The Chevrolet Cruze Hatch starts at just over $22,000. What does this mean for you? That you’ll have some options to play with if you want parity with the base Equinox. The range-topping Premier starts at $24,320, offering features like heated leather seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a seven-inch touch screen (complete with the Chevy MyLink infotainment system), and 17-inch aluminum wheels. Toss a few more options in there, and you’ll just about be on par with the base Equinox.
The Cruze’s sole powertrain is a 1.4 liter turbocharged four engine, which makes 153 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual is offered in lower trims, but unfortunately that option disappears the higher you get up the trim lines. A six-speed automatic comes standard in Premier models. So while the Equinox has a bigger engine, the lighter Cruze (weighing in at 2,900 pounds) is quicker, offering a zero to 60 time in the high-seven second range. Fuel economy is a combined 34 miles per gallon.
The hatchback design is new to the Chevy Cruze (at least in the United States, anyway), but it looks natural here. Overall, it wears the Chevy styling cues well. It’s also significantly roomier, more practical, and, in our opinion, better looking than the sedan version. Plus, it’s quiet. In Premier trim, the suspension has been revised to make sure all that extra volume doesn’t compromise the ride.
The Chevrolet Cruze Hatch and the Chevrolet Equinox look like very different beasts, but strip them down to their shared platform, and you begin to see an awful lot of similarities. Yes, the Equinox is taller and a crossover, but other than a taller ride height, steeper price tag, and plusher trim levels that go well past the $30,000 mark, the five-door Cruze can compete with it. What’s more, it’s a little quicker and gets better gas mileage. Not to mention, it can fit nearly the same amount of stuff, and it offers that always attractive manual transmission option. What could be better than that?
At the end of the day, though, this is America, and the crossover still reigns supreme. We wouldn’t be surprised if the just released hatch overshadows the Cruze sedan soon. Of course, we just don’t see how Chevy’s hatch could ever overtake the Equinox in the sales department. Still, if we were die-hard Chevy fans with $25,000 to play with, and with a need to buy a five-door people mover, we’d take a loaded Cruze over a base Equinox any day — no matter the fact that the crossover is brand-spanking-new.
But for all those drivers who are addicted to that taller ride height and have that extra cash, the Equinox will be the more attractive option. Seeing what Chevy’s done with its popular crossover, we can’t say we blame them.