Whilst it’s no doubt tempting for a car manufacturer of Chevrolet’s standing to finally enter the small engine capacity crossover market in the Middle East, coming so late to the party does raise a number of issues. Though Chevrolet had sold almost two million of its first and second generation Equinox models, those were powered with engines ranging between 2.4 to 3.6-litres in capacity, and the US manufacturer chose never to supply them to the GCC market. Now though, Chevy has determined that the time is right to bring its smaller, lighter third generation model powered by a choice of 1.5-litre turbo and 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder engines, to the Gulf, since their data suggests there’s a shift in the market from larger, fuel-thirsty SUVs, toward smaller, more frugal crossovers.

The problem is, by doing so only in 2017 the Equinox is entering a crossover market awash with long established, credible competitors. Consequently, the Equinox needs to have some significant cards to play if it’s to win big at this particular table. There are three models to choose from; the LS and LT receive the smaller engine and six-speed automatic, whilst the Premier has the 2.0-litre turbo with a nine-speed gearbox. The Premier also has a switchable all-wheel drive configuration which can be left dis-engaged to maximise fuel economy. This transmission is optional on the LT, but not available on the LS. Whilst the LS is certainly priced attractively from just Dh77,000, it’s the fully optioned Premier AWD which is likely to attract the most customers. With young families making up a large proportion of the crossover-buying public, Chevrolet is hoping the Premier’s numerous safety systems, practical features and a leather trimmed interior for just Dh111,000 will help them to stake their claim in this sector.

Approaching the car for the first time, it seems to have the form of a larger SUV, with a heavy, thick-set appearance. The kerbside appeal of American muscle in this region means the chunkier looks might well attract buyers on a small budget, keen to project the image of owning a bigger SUV. The 17in wheels on the LS version look a little small for the vehicle, but 18in wheels are standard on the LT and Premier, with 19in optionally available on the latter. 

Leather-trimmed, ventilated front seats are standard on premier

Climbing inside the top specification Equinox, the dual-tone brown leather combination is a pleasant trim choice, with the grey option feeling a little colder and less welcoming. The dashboard layout is very reminiscent of the Malibu, and nicely styled for a vehicle in this price bracket. Whilst the Premier has an 8.0in infotainment screen with optional navigation, the LS and LT trim
levels are slightly more spartan inside and feature a 7.0in screen with no navigation. However all vehicles are Android Auto and Apple CarPlay ready, allowing drivers to mirror their phones and thus use their own navigation apps. Sitting in the driver’s seat, at six feet tall I found I had just enough headroom. My field of view was from a point too high up the windscreen, whereas a colleague a couple of inches shorter, found the seating position to be ‘just right’. Rear seat passengers benefit from having AC vents in the rear of the centre console, in addition to a couple of USB outlets to charge those all important electronic devices and thus avert the need for any in-journey conversations!

The redesigned Equinox is around 180kg lighter than its predecessor

Out on the road the LT, with its smaller engine, has sufficient power at cruising speeds but that powerplant has to work hard to accelerate the car and under load, is not particularly quiet. Not surprisingly the larger engine and nine-speed box in the Premier make it a calmer, brisker drive in the hills and on the highway, and though the Bose sound system features active noise cancellation, there is still some turbo hum in the background when accelerating, albeit fairly inconspicuous.

Visibility is fine, and supplemented on the Premier with rear park assist, rear cross-traffic alert, and side blind zone alert with lane change alert. The extensive list of safety features also includes forward collision alert, low speed forward automatic braking, following distance indicator, lane keep assist with lane departure warning, safety alert seat (which vibrates to alert the driver to a developing hazard) and IntelliBeam headlights.

That’s a pretty good set of features for a relatively low budget crossover and sure to appeal to safety conscious drivers.

Road holding and handling are on a par with the market leaders in this segment — no small crossover is ever going to set the world alight in terms of high spirited driving — but the Equinox has nothing to fear from its rivals, with a pleasantly damped ride, little body roll and moderately weighted steering at low speeds for those all important mall car parks. Speaking of shopping, the Premier has a ‘foot gesture’ operated automatic tailgate which is a blessing for anyone approaching the car with their hands full of supermarket bags.

The kerbside appeal of American muscle in this region mean the chunkier looks might well appeal to buyers on a small budget...

Whilst the Equinox might be late to the party, it has at least entered the room carrying a lot of gifts. Its everyday styling may not be the height of fashion, but the Premier model in particular comes with a long list of safety features, pleasant interior, decent on road performance and practical, usable boot space. Chevrolet’s offering gives buyers one more choice of crossover, and that can only be good for the consumer.