There's an all-new 2018 Chevrolet Equinox hitting the roads, and whether it's luck or planning or somewhere in between, Chevy's timing couldn't be better. Compact crossover SUVs like the Equinox are especially hot right now, with the all-new Honda CR-V and Mazda CX-5 taking the spotlight in a segment that's growing by leaps and bounds as they supplant midsize sedans as the default family car.

The previous Equinox was Chevrolet's second best-selling vehicle, after the Silverado full-size pickup, yet it achieved this success while being something of an oddball. Not only was it one of the oldest vehicles in its segment, it was also bigger than most of its competitors, but without a noteworthy advantage in usable space that should come with the added size. For this new generation, Chevrolet has downsized, upscaled, and rethought everything about the Equinox, and this modern version meets its competition head to head at almost every turn. 

All-new structure

The new Chevrolet Equinox is based on an all-new architecture that weighs about 400 pounds less than its predecessor. Chevrolet credits the weight saving to high-strength steel and other grams-add-up type measures, but the reality is that there's quite a bit less Equinox this time around. The 2018 Equinox shrinks, losing its "tweener" status, and is now much closer to the Honda CR-V in all four main dimensions. To Chevy's credit the interior dimensions are pretty much the same, with the small hit in cargo space mitigated by the large hidden storage area under the cargo floor.

The only engine available at launch is a 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, and it's a good drivetrain. Acceleration proved perfectly acceptable, with the 6-speed automatic seamless in its operation. Chevy has refined its idle-stop feature so that it's virtually invisible when the engine shuts off and turns on at stop lights. There's just enough bite in the suspension to make you curious about handling, and on the twistier sections around the Blue Ridge Mountains the Equinox surprised us with its grip and balance, even if the steering was on the numb side. All along the 2018 Equinox remained quiet inside, allowing us to chat or listen to the audio system without raising the volume.

GM has upped its game on materials and interior quality as well, and the redesigned interior boasts stitched accents, satin-finish trim, suede-like inserts, and soft-touch surfaces throughout. Many of the hard plastics have soft-touch paint on them, giving the dash and door panels a more upscale feel. The big, clear primary gauges flank a color display that conveys plenty of information without overloading you. In the center of the dash is the touch-screen infotainment system which we think is one of the best out there, especially considering Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard, as does a WiFi hotspot. The Equinox is high-tech too, with available items like six USB ports, collision detection and braking, blind spot warning, lane keeping assist, and an around-view camera.

More to come

There's more in the pipeline for the Equinox. A Redline model will come along in a few months with a 252-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder connected to a 9-speed automatic transmission, plus a suspension that should capitalize on the decent handling we already experienced. For the fuel conscious, there will be an Equinox model with a 1.6-liter diesel engine that should net around 40 mpg on the highway. Both engines should broaden the appeal of this already attractive compact SUV.

This is the part where we get to the big, "however" of the review, and it has to do with cost. Prices for the 2018 Equinox are reasonable enough among its volume models, with the LS and LT starting at about $26,400 and $27,650 respectively when you include the $895 destination charge. That gets you front-wheel drive, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, air conditioning, and so on. Those more advanced features we mentioned, including things like dual-zone climate control, are only available on the Equinox Premier, and then the safety items are only available as part of a $1,995 option package. One all-wheel drive Equinox Premier has an eye-popping price of just over $39,000, a price that in addition to the navigation system included a panoramic sunroof and hands-free liftgate, features not available on the Honda CR-V or Mazda CX-5. However, on both the Honda and Mazda, you can get the active safety equipment, heated rear seats on the CX-5, (plus active cruise control, which isn't offered on the Equinox) for about the same price as the Equinox LT, or about $4,000 less than you'd have to pay to get these features in the top model.

The pricing disparity against its competition is a shame, because the Equinox is a compelling compact crossover SUV in virtually every other way. It looks great inside and out, offers good high-tech features, drives exceptionally well, will offer a diesel engine, and the promise of a high-horsepower version sounds fun. We just wish Chevy would take the cue from its competitors and broaden the availability of its advanced safety tech and add in active cruise as well.

Extra: Get our driving impressions of the Chevrolet Equinox 2.0T and the Chevrolet Equinox Diesel

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