Have you noticed how "European" some new American cars are becoming? Once purveyors of little more than floaty barges laden with chrome and powered almost exclusively by lazy, grunty V8 engines, many American models are now tiny in comparison, in every imaginable way. They are also better built than ever, more reliable, safer and cheaper to run. And Chevrolet's new Equinox does nothing whatsoever to buck this trend.
New to our market, the nameplate has existed Stateside for 13 years. Chevrolet knows that it is wading into tough, crowded waters with this model and is on an all-out charm offensive to get potential buyers to see through the fog and consider it as a viable alternative to Kia's Sportage and a whole host of other attractive crossovers.
Efficiency is the name of the Equinox's game. Where once we might have assumed was an engine with at least six cylinders, these days, four is the magic number. It shares its two engine options with the current Malibu saloon, with either a 1.5-litre or 2.0L available, in two- or four-wheel drive configurations, plus three different trim levels: LS, LT and Premier. Pricing is aggressive, with the base model starting at less than Dh77,000 and the Premier topping out at about Dh112,000, depending on how you option it.
From the outside, it is a rather smart-looking machine – a bit generic, but none the worse for it, and its designers have dialled down the usual brightwork to give it a subtler appearance. It can look a little bit lost on the base model's 16-inch wheels, but there is little else to criticise – it's a job well done.
My time behind the wheel takes place in the stunning environs of Salalah, in southernmost Oman, where the scenery is unforgettable, but the road surfaces leave much to be desired. My Premier test model copes with all the various surface qualities with aplomb, offering a firm but not uncomfortable ride and taut handling that feels entirely car like. Performance is brisk, with impressive acceleration, although the engine can sound thrashy when you really get on the power.
It is all very capable, the cabin is pleasant enough and the specification, especially in the range topper, will keep ardent tech fans occupied on even long voyages. But it doesn't really do anything extraordinary – and Chevrolet practically admits as much. So how might the Equinox tempt people away from their Kias, Hyundais and Toyotas?
The answer is safety. Chevrolet has thrown almost every occupant and pedestrian protection feature it has at this thing, with the resultant specs being more than enough to satisfy family motorists that their loved ones are in safe hands. When its maker says that the Equinox is class-leading in this respect, it isn't empty hyperbole – this is an incredibly protective vehicle, offering lane assist that steers you back on course if you drift across the lines in the road without indicating, as well as an alarming vibrating seat cushion that sends pulsating messages literally through the seat of your pants if you appear to have nodded off at the wheel. The equipment list is long and impressive, and sets it apart from its more-expensive natural competition.
The Equinox is a car greater than the sum of its parts and is yet further proof that GM is once again a serious contender on the world stage – for the money, there isn’t much else out there that comes close to offering such excellent value.