JORDAN VILLAGE, Ont. – I have just signed onto a Wi-Fit hotspot, which would not be particularly remarkable if I were in a Starbucks or an airport.

But here, Wi-Fit is part of the OnStar package in the newest version of the Chevrolet Equinox, the reinvented 2018 model (base price $26,995 including freight and dealer prep).

Access to a 4G LTE network and a touchscreen interface makes the Equinox an extension of your smartphone.

So I’m hooked into a rolling 4G LTE cellular network, a fast one and in the Equinox is can serve up to seven devices. This means I’m not eating into the data plan on my smartphone and that’s the sort of thing Chevy believes will drive sales of its popular compact SUV (sport-utility vehicle).

Indeed, General Motors argues that connectivity is king when it comes to pulling in youthful, 30-something buyers to an Equinox that faces some pretty stiff competition from the likes of…oh, it’s a very long list: Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Nissan Rogue, Ford Escape, Mazda CX-5, Jeep Cherokee, Hyundai Tucson and Santa Fe, Kia Sportage, Volkswagen Tiguan and more. And yes, GM has the market research to prove it.

If you’re shopping for a tall family wagon and you want to stay connected, the Equinox really is a class leader, right down to the user-friendly standard seven-inch colour touchscreen (eight-inch optional).

Handsome cabin design.

Chevy’s product planners really have thought through the electronics and infotainment side of things. The term “class leader” gets bandied about too readily these days, but it’s not a stretch here, not at all.

So we’re fully into in a new age now.

A year or three ago, a car review like this would focus on the fact that the remade Equinox has lost nearly 200 kg of heft and fuel economy from the base engine, a 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo (170 horsepower/203 pounds-feet of torque) is a very good 8.3 litres/100 km combined. That’s the front-drive Equinox. The all-wheel-drive version comes it at 8.9 L/100 combined, both using regular fuel.

The view from behind.

The conversation would then dig into the ride and handling side of things. And sure, this lighter, nimbler rig feels solid and poised at highway speeds and it doesn’t roll and wallow through corners, either. It’s a bit noisier at speed than some of the competition, however, a trait I’d put down to the weight-loss plan that clearly put sound deadening to the back seat, with connectivity riding up front.

Truth is, the basic engineering story here is quite good. GM has stripped out suet and tightened up the design. This Equinox is five inches or nearly 13 cm shorter than before, yet cabin and cargo space haven’t suffered a bit. In fact, the clever under-floor storage in the boot is just what you want if you’re looking to tuck away from sight items like iPads. The seats are quite good, too.

In standard trim, the Equinox with its six-speed automatic gearbox isn’t much at towing: max rating of 680 kg or 1,500 lbs. It’s the same tow rating story for the coming diesel model with its 136 hp/236 lb-ft torque rating, mated to a nine-speed transaxle. The 2.0-litrgas e turbo with its nine-speed is what you want for trailering: 252 hp/260 lb-ft torque, and a 1,588 kg/3,500 max tow rating.

As for safety, the body structure itself if very robust and with a full complement of airbags; it should do well in crash tests. Beyond passive safety, Chevy is offering a rear camera and other bits and pieces like it are standard. Meanwhile, all sorts of camera-based technology, intelligent headlamps and more are optional.

Chevy’s advertising is going to say that you get more standard gear with the Equinox than the Rogue, RAV4 or CR-V. There’ll share lists and charts to make the case. And the dealers will push a simplified packaging arrangement, which makes the step up from basic Equinox to Premier model quite simple. And for 2018, the sticker price will be sliced down by standard discounts that reach to nearly $2,000.

But every automaker and its dealers can haul out this sort of thing. GM, however, believes the differentiator isn’t packaging or price, but connectivity.

The cluster.

The Equinox is compatible with Apple Carplay and Android Auto, which means your wagon can become an extension of your phone and the interface is just as straightforward and familiar. That’s a huge positive of for many.

Indeed, there’s a very useful MyChevrolet app available that makes it easy to use your phone to stay on top all sorts of functions and systems – from starting and shutting down the Equinox to finding the nearest dealer for service.

All very nice. But did I mention this Equinox looks quite good? Surely there’s a way to share that bit of news with the MyChevrolet app.

2018 Chevrolet Equinox

Price range: $26,995-$35,995 including freight and PDI.

Engines: 1.5-litre four-cylinder, turbocharged (170 hp/203 lb-ft torque); 2.0-litre four-cylinder, turbocharged (252 hp/260 lb-ft torque); 1.6-litre four-cylinder diesel (136 hp/236 lb-ft torque).

Drive: front- and all-wheel drive.

Transmissions: six- and nine-speed automatic.

Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 9.2 city/7.3 hwy for the 1.5-litre; 9.8 city/7.8 hwy for the 2.0-litre; 7.4 city/5.7 hwy for the 1.6-litre diesel. Gas engines use regular fuel. Rating for FWD models, but AWD is available.

Comparables:  Ford Escape, Subaru Forester, Nissan Rogue, Honda CR-V, GMC Terrain, Jeep Cherokee, Toyota RAV4, Mazda CX-5, Hyundai Tucson and Santa Fe, Kia Sportage, Volkswagen Tiguan.




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