At first, it sounds a little bit like David and Goliath. One vehicle comes from an undisputed titan of American industry, a perineal Fortune-10 member and builder of American icons like the Corvette and Silverado pickup. In the other corner, a vehicle from the 4th largest Japanese automaker most famous for its affordable 2-seat convertible and irresistibly catchy “zoom zoom” ad campaign. When you dig deeper into the vehicles, however, the focus becomes clear. 2019 Chevy Equinox vs 2019 Mazda CX-5 is a battle for supremacy atop the compact SUV segment. The final decision for many compact SUV shoppers will come down to these two cute ‘utes. Let’s take a look at the facts and figures to see which vehicle takes the cake.
An SUV for Every Palate
It may have been said and discussed ad-nauseum but bears repeating here: Americans love SUVs. Automakers have noticed this adoration and responded accordingly. With SUVs expected to make up 50 percent of all US light vehicles sales by 2020, companies like Ford and Cadillac are killing some of their sedans to further focus on SUV production. This trend was years in the making and part of a bloodless coup on the part of SUVs. With plenty of wide-open space and big garages, everyone is all-in on SUVs.
With the exception of sports-car style driving, where weight and center of gravity are most important, SUVs are simply better than sedans. While it sounds simple, its more than just a Chevy Suburban being much larger than a Honda Civic – for every sedan, there’s now an SUV that accomplishes the same goal. Want an ultra-luxurious sedan like the Mercedes S-Class? Go with a Cadillac Escalade or Range Rover instead. You’ll get the same level or luxury with the added functionality of an SUV. The same goes for the compact class. Instead of shopping for a small sedan, go for a compact SUV. Although the compact car might get slightly better gas mileage, the added cargo room and space for back-seat passengers is worth the trade-off.
Know Your Competition
The Equinox is a child of the 21stCentury – it debuted in 2004 as a 2005 model. Since then, the car has gone through two full redesigns, the most recent of which came out in 2017. Throughout its life the Equinox has had multiple siblings among the GM brands; it currently shares an architecture with the GMC Terrain and Buick Envision. Prospective buyers have four trim levels to choose from: L, LS, LT, and Premier. The Equinox has been very successful – Chevy has sold 200,000 or more every year since 2012 and sold almost 350,000 in 2018.
The CX-5 is also a member of generation X. This compact SUV debuted in 2012 as a 2013 model. Like the Equinox, the CX-5 was fully-redesigned in 2017. This crossover SUV is currently available in five different trims: Sport, Touring, Grand Touring, Grand Touring Reserve, and Signature. The CX-5 has been very successful by Mazda standards, selling over 100,000 units every year since 2015.
Although power isn’t as important for compact SUVs in that same way it is for full-size trucks or muscle cars, both of these vehicles manage to put a little pep in your step.
The backbone of the Equinox is its 1.5-liter turbo engine with start/stop technology. Good for 170 horsepower and paired with a six-speed automatic transmission, this engine is the perfect match for the majority of Equinox drivers. Those looking for more power and refinement should upgrade to the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. It comes equipped with a 9-speed auto and 252 horsepower. Drivers with long commutes might choose to go with the 1.6-liter turbo-diesel with 137 horsepower and the same six-speed seen in the 1.5-liter turbo.
The CX-5’s standard engine is a 2.5-liter SkyActiv four-cylinder capable of 187 horsepower. Much like Ford’s EcoBoost engine, Mazda’s SkyActiv program is well-known for its combination of fuel efficiency and power. Grand Touring Reserve and Signature models come with a 2.5-liter turbo four-cylinder engine with 250 horsepower.
The CX-5 lands the first hit with a more powerful base engine, but with the two range-topping engines being equally powerful, this round is nearly a draw. The Equinox’s diesel option puts it over the edge.
Fuel efficiency is one of the areas where cars no longer enjoy the supremacy they once held over SUVs. Yes, most full-size SUVs will never get over 20 miles per gallon, but many small SUV’s now hover around or over 30 miles per gallon. The Equinox and CX-5 both achieve commendable fuel economy.
As one might expect, the 2.0-liter engine in the Equinox gets the lowest marks, as 25 combined miles per gallon. The 1.8-liter 4-cylinder settles in the middle, hitting 28 combined mpg. The diesel manages to shine in both city and highway conditions. It will achieve 28 miles per gallon city and an outstanding 39 miles per gallon on the highway.
In the CX-5, the turbocharged 2.5-liter engine will get 22 mpg city and 27 mpg highway, about the same as the Equinox’s large powerplant. The smaller four-cylinder will get 28 combined mpg, matching the Equinox exactly. Overall, the Chevy’s diesel once again tips the scales. When looking just at petrol-powered mills, the Mazda’s higher horsepower rating for the base engine makes the CX-5 a winner. This round is best left as a toss-up.
Both of these SUVs come with the kind of technology you would expect for such a competitive class. Safety suites come standard on both vehicles, with the Equinox getting high marks for offering a surround-view camera in addition to its backup camera. While both vehicles offer Apple CarPlay, Mazda only just recently offered Android Auto in the CX-5, a standard feature on the Equinox. One feature that really stands out, especially for parents, is the Equinox’s rear seat reminder feature. When a second-row door is opened and closed during or just before a trip, this feature reminds you to check the back seat with five audible chimes and a message in the center of the dash. Taken alone, this feature gives the Equinox an edge. Overall, the Chevy wins this round easily.
Price and Warranty
A base Equinox will set new owners back just under $25k, with a starting price of $24,995. The CX-5 starts a little bit higher, at $25,750. On the other end of the spectrum, a fully-loaded Equinox Premier with upgraded wheels will cost just over $42,000. A CX-5 Signature comes out slightly lower, retailing at $41,620. The difference in price will largely come down to options and color choices. The Equinox offers more color options overall, including some premium colors for $395. A cargo accessory or roof rack could make either car top out at a higher price.
The Equinox and CX-5 both come with 3 years/36,000 miles basic and 5 years/60,000 miles powertrain warranties, which is the standard nearly industry-wide. When it comes to price, these two vehicles are simply too close to call.
We don’t necessarily believe that it is up to us to push you towards either SUV. Both are quality vehicles made by respected manufacturers. Both have attractive combinations of features that appeal to slightly different buyers. What we covered here is by no means the exhaustive list of standard or available features for either vehicle. However, based on the attributes examined here, the Chevy Equinox is the better SUV. Despite many shared attributes with the CX-5, its powertrain options, technology and top fuel efficiency seal the deal.