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A dark blue 2021 Chevy Equinox is shown parked at an angle in a warehouse after winning a 2021 Chevy Equinox vs 2021 Mazda CX-5 comparison.

Compact SUVs for Daily Driving: 2021 Chevy Equinox vs 2021 Mazda CX-5

If you’re in the market for a compact SUV you plan to drive daily; your head is probably reeling from the many options available. Every major car manufacturer in the market today has a compact SUV to sell, and they are available at every price point. A pair of market favorites are priced almost evenly, with one focused more on reliability and comfort and the other leaning toward road performance. Comparing the 2021 Chevy Equinox vs 2021 Mazda CX-5 may reveal some surprising attributes on the side of the Chevy, but those who favor the pep of the Mazda may not be deterred by the downsides of its limitations. Each of these SUVs delivers a stylish, attractive exterior appeal and can be upgraded with a bevy of options for convenience and comfort.

Say what you like about the Equinox, but it’s a reliable old soldier when it comes to daily driving. Over its many years of production, it consistently gets high ratings for reliability, and it currently rests at #2 on the Top Ten Consumer Rated SUV list from JD Power. Surprisingly, the Mazda CX-5 doesn’t appear on the Top Ten list this year despite its competitive pricing, nor does it have the same high rating for reliability as the 2021 Equinox.

List prices are comparable for these two SUVs, with the 2021 Equinox starting at an MSRP of $23,800 and the 2021 Mazda CX-5 coming in at $25,370. If you plan to stick with the lower price range of these SUVs, the Chevy Equinox is likely to be the better expenditure in terms of resale value and reliability, not to mention warranty coverage overall.

Power and Economy for the Daily Drive

When it comes to engine performance and fuel economy, the 2021 Equinox gets a slight edge in savings at the pump with its standard 1.5-liter engine that produces 170 hp and 203 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy of 26 MPG city and 31 MPG highway is good for an SUV of any size, though it does drop to 25 MPG city and 30 MPG highway with the optional all-wheel drive. If you happen to want to tow a micro-camper or light equipment trailer, this engine is rated to tow 1,500 pounds. Driving the Equinox will deliver a comfortable, cushy ride on the roadways with plenty of cabin insulation from both exterior noise and uneven surfaces. This is an SUV made for cruising the highways, taking family trips, and running errands.

Mazda’s 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine generates 187 hp with 186 lb-ft of torque. More horses, less twist than the Equinox, and slightly less fuel economy at 25 MPG city and 31 MPG, which drops to 24 MPG city and 30 MPG highway with all-wheel drive. The CX-5 has a slight edge in towing with up to 2,000 pounds of capacity, but neither of these SUVs is the vehicle you want if you plan to tow anything on a regular basis.

Alternately, even though the Mazda is often reviewed as a fun vehicle to drive due to its balanced steering and organized suspension, that firmness in the suspension affects the ride comfort. You often sacrifice ride quality if you want better performance. Buyers who want the excitement of taking turns a little faster will want the Mazda, while those who prefer to feel fewer bumps in the road will want the Equinox. Daily driving will mean a little less expenditure in the Equinox when it comes to filling the tank, too.

A drak grey 2021 Mazda CX 5 is shown from above driving in the rain.

Technology for Daily Life

In terms of technology, the 2021 Equinox and CX-5 are fairly well matched. There are a few differences in the offerings, but the value is about the same for the features that come standard in each vehicle. For instance, both Chevy and Mazda include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for all trims, plus the typical Bluetooth connectivity with voice commands for the infotainment system. Each SUV comes with the option to add telematics for emergency assistance and other services like WiFi with a subscription service. A few differences show up in the number of speakers and sizes of the touchscreens in the center stack, but one difference that affects daily use could be a dealbreaker for some buyers.

With modern vehicles, we now expect to pair our infotainment with smartphones so we can bring our own playlists, content, and apps with us wherever we go. Chevy’s infotainment system is user-friendly and easy to interact with, making use of the touchscreen a fairly simple affair. In the Mazda, the infotainment is more frustrating to use, with less intuitive interaction, even with the handy knobs to toggle through content. When you’re on the road and need to interact with the infotainment on a daily basis, the ease of a simpler system is going to be less of a frustration. Little things like an annoying interface can take away from the fun of a vehicle, especially if it affects the quality of your daily drive.

Safety Focused on Specific Drivers

Buyers who want a vehicle geared toward family are likely to prefer the 2021 Equinox for a pair of thoughtful safety features you don’t get on the Mazda. More on that in a moment, but once again, these two SUVs are almost evenly matched in the value of the features they offer for driver-assisted safety. The 2021 Equinox and 2021 Mazda CX-5 were both awarded five out of five stars from NHTSA for overall safety and are considered to be excellent at either avoiding or mitigating potential impacts on the road when the driver-assisted safety features are engaged.

Both SUVs come standard with stability and traction control, rearview cameras, automatic emergency braking, and front pedestrian braking. Each SUV also has its own version of forward collision prevention and lane departure warnings with a lane-keeping assistance feature. Where the two vehicles diverge is in Chevy’s standard inclusion of a Following Distance Indicator and IntelliBeam Auto High Beam Assist in comparison to Mazda’s standard Blind Spot Monitoring and the Radar Cruise Control. Each of these features has its value, and it may depend on where you spend most of your time driving to decide which is best for your needs. However, what is missing as standard on the Equinox is still available to add on.

Chevy then includes a Rear Seat Reminder and a Teen Driver feature which puts the Equinox squarely in the realm of parents seeking a safer SUV for their kids. Whether your children are small enough to fall asleep in the back seat or old enough to drive your car, both of these features take your kids into consideration. So, you are safe with either option, but the Chevy Equinox does give you some more unique features than the Mazda CX-5.

A silver 2021 Chevy Equinox is shown from the back driving in a city.

Warranties and Final Run-Down

Lastly, when you look at the fine print of the warranties on each SUV, the 2021 Equinox edges out the 2021 CX-5 with a couple of items that could make a big difference if you need them. What both vehicles gain from the manufacturer warranties is good powertrain coverage for five years or 60,000 miles and a solid bumper-to-bumper warranty of three years or 36,000 miles. Mazda only offers roadside assistance for three years or 36,000 miles, and Chevy gives buyers five years or 60,000 miles. Chevy then goes further with a free visit for maintenance in the first year, plus corrosion coverage for three years or 36,000 miles and rust-through coverage for six years or 100,000 miles.

Clearly, the Equinox is better covered than the Mazda for the price, but also for the overall manufacturer warranty. Buyers in the market for the more dynamic driving experience offered by the Mazda CX-5 are unlikely to be swayed by a few discrepancies in comparison with the 2021 Equinox, but your money will go farther with an investment in the Chevy. For the warranty alone, the Chevy is the better deal, but it also starts at a lower price, and you will save over time at the pump. For singles or young couples, the Mazda may be more fun, but families or more savings-focused buyers are going to benefit from the 2021 Equinox.