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America’s Favorite Compact SUVs: Equinox vs Escape

A white 2020 Chevy Equinox is driving on a city street.

The 2020 Chevy Equinox vs the 2020 Ford Escape is a battle worth paying attention to in the vehicle market. These two vehicles are not only two of the most popular compact SUVs on the market; they are two of the top three best selling American non-truck vehicles today. However, in the recent past, Chevy Equinox sales have been far ahead of those of the Ford Escape, and for good reasons. With the superior set of features, the Equinox is one of the best vehicles on the market. That, of course, is not to say that the Escape is not a worthy competitor. So, with that said, let us dig into the details of these two market-leading vehicles to see exactly how they compare.

The First of Many Ties

In what will become a running theme, the 2020 Chevy Equinox and 2020 Ford Escape are virtually identical in size. The Chevy SUV has an inch more wheelbase and is about 2 inches longer overall, while Ford’s design measures almost 2 inches wider and an inch taller, but these dimensional differences are effectively unnoticeable even when the two crossovers are lined up side by side. Unsurprisingly, the amount of interior space offered by the Chevy Equinox and Ford Escape is likewise remarkably similar.

While the paper specifications give the Ford the nod as it has a few fractions of an inch more head and legroom as well as a couple of cubic feet more cargo space, the differences are so marginal as to be irrelevant in practice. Having 30.7 cu.ft. of cargo space instead of 29.9 cu.ft. of cargo space, or 40.7 inches of second-row legroom instead of 39.9 inches of second-row legroom simply is not something that is measurable without tools. However, the interior dimensions of the new 2020 Ford Escape are a significant step up from those of the 2019 Ford Escape, which had prioritized cargo space over passenger comfort. So while no buyer will choose one of the 2020 models over the other based on size, this is now a more level playing field than it was in previous model years.

Capable Engines, But Still No Advantage

A blue 2020 Ford Escape is driving on a dirt road and shown from a high angle after losing the 2020 Chevy Equinox vs 2020 Ford Escape comparison.

As with size, the drivetrains of the 2020 Chevy Equinox and the 2020 Ford Escape are virtually identical. Both SUVs have the option of either a 1.5L turbocharged engine or a larger and more powerful 2.0L turbocharged engine, although the Ford 1.5L is less refined three-cylinder while the Chevy 1.5L is a traditional four-cylinder. Officially, the 1.5L Chevy engine produces 170 hp and 203 lb-ft of torque, while the 1.5L Ford engine generates 181 hp and 190 lb-ft of torque. However, these numbers are not necessarily accurate as Ford tests with higher octane premium fuel. Feeding the Ford Escape with regular gas as most drivers do will likely result in the loss of horsepower.

This same disclaimer also holds true for the larger 2.0L engines, where Ford claims 250 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque against 252 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque for the Chevy engine. But all in all, both of these SUVs will feel more or less the same when the accelerator is depressed. The most considerable drivetrain difference is actually not in the engines but in the transmissions. Both Ford engines come paired with a modern eight-speed automatic transmission, while the base Chevy engine has an older six-speed automatic. However, the top Chevy engine has an even better nine-speed transmission, making it difficult to claim that the drivetrain options in either vehicle are clearly superior.

Still, while the drivetrains in the 2020 Ford Escape do not provide any advantage over those in the 2020 Chevy Equinox, they are a significant step up from those in the 2019 Ford Escape. The new engines are noticeably more powerful and efficient than the outgoing models, and the old Ford Escape used a six-speed automatic transmission across the board. This means that the 2020 Ford Escape is now extremely competitive with the 2020 Chevy Equinox rather than being the clearly inferior vehicle that it was in the past. However, the fact that Ford’s ground-up redesign of the Ford Escape only managed to create a vehicle that barely equals its competition is something of a testament to just how good the current generation of the Chevy Equinox is. Looking solely at mechanics and size, it is clear that Ford failed to create a compact SUV that can dethrone the Chevy Equinox. However, there are still features and technology to consider.

Technology Breaks the Stalemate

The black and brown interior of a 2020 Chevy Equinox is shown.

The available technology is one of the most important aspects of today’s vehicles. In the modern world, drivers are rightly no longer satisfied with a simple AM/FM radio and MP3 player. However, Ford still continues to offer an extremely basic level of technology on its entry-level vehicles. Despite costing just as much as the base trim of the 2020 Chevy Equinox, the lowest trim of the 2020 Ford Escape comes equipped with a small screen and the dated Synch software. This is enough for phone calls and music, but it falls far short of the 7-inch color touch screen and Chevy Infotainment 3 software found in its competitor. This far more modern system supports both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for seamless smartphone integration, allowing the display to be used for numerous apps, including navigation. And while the higher trims of these two SUVs are relatively comparable, with their 8-inch touchscreens and more capable software, overall, it is difficult not to consider the older Chevy Equinox to be the higher-tech vehicle.

This is doubly true when extending the comparison to active safety technologies as well as infotainment. Every trim of the 2020 Chevy Equinox comes standard with two key technologies, automatic emergency braking and lane keep assist, as well as a following distance indicator to help maintain safe traffic intervals. In comparison, the 2020 Ford Escape pairs its automatic emergency braking with a much less effective lane departure warning system that does not provide steering inputs when the vehicle drifts out of its lane.

However, for drivers that spend considerable amounts of time on the highway and multilane roads, the 2020 Ford Escape does have the advantage of standard blind-spot warning on base trim. But this is a rather marginal advantage given that the higher trims of the 2020 Chevy Equinox have that same feature. Comparing the top configurations, the Ford further adds adaptive cruise control, while the Chevy includes 360-degree surround vision and rear park assist. This means that it could be said that the driver assistance features in the 2020 Ford Escape focus more on convenience, while those in the 2020 Chevy Equinox put the emphasis on collision avoidance.

Will Ford Supplant Chevy?

While the new 2020 Ford Escape is an across the board improvement over the outgoing 2019 Ford Escape, when comparing it to the 2020 Chevy Equinox, the best that can be said is that it is competitive. While neither vehicle is clearly better or worse in this battle, “not being clearly worse” than its competitor is not exactly a rousing endorsement for a brand new SUV. So while sales of the new Ford Escape will likely be better than those of the previous generation, they are unlikely to overtake sales of the Chevy Equinox. And finally, as good as the 2020 Chevy Equinox already is, Chevy has already announced that it will soon undergo a significant refresh for the 2022 model year.

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