2020 Chevrolet Equinox vs. 2019 Toyota Highlander

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

For enhanced safety, the Chevrolet Equinox’s rear seat shoulder belts have child comfort guides to move the belt to properly fit children. A better fit can prevent injuries and the increased comfort also encourages children to buckle up. The Toyota Highlander doesn’t offer comfort guides on its rear seat belts.

In the past twenty years hundreds of infants and young children have died after being left in vehicles, usually by accident. When turning the vehicle off, drivers of the Equinox are reminded to check the back seat if they opened the rear door before starting out. The Highlander doesn’t offer a back seat reminder.

Compared to metal, the Equinox’s plastic fuel tank can withstand harder, more intrusive impacts without leaking; this decreases the possibility of fire. The Toyota Highlander has a metal gas tank.

Both the Equinox and the Highlander have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, side-impact head airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, front wheel drive, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, crash mitigating brakes, daytime running lights, lane departure warning systems, rearview cameras, available all wheel drive, blind spot warning systems, around view monitors and rear cross-path warning.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does 35 MPH front crash tests on new vehicles. In this test, results indicate that the Chevrolet Equinox is safer than the Toyota Highlander:

Equinox

Highlander

OVERALL STARS

5 Stars

4 Stars

Driver

STARS

5 Stars

4 Stars

HIC

159

195

Neck Injury Risk

17%

47%

Neck Stress

190 lbs.

509 lbs.

Neck Compression

10 lbs.

73 lbs.

Leg Forces (l/r)

363/349 lbs.

409/517 lbs.

Passenger

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

Neck Injury Risk

26%

32%

Neck Stress

153 lbs.

219 lbs.

Neck Compression

51 lbs.

55 lbs.

Leg Forces (l/r)

264/236 lbs.

387/392 lbs.

New test not comparable to pre-2011 test results. More stars = Better. Lower test results = Better.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does side impact tests on new vehicles. In this test, which crashes the vehicle into a post at 20 MPH, results indicate that the Chevrolet Equinox is safer than the Toyota Highlander:

Equinox

Highlander

Into Pole

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

Max Damage Depth

13 inches

16 inches

Spine Acceleration

40 G’s

43 G’s

Hip Force

730 lbs.

829 lbs.

New test not comparable to pre-2011 test results. More stars = Better. Lower test results = Better.

Warranty

The Equinox’s corrosion warranty is 1 year longer than the Highlander’s (6 vs. 5 years).

There are over 2 times as many Chevrolet dealers as there are Toyota dealers, which makes it much easier should you ever need service under the Equinox’s warranty.

Reliability

To reliably start during all conditions and help handle large electrical loads, the Equinox has a standard 700-amp battery. The Highlander’s 604-amp battery isn’t as powerful.

J.D. Power and Associates rated the Equinox first among compact SUVs in their 2019 Initial Quality Study. The Highlander isn’t in the top three in its category.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 Initial Quality Study of new car owners surveyed provide the statistics that show that Chevrolet vehicles are better in initial quality than Toyota vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Chevrolet 6th in initial quality, above the industry average. With 5 more problems per 100 vehicles, Toyota is ranked 8th.

Engine

The Equinox’s standard 1.5 turbo 4-cyl. produces 19 lbs.-ft. more torque (203 vs. 184) than the Highlander’s standard 2.7 DOHC 4-cyl.

As tested in Motor Trend the Chevrolet Equinox 2.0 turbo 4-cyl. is faster than the Toyota Highlander V6:

Equinox

Highlander

Zero to 60 MPH

6.6 sec

7.2 sec

Quarter Mile

15.2 sec

15.5 sec

Fuel Economy and Range

On the EPA test cycle the Equinox gets better fuel mileage than the Highlander:

MPG

Equinox

FWD

1.5 turbo 4-cyl.

26 city/31 hwy

2.0 turbo 4-cyl.

22 city/29 hwy

AWD

1.5 turbo 4-cyl.

25 city/30 hwy

2.0 turbo 4-cyl.

22 city/28 hwy

Highlander

FWD

2.7 DOHC 4-cyl.

20 city/24 hwy

w/Start/Stop 3.5 DOHC V6

21 city/27 hwy

3.5 DOHC V6

20 city/27 hwy

AWD

LE Plus 3.5 DOHC V6

20 city/27 hwy

XLE/SE/Limited 3.5 DOHC V6

20 city/26 hwy

LE 3.5 DOHC V6

19 city/26 hwy

Regardless of its engine, the Equinox’s engine automatically turns off when the vehicle is stopped, saving fuel and reducing pollution. (Start/Stop isn’t accounted in present EPA fuel mileage tests.) Toyota only offers an automatic engine start/stop system on the Highlander LE Plus/XLE/Limited/Platinum.

The Equinox has a standard cap-less fueling system. The fuel filler is automatically opened when the fuel nozzle is inserted and automatically closed when it’s removed. This eliminates the need to unscrew and replace the cap and it reduces fuel evaporation, which causes pollution. The Highlander doesn’t offer a cap-less fueling system.

Transmission

A nine-speed automatic is standard on the Chevrolet Equinox 2.0 turbo 4-cyl., for better acceleration and lower engine speed on the highway. Only an eight-speed automatic is available for the Highlander.

Brakes and Stopping

The Equinox stops much shorter than the Highlander:

Equinox

Highlander

70 to 0 MPH

161 feet

186 feet

Car and Driver

60 to 0 MPH

119 feet

131 feet

Motor Trend

60 to 0 MPH (Wet)

141 feet

146 feet

Consumer Reports

Tires and Wheels

The Equinox Premier’s optional tires provide better handling because they have a lower 50 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the Highlander SE/Limited/Platinum’s 55 series tires.

The Equinox has a standard easy tire fill system. When inflating the tires, the vehicle’s integrated tire pressure sensors keep track of the pressure as the tires fill and tell the driver when the tires are inflated to the proper pressure. The Highlander doesn’t offer vehicle monitored tire inflation.

Suspension and Handling

The Equinox Premier AWD handles at .86 G’s, while the Highlander AWD pulls only .80 G’s of cornering force in a Car and Driver skidpad test.

The Equinox Premier executes Motor Trend’s “Figure Eight” maneuver quicker than the Highlander LE (27.7 seconds @ .61 average G’s vs. 28.3 seconds @ .64 average G’s).

For better maneuverability, the Equinox’s turning circle is 1.3 feet tighter than the Highlander’s (37.4 feet vs. 38.7 feet).

Chassis

The Chevrolet Equinox may be more efficient, handle and accelerate better because it weighs about 850 to 1000 pounds less than the Toyota Highlander.

The Equinox is 9.4 inches shorter than the Highlander, making the Equinox easier to handle, maneuver and park in tight spaces.

The front grille of the Equinox uses electronically controlled shutters to close off airflow and reduce drag when less engine cooling is needed. This helps improve highway fuel economy. The Highlander doesn’t offer active grille shutters.

The Equinox uses computer-generated active noise cancellation to help remove annoying noise and vibration from the passenger compartment, especially at low frequencies. The Highlander doesn’t offer active noise cancellation.

Passenger Space

The front step up height for the Equinox is 2.1 inches lower than the Highlander (17.2” vs. 19.3”). The Equinox’s rear step up height is 2 inches lower than the Highlander’s (17.5” vs. 19.5”).

Cargo Capacity

A low lift-over cargo hatch design makes loading and unloading the Equinox easier. The Equinox’s cargo hatch lift-over height is 28.6 inches, while the Highlander’s liftover is 29.7 inches.

Pressing a switch automatically lowers the Equinox LT/Premier’s rear seats, to make changing between passengers and cargo easier. The Highlander doesn’t offer automatic folding seats.

To make loading groceries and cargo easier when your hands are full, the Equinox Premier’s liftgate can be opened and closed just by kicking your foot under the back bumper, leaving your hands completely free. The Highlander doesn’t offer a hands-free gesture to open its liftgate, forcing you to put cargo down if your hands are full.

Servicing Ease

The Equinox has a maintenance free battery for long life without checking the battery’s water level. The Highlander doesn’t have a maintenance free battery, so the water level in the battery’s cells must be checked often to prevent damage.

Ergonomics

The Equinox offers a remote vehicle starting system, so the vehicle can be started from inside the driver's house. This allows the driver to comfortably warm up the engine before going out to the vehicle. The climate system will also automatically heat or cool the interior. The Highlander doesn’t offer a remote starting system.

The Equinox’s optional easy entry system glides the driver’s seat back when the door is unlocked or the ignition is switched off, making it easier for the driver to get in and out. The Highlander doesn’t offer an easy entry system.

The Equinox’s instruments include an oil pressure gauge and a temperature gauge - which could save your engine! Often ‘idiot lights’ don’t warn you until damage has been done. The Highlander does not have an oil pressure gauge.

The power windows standard on both the Equinox and the Highlander have locks to prevent small children from operating them. When the lock on the Equinox is engaged the driver can still operate all of the windows, for instance to close one opened by a child. The Highlander prevents the driver from operating the other windows just as it does the other passengers.

The Equinox’s front and rear power windows all lower with one touch of the switches, making it more convenient at drive-up windows and toll booths, or when talking with someone outside of the car. The Highlander’s standard power windows’ rear power window switches have to be held the entire time to open them fully.

On a hot day the Equinox’s driver can lower all the windows from a distance using the keyless remote. The driver of the Highlander can only operate the windows from inside the vehicle, with the ignition on.

In case you lock your keys in your vehicle, or don’t have them with you, you can let yourself in using the Equinox LS/LT/Premier’s available exterior keypad. The Highlander doesn’t offer an exterior keypad entry system.

When the Equinox with available tilt-down mirrors is put in reverse, both rearview mirrors tilt from their original position. This gives the driver a better view of the curb during parallel parking maneuvers. Shifting out of reverse puts the mirrors into their original positions. The Highlander’s mirrors don’t automatically adjust for backing.

The Equinox offers optional automatic dimming rear and side view mirrors which automatically darken quickly when headlights shine on them, keeping following vehicles from blinding or distracting the driver. The Highlander offers an automatic rear view mirror, but its side mirrors don’t dim.

Economic Advantages

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the Equinox is less expensive to operate than the Highlander because typical repairs cost much less on the Equinox than the Highlander, including $57 less for a starter and $952 less for a timing belt/chain.

Recommendations

J.D. Power and Associates rated the Equinox first among compact SUVs in owner reported satisfaction. This includes how well the vehicle performs and satisfies its owner’s expectations. The Highlander isn’t in the top three in its category.

The Chevrolet Equinox outsold the Toyota Highlander by 36% during 2018.

© 1991-2018 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved.

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