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2021 Chevy Equinox vs 2021 Mazda CX-5

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  • 2021 Chevy Equinox

    A white 2021 Chevy Equinox LT is angled left.

    Starting at

    $23,800

    2021 Mazda CX-5

    A black 2021 Mazda CX-5 Signature is angled right.

    Starting at

    $25,370

    63.9Cargo Space (cu.ft.)59.6
    26 / 31Fuel Economy (city/hwy mpg)25 / 31
    6Standard Speakers (qty)4

    2021 promises to be another favorable year to purchase a small SUV with so many choices available in the segment. Since 2013, the Chevy Equinox has held either the #1 or #2 spot for JD Power's Top Ten consumer-rated SUV category, and the Equinox is often favored by parents for being a safe and overall great family car. The Mazda CX-5 has its own accolades for being a Car and Driver 10Best vehicle four years in a row and has received top safety awards from IIHS. Awards speak volumes about what buyers may expect from each of these small SUVs, but what will comparing the 2021 Chevy Equinox vs 2021 Mazda CX-5 reveal?

    It could be argued that each of these small SUVs occupies a different portion of the market, but the Equinox and CX-5 are more alike than buyers may realize. In fact, with so many similarities, it may get buyers wondering why the CX-5 has a higher price tag than the Equinox. Both vehicles seat five and share about the same amount of cargo and passenger space, and even have many of the same tech features. What may come as a surprise is that the Equinox offers quite a few standard features the CX-5 does not, and some of those features may explain why the Equinox is a family favorite, especially for safety.

  • Standard Features

    The black and brown interior is shown in a 2021 Chevy Equinox.

    When comparing the entry-level features of the 2021 Equinox vs 2021 CX-5, you will find that in many ways, the two vehicles share a number of virtually identical specs. Both vehicles come standard with 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels with P225/65 all-season tires, a respectable choice for driving in any conditions. While both these small SUVs are considered more road-oriented vehicles, each has the option to add all-wheel drive for better traction in snow or mud. An electronic traction control system is present on both vehicles to assist with stability in poor driving conditions.

    Comfort and Features

    One key difference between the Equinox and the CX-5 shows up in the cabin. Chevy incorporates several standard features to make the interior of the Equinox quieter - particularly when riding on the highway - such as active noise cancellation technology. Mazda does not include this feature in its compact SUV, nor does it offer solar-absorbing glass to keep the vehicle cooler on sunny days, a feature Chevy provides standard for the Equinox on all trims.

    Other standard features found on the Equinox include active aero shutters, which close automatically at high speeds to improve aerodynamics, and heated exterior mirrors to make winter ice less of a hassle. Neither is available on the CX-5 at entry-level, though the CX-5 does offer rain-sensing wipers, a useful feature. Though in comparison to the Equinox features, the wipers aren't as practical. Having a quiet cabin, better fuel efficiency, and protection from the sun are more likely to be appreciated for the savings and comfort on a daily basis.

    Interior Design

    Features like cloth seats, powered accessories, manually-adjusting front seats, and a tilting and telescoping steering wheel are standard for both the Mazda and Chevy SUVs. More differentiation exists between the technology in the infotainment systems, which may sway some buyers. Chevy's infotainment system is generally more intuitive and easier to use when interfacing and connecting smartphones with the standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but also to access vehicle settings and using integrated apps.

    Mazda offers the same smartphone connectivity, but the infotainment system is not as intuitive and may be a frustration buyers will find unfavorable when needing to use it every time they use their phones in the car. The reason for this is that Mazda uses a center-console button system, while Chevy has a simple touchscreen. If you can get past the infotainment interface, both vehicles share Bluetooth, voice commands, and WiFi access through a subscription service. Chevy offers OnStar, while Mazda provides its own Mazda Connected service for this feature.

  • Efficiency and Conveniences

    A close up shows the driver through the moonroof of a red 2021 Chevy Equinox after winning the 2021 Chevy Equinox vs 2021 Mazda CX-5.

    Comparing the fuel efficiency of the 2021 Equinox to the 2021 CX-5 at first paints the two vehicles as virtually the same in terms of gas mileage. While the Equinox gets a fair 26/31 mpg, that number is for front-wheel drive. Of course, the similar gas mileage for the CX-5 at 25/31 is also for front-wheel drive. Both these vehicles have the option of adding all-wheel drive, which drops the fuel efficiency. The Chevy fuel efficiency lowers to 25/30 mpg, an expected small loss in mileage. For the Mazda, gas mileage drops down to 24/30 at a similar rate.

    Numbers for the turbocharged engine Mazda offers as an option will lower fuel efficiency to 23/28 mpg, a more expensive number for the engine most buyers will likely want for performance. The Mazda turbocharged engine also requires more expensive premium fuel to get all of its potential performance. In the case of the Equinox, the one engine option is already turbocharged and gets superior fuel efficiency, saving more money at the pump.

    Convenience Features

    Conveniences come in many forms, and one that the 2021 Equinox delivers as an option for all trims is an engine block heater. This may not seem like a convenience until you go to start your vehicle in the winter, and the Equinox will start better and function better because the engine fluids are kept warm. The life of your vehicle tends to be longer with engine heaters, and a side effect is that heat in your cabin comes on quicker. Though Mazda does not offer the engine block heater for the CX-5, both SUVs do share a few convenience features like keyless open and push-button start, split-folding back seats, and USB ports with an auxiliary jack for data.

    Interior Space

    Space for cargo and passengers is about the same for both SUVs. Even though they are considered small, Chevy's Equinox has up to 63.9 cubic feet of total space in the back with the seats folded down. With the seats up, the rear trunk area still has ample room with 29.9 cubic feet, which is double the standard trunk of a midsize sedan. Mazda is close, with a total of 59.6 cubic feet when the seats are down and 30.9 cubic feet with the rear seats in place. Similarly, legroom is also comparable. The Equinox offers front-seat passengers up to 40.9 inches, and in the rear seats a roomy 39.9 inches. Numbers for the CX-5 are slightly different, with 41.0 inches in front and 39.6 inches in back.

  • Safety Standards

    A close up shows the infotainment screen and backup camera view in a 2021 Chevy Equinox.

    While several features of the 2021 Equinox and the 2021 CX-5 may be quite similar, safety features are one area where the two vehicles diverge in comparison. Chevy made the Chevy Safety Assist suite of driver-assisted technology standard for the 2021 Equinox, which gives drivers six active features to help prevent or lessen impacts. For a vehicle often revered for its peppy driving capability, the Mazda CX-5 also comes with a standard safety suite. It is worth mentioning that some features on the CX-5 are not included in what Mazda considers the i-Activsense suite of driver-assisted technologies, such as electronic brake-force distribution or brake assist. Then again, the Equinox offers a few extra features of its own where safety is concerned.

    Active Safety

    A few of the features that come standard on the Equinox include Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning, Automatic Emergency Braking with Forward Collision Alert, and Front Pedestrian Braking. Mazda's safety suite offers similar features but differs from Chevy's with the inclusion of Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Radar Cruise Control. However, Chevy bundles into its safety suite a Following Distance Indicator to help you stay a safe distance behind the car in front of you. Depending on what feature buyers value, each feature has its merits.

    Extra Features

    Active safety features vary from one vehicle to the next, but the passive safety features lists can make a big difference in a car's capabilities, too. Airbag systems are generally comprehensive for most vehicles today, and both Mazda and Chevy incorporate LATCH systems for child seats, child safety locks for the back seats, and rearview cameras for better views while driving in reverse. LED daytime running lights are also standard for both the Equinox and CX-5. Still, Chevy adds a rear-seat reminder so parents won't forget little ones in the back and Teen Driver so parents can set limits on speed and stereo volume for their less experienced drivers to stay safer on the road. Features like these are what parents love about the Equinox as a family SUV.

Dan Cummins Chevrolet Buick of Georgetown 38.2189, -84.5411.