As the Chicago Auto Show kicks off in the Windy City, General Motors unveiled a mid-cycle refresh of one of the most popular compact crossovers on the market.

For 2021, Chevrolet's Equinox cosies up a little closer to its big brother, the Blazer, adopting a meaner-looking face and offering, for the first time, a sport-oriented RS variant. A CUV that's lacked attitude since its inception now wears a snarl.

There's only so much an automaker can do to differentiate a refreshed model from its predecessor, so the entirety of the exterior changes take place fore and aft. The Blazer-esque grille pairs with a redesigned lower fascia and rejigged rear. Back there, the taillights mercifully take on a new design (or adopt one at all), appearing like a set of LED barbecue tongs that became warped after grabbing a too-big slab of meat.

The front end's the bigger story, with designers opting to spear the headlamp array with the grille's crossbar. LED light strip above the border, driving lights below. A grille that doesn't plunge quite as deep in the center and a wider lower air opening erases much of the visual derpiness that once plagued this model's visage.

Powertrains are a carryover. With the Great Diesel Experiment now over, the only choice of motivation is the usual 1.5- and 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinders, mated to either a six- or nine-speed automatic. Front- or all-wheel drive, take your pick. Trim levels, like before, include base L, LS, LT, and a range-topping Premier (now with more interior tinsel, a black-and-chrome grille treatment, and LED lamps), but 2021 brings an RS version into the fold.

As you'd expect, especially after perusing the Blazer version, this option is a feast for the eyes, not the soul. Sporting blacked-out everything, the RS dons 19-inch wheels and a boatload of red stitching to lend a touch of visual menace, setting your ride apart from the other Equinoxes waiting outside your kid's school at 4 p.m. Power doesn't change, but stay clear of those quad tips just in case.

Standard on all Equinoxes for 2021 are automatic emergency braking, front pedestrian braking, forward collision alert, lane-keep assist with lane departure warning, and a following distance indicator. Of course, there's a rear-vision camera, too. Niceties like blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert will require an outlay of additional dollars, depending on trim.

The Equinox remains an enormously important product for GM, one whose popularity seems to know no ceiling. Some 346,048 Equinoxes rolled out of dealerships last year - a significant jump from 2018, making the model nearly three times as popular as the entire Jaguar Land Rover lineup. Put another way, the Equinox moved more than double the volume of the Chrysler, Fiat, and Alfa Romeo brands. It came close to outselling the combined might of Cadillac and Buick.

The 2021 Equinox lands in dealerships this fall. Updated pricing will roll out sometime before then.

first published on TTAC