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Chicago — General Motors Co. debuted the 2018 Chevrolet Equinox here Thursday night, showcasing a more modern, lighter compact crossover with an available turbocharged diesel that’s a first for the segment in North America.

The automaker chose to reveal the new Equinox on the day of the autumn equinox at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry to about 200 dealers and members of the media. Chicago is one of the best markets for the crossover.

Chevy’s second-best-selling vehicle, available in the U.S. in the spring, drops about 400 pounds, or 10 percent of its weight, and is four inches shorter than the current model. But there’s still more interior space. The turning circle is 10 percent tighter, making it easier to park, GM says.

“We needed to develop a vehicle that allowed them to check off every box,” GM President Alan Batey said. “They’re looking for technology, they’re looking for safety and a beautiful design in a versatile efficient package. The new Equinox, I promise, delivers on all fronts.”

The new crossover’s exterior is lean and muscular, and takes design cues and shapes from the Chevy Volt, Malibu and Cruze.

The Equinox sits on a new architecture that lets the crossover’s instrument panel be positioned down and away. A low windshield panel allows a good view. It also has a rear “kneeling” seat: The bottom cushions tilt forward when seatbacks are lowered, to allow for a flat floor for loading.

The 2018 model will offer the choice of three turbocharged engines, including a 1.6-liter turbo diesel that Chevy says will be the first turbo-diesel in North America in the compact SUV segment.

GM estimates the new diesel will offer 40 miles per gallon fuel economy on the highway.

The gasoline powerplants offered are a 1.5-liter turbo or a 2-liter turbo. The 2-liter is mated to a new 9-speed automatic transmission. They replace a 2.4-liter four-cylinder and a 3.6-liter V-6 that are mated to six-speed transmissions.

The 2018 SUV features several active safety and adaptive crash-avoidance technologies such as surround vision; forward-collision alert with following-distance indicator; low-speed forward automatic braking; lane-keep assist with lane-departure warning; lane-change alert with side blind-zone alert; and rear cross-traffic alert. A rear-seat reminder alerts drivers to check the back seat where a child may be sitting.

GM has sold more than 2 million Equinox SUVs since its launch as a 2005 model. The SUV will be available in the U.S. in spring of 2017 and to some 115 global markets later in 2017.

The crossover has been a big seller for Chevy and is second in sales only to the Silverado pickup. Through August of this year, Equinox sales have totaled 158,475, down 17.7 percent year-over-year, in part because the manufacturer is pulling back on sales to rental car companies. In 2015, Equinox sales totaled 277,589; 242,242 were sold in 2014.

Stephanie Brinley, a senior analyst for IHS Markit, said Chevy needed to modernize the Equinox and improve its fuel economy to help the vehicle stay competitive in a hot segment.

“It does look dated at this point,” she said of the current model. “It does need to freshen up.”

Brinley said the Equinox may be the newest crossover in the segment for a time. The crossover competes with popular nameplates including the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape, Jeep Cherokee and Nissan Rogue.

She expects the Equinox may see a slight sales bump next year. But she said automakers will find it hard to grow market share in the segment because of numerous entries and because U.S. sales overall are flattening.

Batey and Steve Majoros, Chevrolet marketing director, believe the new Equinox will help grow sales, though the company would not provide specifics.

Analysts say the next-generation Equinox will be built at CAMI Assembly in Ingersoll, Ontario, and at two plants in Mexico.

Analysts expect to see the GMC Terrain hit the market later in 2017.

Pricing is not yet available on the 2018 Equinox. The 2017 model starts at about $24,000 for a front-wheel drive version, with an all-wheel drive variant available beginning at about $28,000.

mburden@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2319

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