Word has it that good things come to those who wait, in the case of Holden the wait for a new midsize SUV it’s been a long one indeed.
Over the last decade, the over-the-hill Captiva has been all Holden could offer in a segment that continues to run hot. Despite the ravages of age, the Captiva has done well to keep ticking over, sharp pricing has continued to draw budget-conscious buyers to Holden showrooms.
The 2018 Holden Equinox arrives as part of the brand’s push to reinvigorate its portfolio and move beyond the end of local manufacturing.
The Equinox was meant to be something of a turning point for Holden, a game changer of sorts. The idea was sound, but something has gone amiss. The Equinox hasn’t fired to anywhere near the level of Holden’s expectations.
Landing a clean shot on the jaw of the CX-5, RAV4 and Tucson was never going to be easy. It’s formidable competition, the Mazda’s looks, the Toyota’s reputation and the Hyundai’s price are hard nuts to crack. The Equinox needs to throw some serious heat.
For greater analysis, Holden has supplied a 2018 Equinox LTZ, it’s a variant that sits towards the upper end of the range and costs $39,990 plus on-roads.
The LTZ is well appointed, standard kit includes LED headlights and tail-lights, 19-inch alloy wheels, hands-free power tailgate, leather trim, heated front and rear seats, Bose audio system, and DAB+ digital radio.
ANCAP has assessed the Equinox and given it a five-star safety rating. Autonomous emergency braking, lane keep assist, lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert are all present.
Instantly noticeable is the car’s size, at 4625mm long, the Equinox is slightly larger than most of its big selling rivals. Technically, the best descriptor would be upper midsize.
For a car that was designed and developed in North America it isn’t as garish as one might expect, meaning the chrome is kept to a tasteful splash. The styling is inoffensive and keeps things on the safe side. For a car looking to make its presence felt, perhaps a statement needed to be made to garner some attention.
The old-school antenna and the badging on the lower part of the two front doors date the design, not ideal for a new model.
Pleasingly, the Holden’s larger wheelbase translates to a spacious cabin. In this regard, the Equinox easily outpoints the CX-5 and Tucson.
It’s a very family-friendly interior, the second-row space is outstanding and thanks to a virtually flat rear floor, three passengers can get along comfortably. Those in the back also get proper air vents and charging points.
Particularly noteworthy is the whopping 846 litres of boot space, very helpful if you need to accommodate a pram or two.
From the driver’s seat, the Equinox gets a traditional dash layout. The seating position is excellent and gives occupants that highly desired view of the road.
Fit and finish is surprisingly good, everything looks well screwed together. The mix of material choices is inconsistent at best though. There are some soft-touch materials scattered around, however, like the new Astra, the top of the dash is rock hard.
The leather trim has a decisively premium feel to it and an upmarket look courtesy of a subtle contrast stitch. Those that appreciate the minutiae will find satisfaction in the knurling around the climate controls.
Best of all, the Equinox doesn’t have any shiny black surfaces (the scourge of the family car), the dash and centre console are all covered in matte finishes. It might look bland, but it won't look horrid after five minutes of use.
Holden’s infotainment offering is comprehensive and functional. The LTZ gets an 8.0-inch screen with sat nav, Bluetooth and smartphone mirroring tech Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, something Mazda and Toyota are yet to move on.
The powertrain in our tester consisted of a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine developing 188kW and 353Nm, matched with GM’s new nine-speed automatic transmission. Power is sent to the front wheels, however, an all-wheel drive variant is available.
Performance is something the LTZ doesn't want for. Off the line, the Equinox shows more than enough hustle to keep up with traffic. The nine-speed automatic is buttery smooth as it moves through the gears in both directions.
Holden continues to invest in local tuning and in this instance, the work done on the car’s steering and suspension have been completely legitimised.
The steering feels perfectly weighted regardless of speed. It’s one of the strongest aspects of the package.
Even on 19-inch wheels, the suspension is compliant, generally as the wheels get bigger even small undulations in the road disturb the cabin tranquillity but not in this instance.
Mechanically, the Equinox LTZ is a refined car. It’s pleasant to pilot through a busy city street or during a long highway run.
Two things detract from the driving experience. Firstly, body control isn’t good enough. There is an unnerving amount of roll even at relatively low speeds. Before anyone cracks the sads, we know it’s a tall SUV, however, the body roll here falls well short of the cars Holden are aiming to take sales from.
Secondly, the turning circle is an epic 12.7m which can make city manoeuvring a challenge. For context the Toyota LandCruiser's turning circle is 11.8m.
After a week covering 683 kilometres, we returned a combined consumption figure of 8.2L/100km. A very competitive result given the car’s larger proportions when compared to its rivals. The caveat is the 2.0-litre turbo engine likes to drink premium unleaded.
Service intervals are set at 12 months/12,000km and Holden offers a capped-price structure to cover the first seven visits to the hoist. Under the cap, the first seven services average out to $310 a throw.
Holden continues to experiment with beefed up warranty coverage. At the time of publication, Holden was offering the Equinox with a Kia equalling seven-year unlimited kilometre warranty and seven years of roadside assistance.
No doubt, Holden continues to flirt with the idea of making the move permanent, which it should if it wants to get genuine traction. Despite the rolling promotions, Holden’s website still lists its warranty coverage as being three-year/100,000km. The commitment-phobe approach of on-again/off-again doesn’t send the same message that a permanent change would.
So the Equinox is a good car that adds some much-needed punch to Holden’s portfolio. The refined powertrain, spacious interior and long list of standard inclusions all point to success. Yet the market response has been cool.
The key to market acceptance and subsequent volume is sharper pricing, especially for the entry model. Holden offers the Equinox LS at the favourable drive-away price of $29,990. Unfortunately, this is for a manual, it’s not really the transmission choice of many in a family car. Getting a well-specced auto at this price while maintaining the lengthy warranty support is the ticket to success.
The Equinox does fill a gaping hole in Holden’s range and gives the brand a contender in a competitive segment. If the Equinox is for you, haggle hard.
2018 Holden Equinox LTZ Specifications
Price from $39,990 plus on-road costs Engine 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol Power 188kW @ 5500rpm Torque 353Nm @ 2500-4500rpm Transmission nine-speed automatic Performance 0-100km/h 7.0 seconds Combined Fuel Consumption 8.2L/100km Tank Capacity 55L Length 4625mm Width 2015mm Height 1688mm Wheelbase 2725mm Ground Clearance 175mm Turning Circle 12.7m Kerb Weight 1618kg Service Intervals 12 months/12,000km Warranty three year/100,000 kilometre
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