Holden is leaving its manufacturing past behind and forging into an import-only future like the rest of its competitors. It’s uncharted waters for the home grown brand that used to rely heavily on its locally made Commodore.
The first of a swag of new models to arrive post local manufacturing is the Holden Equinox medium-sized SUV. It replaces the geriatric Captiva that’s been with us back when mullets were fashionable, and plays in the hotly contested segment that includes strong contenders like the Mazda CX-5, Hyundai Tucson and Honda CR-V.
Sourced from GM’s Mexican plant, the Equinox looks almost one size bigger compared to its competitors yet only has seating for five.
Available in four variants, prices start from $27,990 for the LS and works its way up to $46,290 for the LTZ-V range-topper – all before on-road costs. Our Equinox LS+ test car is priced from $32,990 is probably the sweet spot of the range, with the ‘+’ signifying the addition of a suite of safety equipment (see specification below) for peace of mind.
The LS is motivated by a 1.5-litre direct-injected, turbocharged ECOTEC petrol engine delivering 127kW at 5,600rpm and 275Nm at 2,000-4,000rpm. It is mated with a 6-speed automatic transmission (a 6-speed manual is also available) that drives the front wheels.
Designed by GM in the US, the Equinox’s styling is – subjectively – relatively bland compared to its more expressive rivals, especially in base LS trim with its smaller, 17-inch wheels and el-cheapo non-LED taillights.
Inside, the plus-size exterior dimensions translate into one of the roomiest interiors in its class with enormous legroom in the back. As befitting its American roots, the front seats are big, wide and cushy, while the equally generous rear seat accommodation could quite easily fit three averaged-sized adults comfortably. Middle seat passenger also won’t feel short-changed, thanks to a hump-free floor.
Ergonomics are generally spot-on, too, with most screens, switches and knobs where you expect them to be. The 7-inch MyLink infotainment screen would be familiar to most Holden drivers with logically arranged and easy to use menus. However, LS buyers can expect to chew through their mobile data quicker as there is no built-in sat-nav. Drivers instead have to rely on their smartphone maps, which on the plus side, are projected onto the screen via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
The Equinox comes with a unique first-of-their-kind haptic seat feature that vibrates the seat base bolsters to alert the driver instead of assaulting their ears with incessant chimes, while the umbrella holders in the doors take a leaf from Skoda’s handbook.
There is also plenty of storage for modern life’s clutter, including a giant storage bin under the front centre armrest (which incidentally, is situated a little too high for my 5’7” frame) that is big enough to swallow an iPad Pro, as well as sizeable door bins.
Like almost everything from the US, the boot is cavernous at 846 litres and by tumbling the rear seats; this expands to a ginormous 1,798 litres. By comparison, the segment leading Mazda CX-5 displaces just 442 litres and 1,342 litres, respectively. There’s one caveat though, to get a completely flat floor, the middle seat headrest must first be removed.
The 1.5-litre turbocharged engine might appear small given the size of the Equinox but it gives willing performance and cruises unobtrusively. The six-speed automatic is smooth and matches well with the engine, masking any significant torque deficit lower down in the rev range.
However, the engine idle stop/start function cannot be switched off and it isn’t as refined as the Mazda CX-5 especially when the rev needle sweeps towards the middle of the arch.
Fuel economy is rated at 6.9L/100km although the best we achieved over a mix of urban and freeway driving was 9.6L/100km.
While the Equinox was conceived in the US, it arrives in Australia with a thick Aussie accent thanks to Holden engineers who carried out extensive local tuning for our market. The local model sports new suspension dampers, sway bars and bushes to tighten up the chassis to suit Aussie tastes.
The result is well-judged and responsive handling and a fluid and supple ride quality on most road surfaces that family would appreciate. The Equinox is also one of the more engaging mid-size SUVs to drive with good steering feel and neat body control.
Our test vehicle reveals no glaring build quality issues, although general fit and finish can be improved. There’s a noticeable gap on one of the inside door lever on our test car which wasn’t fitted properly.
- READ MORE: Full specifications
Holden is aware how competitive the segment in which the Equinox is playing in and has jam-packed the car with equipment. Standard features highlights include:
- 6 airbags
- 17-inch alloy wheels
- Rear view camera and rear park assist
- Automatic headlights with LED DRLs
- Active Noise Cancellation
The LS+ adds Holden Eye forward facing camera system that brings:
- Automatic Emergency Braking
- Lane Keep Assist
- Lane Departure Warning
- Following Distance Indicator
- Forward Collision Alert with Head-up Warning
- Blind Spot Alert
- Safety Alert driver’s seat
- Rear Cross Traffic Alert
- Automatic High Beam Assist
- Power Folding Exterior Mirrors
Design and Comfort: 7.0/10
Performance and Handling: 7.5/10
Features and Equipment: 8.0/10
There’s a lot to like about Holden’s first import post local manufacturing. It’s just a shame all of its dynamic competence and practicality are wrapped in an exterior designed by a couple of crayon-wielding two year olds.
Its insipid styling may prove a challenge to entice buyers in this style-conscious segment brimming with talents but those who are prepared to look past superficiality will find an exceedingly roomy and practical SUV that drives to our Aussie tastes.
- Spacious interior and capacious boot
- Competent ride and handling
- Value for money
- Bland styling
- Fit and finish has room for improvement
2018 Holden Equinox LS+ pricing and specification
|Pricing (Excluding on-road costs):||From $27,990|
As tested: $32,990
|Warranty:||3 years/100,000 kilometres|
|Warranty Customer Assistance||1 year Roadside|
|Country of Origin:||Mexico|
|Service Intervals:||12 months/12,000km|
|Engine:||1.5-litre turbocharged direct-injected in-line four-cylinder petrol:|
127kW @ 5,600rpm, 275Nm @ 2,000-4,000rpm
|Power-to-Weight Ratio (W/kg):||85.7|
|Combined Fuel Consumption (L/100km):||Claimed: 6.9/Tested: 9.6|
|Fuel Capacity (L):||55|
|Safety:||· 5-star ANCAP|
· 6 airbags
· Brake Assist
· Automatic Emergency Braking
· Lane Keep Assist
· Lane Departure Warning
· Following Distance Indicator
· Forward Collision Alert with Head-up Warning
· Blind Spot Alert
· Safety Alert driver’s seat
· Rear Cross Traffic Alert
· Automatic High Beam Assist
· Space Saver Spare Tyre
|Dimensions (L/W/H/W-B) mm:||4,652/1,843/1,661/2,725|
|Turning Circle Between Kerbs:||11.4|
|Kerb Weight (kg):||1,514|
|Boot Space (min/max) (L):||846/1,798|
|Towing Capacity (kg):||Braked: 1,500/Unbraked: 750|
|Entertainment:||· MyLink 7-inch colour touchscreen|
· Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
· 12V charger