Holden is addressing any perceived negatives by leaving the past behind and launching a swag of new models including the new five seat Equinox, small/medium SUV.
It (eventually) replaces the old Korean-manufactured Captiva and gives Holden a strong contender against the likes of Mazda CX5 and Toyota RAV4.
Out of a GM plant in Mexico, Equinox is a handsome looking vehicle with the credentials to force its way onto your shopping list.
Prices for the base model, LS front wheel drive manual start at $27,990 moving through an extensive front wheel drive range up to the LTZ-V auto all-wheel drive at $46,290. All wheel drive is a $4300 option on the penultimate LTZ model.
Minimal options are available and diesel 1.6 will be available early next year.
UNDER THE BONNET
Power comes from a 1.5-litre turbo petrol on lower grades or a 2.0-litre turbo petrol, the former good for 127kW and 275Nm the latter 188kW and 353Nm.
Both engines have close coupled turbochargers and direct fuel injection for efficiency. The 1.5 engine is good for a claimed 6.9-litres/100km fuel economy on regular unleaded.
Transmission choices are a six speed manual or optional six speed auto with the 1.5 and a nine speed auto on the 2.0-litre. The diesel is a six speed auto and will be available in front and all wheel drive.
The all-wheel drive system is on-demand and strangely has a lock-in 2WD mode instead of a lock in 4WD mode.
Holden engineers had a hand in calibrating various Equinox functions including the ride and handling, steering and other systems.
Equinox ushers in a so-called `safety alert seat’ that vibrates in the squab (base) on certain sides to alert the driver of various transgressions or safety issues.
This is the first time we have seen a nine speed auto in a Holden and unlike the Jeep nine speeder, top gear in Equinox is actually engaged regularly.
Wireless phone charging also makes an appearance in Equinox along with active aero shutters to control engine heat and aerodynamic efficiency.
A strong point is the vehicle’s towing capacity up to 2.0-tonnes in the 2.0-litre model.
Most models have plenty of advanced driver assist technology starting with the LS+ (one from the base) that boasts the sophisticated Holden Eye camera system bringing autonomous emergency braking, lane keeping assist, following distance monitor, forward collision alert, blind spot monitor, cross traffic alert and auto head lights. The base model doesn’t get much driver assist tech’ at all.
GM cut weight from the vehicle through smart design while enhancing strength and safety.
The 2.0-litre turbo engine is the same as in the forthcoming ZD Commodore.
ON THE ROAD
I had the opportunity to drive both 1.5 and 2.0-litre turbo petrol models in various specification and for all intents and purposes, the LS+ 1.5 is all you need.
It gets the safety kit you want and has plenty of go running on regular unleaded.
The six speed auto transmission works a treat and really, I can’t see the point in having a nine speed auto – in anything.
Having said that, the top of the range all-wheel drive V model is a sporty vehicle by any measure. The front strut and rear multi-link suspension delivers a responsive yet comfortable ride on all manner of road surfaces.
It’s engaging too if you want to push your Equinox a little harder. It has a large turning circle though.
The line between sporty hatch and sporty SUV is blurring and Equinox is a good example.
With its robust power and torque, the 2.0-litre gets out of the blocks quickly and goes on with it right up into the upper engine revs.
Same applies to the 1.5 which gives willing performance and cruises unobtrusively. It might be a different story with five adults and their luggage on board.
Equinox hasn’t been crash tested here yet but has been engineered for a five star rating.
I enjoyed driving all six variants at the launch event and rate the vehicle at least as good as the Mazda CX-5.
It looks the goods too particularly the frontal styling and the interior has a stylish design with splashes of metal look fascia and a well-integrated large central control screen.
The only issue I have is satnav which must be steamed through your phone.
As a ground up new vehicle, now in generation three in the US, expectations are high for Equinox and prospective buyers/driver’s won’t be disappointed.
Engines – 1.5 or 2.0-litre turbo petrol four cylinder 127kW/275Nm, 188kW/353Nm
Transmissions – 6mt, 6 at, 9at FWD, AWD
Fuel economy – 6.9 litres/100km 1/5 LT m
Weight – 1526-1732kg
Towing – up to 2.0 tonnes model dependent
Safety – Not rated, five star engineered
Rating – 80/100