Holden Equinox LTZ 2018 new car review
It may not have had sizeable shoes to fill last year, but the 2018 Holden Equinox LTZ certainly now has a sizeable gap to cover within the beleaguered local Lion brand’s line-up.
This medium SUV has barely managed 400 monthly sales this year in a class where the likes of the Mazda CX-5 and Toyota RAV4 shift four and five times that many units respectively. But this brand new model has also existed inside dealers filled with elderly Captiva stock, the medium-to-large seven-seater of which has been selling for less than this smaller five seater.
After 14 years on sale, selling well but for too long creating Holden-reputation turbulence, the Captiva falls and the Equinox is finally allowed some clear air. Yet questions remain: does this new-generation CX-5 rival deserve greater popularity, can it rightly sell for similar sticker prices to those rivals, or will it follow its predecessor down a bargain-basement path?
This upper-middle-grade Equinox LTZ, for bang-on $40K, should help us to sort an answer.
Vehicle Style: Medium SUV
Price: $39,990 plus on-road costs
Engine/trans: 188kW/353Nm 2.0-litre turbo 4cyl | nine-speed automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 8.2 l/100km Tested: 10.7 l/100km
Holden didn’t future-proof the entry-level Equinox LS, which still retails for $27,990 plus on-road costs with a six-speed manual or $29,990 (plus orc) with the six-speed auto. That’s because it reserves a forward collision warning with autonomous emergency braking (AEB), blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning, active lane-keep assistance and automatic up/down high-beam, for the Equinox LS+ at $32,990 (plus orc). A $1500-cheaper RAV4 and $500-pricier Subaru Forester 2.5i get most of that, while the latter adds adaptive cruise, dual-zone climate control, digital radio and rain-sensing wipers.
At least the $36,990 (plus orc) Equinox LT replaces a 127kW 1.5-litre turbo-petrol engine (competitive with the RAV4/Forester/CX-5 crew) with a 191kW 2.0-litre turbo for which those Japanese-badged rivals have no answer. Along with 18-inch alloy wheels (up from 17s), front parking sensors (to match rears), an 8.0-inch touchscreen (up from 7.0in), satellite navigation, dual-zone climate control and heated seats, the Holden becomes more persuasive.
Likewise, this as-tested $39,990 (plus orc) Equinox LTZ bundles the powerful engine with 19s, LED headlights and tail-lights, auto reverse-park assistance, an electric tailgate, leather trim, an electrically adjustable driver’s seat, heated rear seats, wireless smartphone charging, digital radio and Bose premium audio.
While we’re testing the front-wheel drive, it’s a shame that all-wheel drive asks a hefty $4200 extra. It’s standard on the $46,290 (plus orc) Equinox LTZ-V flagship, which adds a panoramic sunroof, electrically adjustable passenger seat, heated steering wheel and ventilated front seats – though adaptive cruise isn’t available at all.
THE INTERIOR | RATING: 3.5/5
Standard Equipment: Keyless auto-entry with push-button start and electric-folding door mirrors, automatic on/off wipers and LED headlights, auto up/down high-beam, leather trim, electrically adjustable driver’s seat, heated front and rear seats, dual-zone climate control and cruise control.
Infotainment: 8.0-inch colour touchscreen with Bluetooth and USB connectivity, digital radio, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone mirroring, satellite navigation, voice control, wireless smartphone charging and Bose premium audio.
Options Fitted: None.
Cargo Volume: 846 litres.
It’s clear from the above that the LT and LTZ are the price versus equipment ‘sweet spots’ in the Equinox line-up. Indeed, this latter model grade, as tested here, manages to feel both gargantuan in terms of space and semi-premium in its level of standard appointments.
There’s nothing intensely finessed about this US-focused, Mexican-built Holden inside, with the exception of a high-resolution touchscreen with vast infotainment options and quick-thinking voice control for nav, plus rather lovely knurled-silver climate and audio controls.
Otherwise, it’s best to crank up the crisp-sounding Bose audio system, the thunderous bass of which is about as subtle as the rest of the cabin. The ergonomics are simple and intuitive, and the textured-plastic dashboard isn’t as downmarket as hard-to-touch trim would seem in a medium SUV segment populated by soft-touch surfaces – especially in Forester and CX-5.
However, this is no match for the Subaru and Mazda in terms of either quality materials but more specifically in the areas of fit-and-finish. Different parts of the dash just don’t join together as tightly as expected, especially around the lower area of the dash. But the carpet is also a bit thin and the leather feels a bit too much like vinyl. In short, it seems built to a price.
Again, though, as with its booming audio system the LTZ doesn’t fuss over the details and instead slam-dunks the opposition with what it can it fit inside its 4.65-metre-long body. It extends from a proper three-across rear bench with a superb level of legroom – backed by air vents, cupholders, fast-charge USB ports and a 12-volt outlet – to a huge 846-litre boot.
In the latter case, though, Holden does measure volume to the roof, where others such as the 442L-rated CX-5 and 498L-claiming Forester, record up to the rear parcel shelf. The space itself looks broadly competitive with those rivals, but the Equinox has the bonus of a long and deep underfloor storage area, which adds significantly to the overall total – and usability.
Notch up a reclining rear backrest and ‘kick’ function for the electric tailgate, plus auto reverse-park assistance that is rare for this class, and the Equinox LTZ is competitive inside – if also ultimately a bit cheaply made.
ON THE ROAD | RATING: 3.5/5
Engine: 188kW/353Nm 2.0-litre turbo-petrol 4cyl.
Transmission: Nine-speed automatic transmission, FWD.
Suspension: MacPherson strut front and independent rear.
Brakes: Ventilated front and rear disc brakes.
Steering: Electrically assisted mechanical steering.
There is no question, and no debate – the Equinox 2.0-litre turbo is the sweetest engine in the medium SUV segment. It’s both smooth and quiet, and that’s all before getting to the adept nine-speed automatic that helps deliver a level of performance few rivals can match.
With 188kW of power at 5500rpm, and 353Nm of torque between 2500rpm and 4500rpm, it leaves the 2.5-litre non-turbos of Forester (136kW/239Nm), CX-5 (140kW/252Nm) and RAV4 (132kW/233Nm – though soon replaced) for dust. Only the identically priced, 178kW/345Nm Ford Escape ST-Line can match it, though it gets all-wheel drive standard.
Ah yes, three letters – A, W and D. They create all the difference between using up all of the LTZ’s power and, in this case, not. Careful throttle modulation is required off the line here, or else an anti-social chirp from the front tyres can all too easily be made.
For this level of power, AWD should be included, or at least cheaper than a $4200 option that brings the pricetag to $44,190 (plus orc). And for that price, we’d expect adaptive cruise, a sunroof and a power adjustable passenger seat, thanks…
Perhaps saving coin and being careful is worth it, because once off the line this Holden delivers superb response, useful for whether nailing a traffic gap or overtaking on the wrong side of a country road. And its Australian engineers have done a masterful job of tuning this Mexican-made model, the German-built Commodore, South Korean-produced Astra sedan and Polish-import Astra hatch, to all have the same thread of steering precision and response.
The light yet fluid steering is an Equinox highlight, as is a general discipline and control to the suspension that is slightly lacking in its Subaru and Toyota rivals, if not the much more impressive Mazda. It makes for alert and agile handling, too, more so than all bar the latter.
However, there are significant downsides. Refinement, for example, is very inconsistent. The engine is smooth, but there’s too much coarse-chip road roar that penetrates the floor in particular, while ride quality on 19s can be way too busy over ostensibly flat roads. There’s just a pervading sense that – as with the interior – some parts are a bit cheap, and tellingly this 6000km-old example developed a prominent suspension rattle midway through testing.
And while driver will also enjoy the performance, fuel usage around town hovered at around 12 litres per 100 kilometres, lowing to 10.7L/100km after freeway/country running. Premium unleaded is “recommended”, though regular is accepted with “reduced” performance.
ANCAP rating: Not tested.
Safety Features: Seven airbags, ABS, electronic stability control (ESC), low-speed autonomous emergency braking (AEB), lane-departure warning with active lane-keep assistance, rear-view camera, front and rear parking sensors with rear cross-traffic alert, and blind-spot monitor.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Five years/unlimited km
Servicing: Annual or 12,000km intervals are only 3000km off the class standard, but Holden’s capped-price servicing plan costs just $259/$299/$259/$399/$349 for each check-up respectively, until five years or 80,000km.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The $43,590 (plus orc) CX-5 GT gets a much nicer (if smaller) interior and is a sweeter (although slower) drive, but this superb all-rounder packs in more kit for not a lot extra.
The $38,490 (plus orc) Forester 2.5i Premium likewise boasts a lovelier interior, but this time with similar room, matching the Equinox LTZ for kit with the exception of leather and premium audio – but adding adaptive cruise, an electrically adjustable front seat and AWD. As for the $44,590 (plus orc) RAV4 Cruiser, it’s big, loaded, but slow, it feels even more downmarket than this Holden, and is set to be replaced in January – hold tight and stay tuned.
- Mazda CX-5 GT
- Subaru Forester 2.5i Premium
- Toyota RAV4 Cruiser
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL RATING: 3.5/5
The Equinox consigns the cruddy Captiva to another era and the dustbin, even if it’s still merely decent. It lacks the consistency required for class leadership, with overpriced optional all-wheel drive in this LTZ that should be standard here.
With the 2.0-litre turbo, however, this Holden medium SUV puts in a distinguished performance simply because its engine responsiveness is so far beyond non-turbo rivals.
However, the sweet steering and solid handling doesn’t quite offset the slightly tetchy ride and road roar, while in a similar fashion the loaded-up interior and sheer space can’t quite compensate for cabin quality and finish that trails the vast majority of the segment.
In any case, the Equinox LTZ is a firm mid-fielder focused on space and pace, if not grace.