Holden Equinox: Chev's top-selling SUV arrives in NZ
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The wind of change blowing through the Holden line-up is pushing it back into the popular medium SUV market after a near 24-month absence.
The arrival of the new Equinox sees Holden fill the gap in its range that opened when the Captiva 5 was phased out late in 2015.
Built in Mexico, the Equinox has a pedigree stretching back to 2004 and this third generation has been conceived as a global vehicle for audiences beyond North America.
In the US the Equinox is Chevrolet’s top-selling SUV model and its second biggest seller bettered only by the Silverado pick-up.
The five-seat Equinox is set to debut in New Zealand from December 1 but the main marketing push will come after the holiday season.
There will be nine models with six petrol engine versions offering both front-drive and all-wheel-drive across four specification grades. Petrol models comprise the first wave and diesels will follow in April 2018.
Five seats are the only accommodation layout and the price ladder starts at $35,990 and will stretch to $59,990 when the flagship diesel arrives.
Holden NZ isn’t talking projected sales numbers but is clearly happy to again be playing in the largest and fastest growing vehicle segment – one that contributes about 17 per cent of all new vehicle registrations and is projected to achieve 19 per cent growth this year and exceed 23,500 units.
Rivals for the Equinox include the market leading Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-5 and Toyota RAV-4 along with the Hyundai Tucson, Mitsubishi Outlander, Volkswagen Tiguan and Honda CR-V. Diesels account just under 12 per cent of the market.
The entry point to the Equinox line-up is the LS with a 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine, six-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel-drive priced at $35,990.
It develops 127kW along with 275Nm of torque from 2000-4000rpm to deliver a performance edge over 2.0-litre and slightly larger naturally aspirated rivals while achieving combined cycle fuel consumption of 6.9L/100km.
The LS specification includes 17-inch alloy wheels, halogen headlights and LED daytime running lights, cruise control, passive entry with push button start, single zone air conditioning, electric park brake with hill hold and an Active Noise Cancellation system to cancel out engine noise that enters the cabin.
The 7.0-inch MyLink touchscreen and six-speaker audio system includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality plus the reverse camera display.
Adding the Holden Eye active safety system creates an LS+ specification priced at $39,990.
The LS+ adds autonomous emergency braking, Forward Collision Alert with head-up warning, Lane Departure Warning and Lane Keep Assist, Blind Spot and Rear Cross Traffic alert systems along with auto high beam assist.
Equinox LS+ models also gain a leather steering wheel and power mirrors to create a competitive $40K contender that matches price points of entry level Mazda CX-5 GLX and Mitsubishi Outlander GS.
The next step introduces the new 2.0-litre twin-scroll turbo engine which is a class leader with 188kW output and 353Nm torque from 2500-4500rpm – numbers that even out-muscle the performance focused Volkswagen Tiguan R-Line.
The 2.0-litre turbo engine is also teamed with GMs new nine-speed automatic transmission and a drive in an upper level Equinox is an early preview to next year’s ZB Commodore which shares the 2.0-litre turbo engine and nine-speed automatic transmission.
Priced at $43,990 the front-wheel-drive LT is predicted to be the top-selling variant.
Spec upgrades include 18-inch alloy wheels, auto HID headlights, dual zone climate control and the 8.0-inch MyLink touchscreen with embedded navigation.
The Equinox LT also gains front and rear park assist sensors, one-touch rear seat fold releases, a 4.2-inch colour driver info display and a dual exhaust system with chrome tips.
The diesel engine – a 1.6-litre direct injection turbo unit with 110kW and 320Nm – makes its first appearance in LT grade and carries a $3000 premium.
There’s a wider step in price and equipment to the LTZ model at $52,990 with all-wheel-drive, 19-inch alloy wheels, LED head lights and tail lamps, chrome finish roof rails and a hands-free powered tailgate.
Advanced Park Assist is standard and the LTZ cabin gains leather seats, a six-speaker Bose digital audio, a Qi wireless charger, power adjustable driver’s seat with memory and heated front and rear seats.
Introduced at LTZ level is the Safety Alert Seat which uses Haptic responses to warn the driver of danger by sending a mild vibration through the seat in place of an audible chime as warnings from the Forward Collison Warning, Lane Departure Warning and Blind Spot Alert systems.
A diesel engine LTZ will be offered at $55,990 while a front-wheel-drive petrol LTZ will be available to special order at $49,990.
The top step on the Equinox ladder is the LTZ V with all-wheel-drive at $56,990 with the petrol engine and $59,990 as a diesel. A particularly large dual panel panorama sunroof is standard along with power adjustable passenger seat, front seat ventilation and a heated steering wheel.
A brief drive in the base model LS confirmed it has the performance of a modern small capacity direct injection turbo with good power and a strong torque curve that delivers a clear benefit over naturally aspirated rivals.
The rest of this week’s press launch drive came in a mix of 2.0-litre petrol models with the muscular torque curve and easy shifting nine-speed finding the ideal ratio to deliver deceptive pace at a low level of effort.
The application of Holden badging has been accompanied by suspension tuning and power steering calibrations to suit Australasian conditions with plenty of attention paid to consistent steering feel and how the car retains its poise over lumpy surfaces.
There’s a plush but securely planted feel to the Equinox with a confident grip level through the use of unique front and rear sway bars, front handling bush, front ride bush, rear lower control arm bushes and the rear toe link bush.
The press launch drive loop through northern Taranaki to Ohura, Whangamomona and Inglewood confirmed the work on suspension tune and steering calibration is good news for SUV drivers who venture away from the school run and suburban malls to enjoy more remote regions.
Once the Equinox is established in the market the next phase in the Holden SUV strategy will be to replace the long-running Captiva 7 with a Holden badged and tuned version of the GMC Acadia in the final quarter of 2018.
However before then there will also be another new Holden lifestyle alternative when the high-ride Tourer variant of the next-gen ZB Commodore arrives.
2018 Holden Equinox line-up:
LS 1.5 turbo petrol 2WD - $35,990
LS+ 1.5 turbo petrol 2WD - $39,990
LT 2.0 turbo petrol 2WD - $43,990
LT 1.6 turbo diesel 2WD - $46,990
LTZ 2.0 turbo petrol 2WD - $49,990
LTZ 2.0 turbo petrol AWD - $52,990
LTZ 1.6 turbo diesel AWD - $56,990
LTZ V 2.0 turbo petrol AWD - $56,990
LTZ V 1.6 turbo diesel AWD - $59,990