Holden Equinox: crossing the border
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Holden New Zealand faces a big question as it goes into the holiday season: will its all-new Equinox eclipse the rest of the line-up in the popular medium SUV segment?
On sale on Friday before a marketing campaign starts early next year, the Equinox is the much-needed replacement for Holden’s 2015 Captiva 5, with prices starting from $35,990 for the LS to $59,990 for the LTZ-V diesel.
There are nine models, including six petrol-engine versions offering front-drive and all-wheel-drive across four specification grades. Petrol models will be on sale first and the diesel arrives in April.
Built in Mexico, the Equinox is General Motor’s top-selling SUV in the US, and replaces the Korean-built Captiva 5.
But after a two-year gap in the medium SUV market, Holden is moving in an ever-increasing and most popular area for Kiwi buyers.
This segment is the largest for new vehicle sales and is expected to be 17 per cent of the market for 2017 with 23,500 units sold.
It will compete against market leaders Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-5 and Toyota RAV-4 plus Hyundai Tucson, Mitsubishi Outlander, Volkswagen Tiguan and Honda CR-V.
Its engine line-up includes a 1.6-litre diesel (100kW/320Nm) and a 1.5-litre petrol (127kW/275Nm) but the undoubted star of the show is a responsive 2-litre turbo four-cylinder petrol engine that generates 186kW of power and 350Nm of torque — more than 60kW more powerful than its nearest competitor.
The LS includes such features as 17-inch alloys, LED daytime running lights, an Active Noise Cancellation system to cancel out engine noise that enters the cabin. There’s also a 7-inch MyLink touchscreen plus the reverse-camera display.
The LS+ gets the Holden Eye active safety system that has Driver Seat Alert, a new aid that vibrates either side of the driver’s seat alerting the driver of a potential collision threat. The safety-alert seat uses a variety of sensors and cameras to help decide when to activate the warning.
The LS+ also has autonomous emergency braking, forward-collision alert, lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.
The Equinox LT has front and rear park-assist sensors, a 4.2-inch colour driver info display and a dual exhaust system.
Moving up through the range, the LTZ has all-wheel-drive, 19-inch alloys, chrome-finish roof rails and a hands-free powered tailgate plus advanced park assist and a power-adjustable driver’s seat with memory and heated seats.
The top LTZ V also has a dual-panel panorama sunroof along with power-adjustable passenger seat, front seat ventilation and a heated steering wheel.
Holden held the launch out of New Plymouth with a drive through north Taranaki to Ohura, Whangamomona and Inglewood including twisting back-country roads plus segments that had been used in Targa rally stages.
Thanks to suspension tuning and calibration by Holden Australia in the US, the Equinox’s chassis and handling coped well with challenging surfaces.
I would have liked firmer steering via a sport mode and the ability to use the engine to downshift via steering paddles, rather than slowing down through braking, especially during tight mountain roads.
Another niggle was the front seat in the LS and LS+ models — the seat adjuster juts out into adjacent legs.
When it comes to styling and standard features, the Equinox will eclipse the Captiva 5 but it’s in a busy segment where price is still first and foremost plus technology and safety features in even base models are impressive.