The 2018 Holden Equinox enters a tough fight. Perhaps in no other segment will you find a more cut throat set of competitors than the medium-sized SUVs that are sweeping the market and steadily stealing sales away from the four-door sedan.
That said, there’s plenty to suggest that the Mexican-made Equinox, which arrives from GM’s stable under the Chevrolet banner, has got a winning combination. Maybe by arming it with sufficient value and feature artillery, Holden reckons, will be enough to claw back some of the lost ground that Holden are so keen on recovering from the likes of the Mazda CX-5, Nissan X-Trail, and Honda CR-V. It might be the only play open to them.
And that’s just to name a few of the rivals it will need to face off against. There’s still the matter of the Toyota RAV4, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, Subaru XV, and Ford Escape to deal with. It is indeed a crowded market and an unenviable position the new Holden finds itself in.
Hurdles aside, there’s certainly many more positives to count over the older Captiva, the model this is replacing. The Equinox is a much more modern looking object, for starters, and arrives with a laundry list of impressive technology features to boot.
It can be supposed, then, that Holden was right in waiting for the release of the all-new Chevrolet Equinox before making their move as the older (second) generation’s faults would have only landed it in an even more disadvantaged position. The wait was necessary.
Still, the progress made by GM’s North American efforts to conceive an all-new Equinox doesn’t revolutionise the SUV space but merely brings matters onto a level playing field, so to speak. To truly carve out a strong foothold among such worthy peers, Holden will need time and even a bit of luck.
“…Equinox nonetheless goes from dowdy to daring, with sharp lines, tasteful chrome accents, and spot-on proportions.” - Kelley Blue Book
Against its rivals, the Equinox can stand tall with the knowledge that it is one of the best looking vehicles in its class. GM certainly placed making a strong visual impression high on the priority list as, superficial as it may be, many buyers do make purchase decisions based purely on looks.
It certainly isn’t trying too much, dazzling us with too much chrome or sharp angles. Rather, the overall impression is tastefully inoffensive, purposeful, and proportionate. Even the base LS grade lands you 17-inch alloys and, with the right paint combination, does a decent job of looking more expensive than it actually is.
Higher grade examples such as the LT and LTZ are even more effective at matching visual impact of more premium offerings out there such as the Skoda Kodiaq, Peugeot 3008, and Volkswagen Tiguan by equipping themselves with even larger wheels (up to 19-inches), some exterior chrome and, in the LTZ-V’s case, a panoramic sunroof.
Engine and Drivetrain
“If mountaineering was a regular pursuit I’d be looking at the LT or LTZ for that extra burst of energy from the 2.0-litre engine, but otherwise the 1.5-litre donk was a willing participant – and it settled into a beautiful metronomic beat on the open road. And so quiet, which also holds for general road noise.” - Motoring
The Equinox receives a range of engines that is fully turbocharged. A 1.5-litre Ecotec turbo-petrol kicks things off, offering frugal returns in fuel economy (claimed at 6.9-litres/100km combined) and some peppy performance for its size with 127kW and 275Nm.
This engine powers the LS and LS Plus and can be had with either a 6-speed manual or generally smooth-going 6-speed automatic that sends power to the front wheels. Further up the rung, with the LT and beyond, a gustier 2.0-litre Ecotec turbo-petrol comes into play that out-wrestling most in its class with 188kW and 353Nm and mated to a 9-speed automatic that’s also quite handy with shift prediction and smoothness while able to eek out some extra efficiency points with additional forward ratios to offset its greater thirst.
Those already familiar with the new ZB Commodore will have recognised this combination, and in tandem with the all-wheel drive system (optional in the LTZ, standard for the LTZ-V) can make for some assured acceleration and high speed grip.
Lastly, there’s the 1.6-litre turbo-diesel which is on offer as an alternative to the 2.0-litre petrol, meaning it isn’t available for the LS and LS Plus variants of the Equinox. For the capacity, it’s sufficiently grunty at low RPMs and with 320Nm at peak, is commendably refined, and claims to return a very encouraging 5.6-litres/100km on a combined run, making it an ideal powerplant for the city and steady highway cruises. That said, its modest 100kW output does mean it can get a bit wheezy once past its sweet spot in the middle of the rev band.
“Cabin noise is reduced, thanks to with active noise cancellation in all but the LS manual. This emits a sound wave through the audio speakers that cancels out tyre and wind roar, much like noise-cancelling headphones.” - WhichCar
It may not be roomy enough to lead the pack, but there’s certainly enough space inside to easily justify the ‘utility’ title in SUV. The H-point is almost squarely at average height and the roof is sufficiently high to accommodate passengers of all sizes - albeit slightly less so with the sunroof.
Once situated, there’s plenty of space for flailing arms and even comfortable kickback space for the second rowers, benefitting from the considerately flat floor, reclinable seats, and standard rear air conditioning vents. There’s also a healthy sprinkling of useful cubby holes as well as USB and 12V power points handy.
In terms of quality, the Equinox’s liberal use of soft touch materials and an ergonomically sound cabin design can, and often does, like the exterior, make it feel more expensive than its list price would lead you to assume. It isn’t as slick looking as the Mazda, as cohesively screwed together as the Honda, or as futuristic as the Peugeot’s, but can definitely hold its own once the showroom wow factor as subsided.
The Equinox is quite a large vehicle, so applying the oft-used term of 'compact crossover' would be strained to say the least. That said, it is more compact than the second-generation Equinox from Chevrolet, but despite this offers up a boot capacity of 846-litres with the seats still up, and there's even some hidden underfloor storage.
Behind The Wheel
“On point, however, was the Equinox’s handling and good overall ride. Potholed roads did not shudder through the cabin […] road noise was more noticeable on the highway than others in this class, even if the engine is fairly quiet, almost too quiet to tell what it’s doing, perhaps why the road noise was more evident.” - Driving.ca
There’s a certain subtle hint of sportiness that emanates from the Equinox’s design, and when paired with all-wheel drive grip and the 188kW 2.0-litre engine, can certainly be capable of some authoritative sprints.
Thankfully, that turn of dynamism isn’t let down by the chassis, which ably masks its bulk and weight. In fact, if you forgive the higher ride height and slightly anaemic steering, the Equinox feels quite sharp around town, definitely leaning more toward the profile of a large hatch than anything purely utilitarian.
The suspension has been given a layer of firmness and this might be down to Holden’s specific tuning work, but beneath this lies some real pliancy that affords it a good deal of comfort over mixed surfaces that delivers a sense of solidity and refinement its predecessor lacked, ‘amplified’ by the Active Noise Cancellation system fitted even in base spec.
Safety and Technology
“Along with visual warnings, the Equinox has GM’s Driver Seat Alert which vibrates to notify the driver of potential dangers. This feels a little weird but certainly gets your attention.” - Autocar NZ
The Equinox is no slouch on safety, either, boasting a 5-star ANCAP rating. With the exception of the budget-oriented LS, all variants offer a comprehensive suite of active safety features such as Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), Blind Spot Monitoring, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Forward Collision Alert, and Lane Departure Warning.
All models are granted a MyLink touchscreen infotainment system measuring 7- or 8-inches that come with support for smartphone integration via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, with the larger screen version coming with in-built satellite navigation.
Higher end variants also gain access to dual-zone climate control, a premium BOSE stereo system, and wireless phone charging. All variants offer the convenience of push-button start and passive keyless entry, and a rear view camera. A nice touch. Though, only the pricier LTZ comes fitted with the ever-popular hands free powered tailgate.
With the 2018 Equinox, Holden has brought a worthy contender to the fore, a very competitive offering to do battle against entrenched market leaders. But having lost the lead to begin with, the Australian brand will need to work that much harder to sway buyers away from these incumbents.
Under the GM umbrella, there probably is no better candidate for the task than the Chevrolet-sourced Equinox. Should you approach it with an open mind, there’s plenty of reasons why the new Holden should win the day and, by some metrics, objectively lead the pack.
It’s a solid offering overall, combining looks, comfort, and safety at an attractive price point. It also offers the usual trimmings of technology and safety that buyers demand. The reason it faces an uphill battle is down to the fact that it doesn’t really stand out among its peers, continually meeting their standards but never really eclipsing them in any category. A jack of all trades and a master of consistency.
Kelley Blue Book - 8.9/10 - “If you're […] in the market for a compact crossover SUV, then you've found your ride. Even those new to the brand should take a look though, as the Equinox is a good-looking, nice-driving, and nicely featured compact SUV. Let's not forget the fuel-smart diesel and more powerful 4-cylinder.”
The Drive - “…the Equinox name is stronger than ever—but it's not breaking any barriers here. The third generation feels a year too late, a step behind...but the bones are there for a mid-cycle refresh that just might do the trick.”
Driving.ca - 74/100 - “…the 2.0L engine in the Equinox really does transform an unpretentious CUV into something far more pleasing. It may not offer the most exciting of drives, but with newly-stamped good looks to go with that newfound power, the Equinox can only be headed for higher ground.”
Whichcar.com.au - 4/5 - “The Holden Equinox is an all-new mid-size SUV that Holden spent five years developing for Australian conditions. It’s well-equipped and spacious, and is available in a wide range of variants with a diesel powertrain and two different petrol engines including a powerful 2.0-litre turbo.”
Motoring.com.au - 75/100 - “Holden has put plenty of effort into making sure its new Equinox range is a bona-fide competitor in the burgeoning medium SUV category after the demise of the Captiva 5. And it has to be, as the stakes are high in the soft-road arena, and if any part of the packaging is not up to scratch, it will be quickly exposed. That’s certainly not the case here…”
CarAdvice - 8.1/10 - “…after a good first drive of the Holden Equinox we can safely say the product stacks up with the segment leaders, even if it looks rather uninspiring while doing it. Subjective…From a value, practicality and performance perspective it’s actually first rate. It may not change the game, as it were, but it’s generally an above-average SUV.”
Autocar NZ - “The cabin has some hits and misses both in terms of design and build quality, but it’s practical and functional which is what this class demands. While the high-end models are quite pricey, the Equinox should prove competitive in a cut-throat market with its interior space, features and the added value of its service package.”