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Holden has had to battle without a compelling mid-size SUV to rival the Mazda CX-5, Hyundai Tucson and Toyota RAV4 for far too long.

But finally the brand has something to throw into the fray: the Holden Equinox, sold as a Chevy in North America but retuned by Holden’s engineers to better suit our roads.

It’s also a perfect candidate for our latest range review, given we’ve done the same type of test on the rival Mazda CX-5, Ford Escape and Honda CR-V.

Price and specs

The Equinox LS kicks off the range at $27,990 before on-road costs ($29,990 drive-away), with an extra $2000 required to get the six-speed automatic transmission. The manual is a low-sales price leader only.

You get six airbags, 17-inch alloy wheels, a reversing camera with sensors, ISOFIX and top-tether child seat anchors, automatic headlights with LED daytime runners, an Active Noise Cancellation (on LS auto only) system like your headphones, plus a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

It’s a very achievable $3000 jump to the LS+ automatic at $32,990 ($34,990 drive-away). Extra luxuries include a much nicer leather steering wheel, power-folding side mirrors and automatic high beam assist.

But the real benefit is the Holden Eye forward-facing camera system that gives you a whole bunch of active safety acronyms such as autonomous emergency brakes, lane departure warning, lane-keep assist, a forward collision alert with head-up warning, rear cross-traffic alert and blind-spot monitoring.

There’s also a Safety Alert driver’s seat, which sends vibrations through your bum when the distance alert system goes off. Interesting, and unique.

Now, both of these cars use the entry 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine and have front-wheel drive, but the next versions up the ladder get a class-leading 2.0-litre turbo-petrol and a nine-speed automatic transmission, plus the availability of AWD (on LTZ and LTZ-V). We’ll give you more in a sec.

The Equinox LT costs $36,990 ($39,990 drive-away). Alongside that more powerful drivetrain you get extra features including 18-inch alloy wheels, HID headlights, roof-rack mounts, front sensors, heated front seats and USB points for back seat passengers.

There’s also a better 8.0-inch touchscreen with satellite navigation and live traffic updates.

The next step is the $39,990 ($44,639 drive-away for Victorians, variable per state taxes) Equinox LTZ, which adds huge 19-inch alloy wheels, a hands-free power tailgate, roof rails, full LED headlights and tail-lights, and a system to do automatic perpendicular and parallel parking.

There are also niceties like leather-appointed seating with heating for four occupants, wireless phone charging pad, DAB+ digital radio and a pumped-up Bose audio system. There’s also seat memory and electric lumbar support for the driver.

Furthermore, you can option the AWD system for $4300, which is really quite expensive all things considered. This takes the list price out to $44,290.

Finally there’s the range-topping LTZ-V, which comes standard with AWD for $46,290 ($51,208 drive-away in Victoria). This extra few grand gets you a huge dual-panel sunroof, heated steering wheel, ventilated front seats, and power-adjustable front passenger seat with lumbar adjustment.

Importantly, all models in the range have a top 5-star ANCAP safety rating. 

Interior

There’s not much visual difference between the LS and LS+. The latter in particular certainly offers plenty of equipment, while cabin storage options and ergonomics are excellent. That said, it all looks a little austere, and some of these trims feel built to a price.

While the LS+ has substance, the mid-range LT has noticeably more glitz. That larger screen with nav modernises things nicely.

The LTZ’s leather and wireless phone charger, then the LTZ-V’s massive sunroof, all play their part. The top-end versions have enough fruit to justify edging 50 grand.

All versions offer competitive leg room and head room, up there with the X-Trail and CR-V.

Again we have to commend the LTZ for offering a rear powerpoint and two USB chargers (the latter of which you also get in a CX-5 or Sportage). The LTZ’s heated rear leather seats add extra wow factor for those who’ve got the money.

Cargo space is at the high end of the class and easily swallows a pram and some luggage, though we’d like Holden to offer these flipping levers on the base cars as well. Like many cars in this class, you only get a space-saving spare wheel.

While we’re on gripes: unlike the X-Trail, CR-V or Mitsubishi Outlander, there’s no seven-seat option.

Drivetrains

The base engine standard to the LS and LS+ is a Euro 5-compliant 1.5-litre turbo-petrol making 127kW of power at 5600rpm and 275Nm of torque between 2000 and 4000rpm. This is more than sufficient by class standards.

It’s matched to a six-speed manual or a six-speed auto, the latter being standard on the LS+. It’s also only available with FWD, meaning you’re limited to gravel at worst. It’ll run on basic high-sulphur 91 RON fuel, and Holden claims fuel use of 6.9L/100km, though we averaged 7.9L/100km. It also tows 1500kg, braked.

To be frank, it’s actually all the engine the vast majority of people will need.

It’s responsive from zero RPM, has a strong and muscular mid-range, and is well complemented by the generally unobtrusive 6AT. It’s also quiet and largely free of vibrations.

The LT and above get a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol that eclipses the former most-powerful medium SUVs in this class, the Subaru Forester and Ford Escape. It makes 188kW at 5500rpm and 353Nm between 2500 and 4500rpm. It’s basically the same engine as used in the new Commodore.

It’s also matched to a nine-speed automatic that is a little smoother and harder to confuse – with so many ratios on offer – than other 9ATs we’ve tried such as Jeep’s.

It does, however, demand premium unleaded, and though Holden claims fuel use of 8.2–8.4L/100km, we hovered in the mid 9s, climbing above 10L/100km around town.

It’s a potent engine, and has no trouble hammering even the hefty 1732kg LTZ-V AWD along like a high-riding hot hatch. If you have a need for speed, but need something practical for the kids, it’s a solid bet. If it had the Volkswagen Tiguan 162TSI’s particularly well-sorted DSG (transmission) it’d be even quicker, though.

Later this year, most versions of the Equinox family will also be available with a Euro 6-compliant 1.6-litre turbo-diesel that makes 100kW/320Nm and should cut right down on fuel use. By being Euro 6, its NOx and CO2 emissions are better than most too.

We mentioned earlier that the AWD option was a pricey $4300, and that’s because as well as being an on-demand system that directs torque to the rear wheels when the fronts lose traction, it also has a button that lets you disconnect the rear axle entirely to conserve fuel. It’s a novel approach, with limited uses.

It’s still too expensive, and not available on the LS+ and LT, which kind of undermines the whole idea of selling SUVs to adventurous types who may one day want to go off the beaten path, even just a little. Food for thought, Holden…

On the road

Dynamically the Equinox strikes a pretty good balance, thanks to significant work by Holden’s engineers in regional Victoria to make it feel at home on Australia’s unusually diverse road network.

The ride comfort on the lower-grade cars is particularly good because the tyres have plenty of cushioning sidewall, though all variants are fairly quiet thanks to in-cabin noise-cancelling tech.

The LTZ-V’s 19-inch wheels not only take the edge off the ride quality, but also blow out the turning circle to an excessive 12.7m.

Despite the un-sporty design, the Equinox is also quite agile through corners, helped by well-weighted electric steering, torque-vectoring by the brakes, and sorted all-round independent suspension. It’s in the upper percentile for the class.

Owning

PTC Holden has one of the biggest dealer networks in the country, and guarantees you 24-hour test drives. You can even buy it online.

You get capped-price servicing with 12-month/12,000km intervals. The first three visits on either engine will cost a very reasonable $817 all up. The diesel will be $997 across that period.

Holden’s standard warranty offering is three-years/100,000km. At the time of publishing, however, the Equinox range comes with a seven year / 175,000 km warranty and seven years of roadside assistance.


VERDICT

So there’s a quick look at the new five-variant Holden Equinox range. Forget the LS, it’s the LS+ with its safety tech that’s a good starting point. However, the $36,990 LT with its greater list of features and potent engine is the one that actually lines up most favourably with rivals.

The LTZ and LTZ-V add lots of extras, but they never really feel premium, and we tend to think that buyers at the high end of this class may expect a little more polish. So it’s the dead-middle of the range that we’re most impressed by.


Spec

LS

LS+

LT

LTZ

LTZ-V

Price

$27,990 (m)

$29,990 (a)

$32,990

$36,990

$39,990 (FWD)

$44,290 (AWD)

$46,290 (AWD)

Engine

1.5 petrol

1.5 petrol

1.6 diesel

2.0 petrol

1.6 diesel

2.0 petrol

1.6 diesel

2.0 petrol

1.6 diesel

Power

127kW

127kW (p)

100kW (d)

188kW (p)

100kW (d)

188kW (p)

100kW (d)

188kW (p)

100kW (d)

Torque

275Nm

275Nm (p)

320Nm (d)

353Nm (p)

320Nm (d)

353Nm (p)

320Nm (d)

353Nm (p)

320Nm (d)

Fuel

6.9L/100km

6.9L/100km (p)

Not rated (d)

8.2L/100km (p)

Not rated (d)

8.4L/100km (p)

Not rated (d)

8.4L/100km (p)

Not rated (d)

Tank

55L

55L

55L

59L (AWD)

59L

Fuel type

91 RON

91 RON

Diesel

95 RON

Diesel

95 RON

Diesel

95 RON

Diesel

Drive

FWD

FWD

FWD

FWD

AWD for $4300

AWD

Towing

1500kg braked

1500kg

2000kg (p)

1500kg (d)

2000kg (p)

1500kg (d)

2000kg (p)

1500kg (d)

Wheels

17”

17”

18″

19”

19”

Turning circle

11.4m

11.4m

11.7m

12.7m

12.7m

Suspension f/r

Strut/

Multi-link

Strut/

Multi-link

Strut/

Multi-link

Strut/

Multi-link

Strut/

Multi-link

Brakes

321mm/288mm

321mm/288mm

321mm/288mm

321mm/288mm

321mm/288mm

Length

4652mm

4652mm

4652mm

4652mm

4652mm

Wheelbase

2725mm

2725mm

2725mm

2725mm

2725mm

Width

1811mm

1811mm

1811mm

1811mm

1811mm

Height

1661mm

1661mm

1661mm

1697mm

1697mm

Luggage

846 – 1798L

846 – 1798L

846 – 1798L

846 – 1798L

846 – 1798L

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