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Holden Equinox LS+ is an all-new SUV that may struggle to make an impact in an increasingly crowded market.
The market for of all types of family-oriented SUVs continues to grow, Holden predicting that soon 35 per cent of its total sales will be this type of vehicle.
The newly released Holden Equinox, a roomy five-seater, essentially replaces the Captiva, although the seven-seat Captiva remains, while another SUV, the Acadia, is due here later in the year.
The Equinox line-up starts with the LS, equipped with a 1.5-litre turbo-petrol engine and either a six-speed manual transmission for $27,990 plus on-road costs or $29,990 for the six-speed auto. A diesel auto option will be coming later in 2018.
This entry-level LS comes with active noise cancellation on autos and Holden’s MyLink infotainment system, with a seven-inch colour touch-screen plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Good level of safety equipment
It has a fairly standard safety kit of six airbags, rear-view camera with park assist, auto LED headlights and ISOFIX childseat points, but it lacks the advanced safety features necessary to achieve a five-star ANCAP rating.
For that, you need to step up to the LS+, from $32,990 plus ORC, which is equipped with HoldenEye, a forward-facing camera system that includes autonomous emergency braking, lane-keep assist and departure warning, following-distance indicator and forward collision alert with head-up warning.
The LS+ also provides blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, high-beam assist and a safety alert (vibrating) driver’s seat.
Poor transmission response
While our LS+ test car looked good on paper, in many other respects it proved disappointing. The 1.5-litre petrol engine, despite being turbocharged, generally felt lacklustre, an annoyance made considerably worse by the poor auto transmission performance.
A prod on the throttle to enlist a quick response for overtaking was accompanied by a lengthy hesitation while it found the right gear and then wheezed its way up to speed. Fuel economy overall was equally disappointing.
Comfortable and well-insulated ride
On the positive side, the locally tuned ride and handling package is very good and the seating is well shaped and supportive. Thus occupants in all positions enjoy comfort and a ride that’s well insulated from road shock.
From a driving perspective, we suspect the three higher-spec models fitted with the 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine and nine-speed automatic – LT, LTZ and LTZ-V – would be much better propositions.
Priced from $36,990 in auto only, the LT is starting to look pricey against the competition, but it also brings a significant features upgrade, such as dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, multiple charging points including a 230-volt inverter, 18-inch alloy wheels and an eight-inch MyLink infotainment system with satellite navigation.
Stepping further up the range, the LTZ from $39,990 has even more kit, and offers the option of all-wheel-drive ($4300), while the LTZ-V ($46,290) is fairly bristling with nice-to-have features such as a dual-panel sunroof, a powered passenger seat to match the driver’s seat spec in the LTZ, and standard all-wheel-drive.
Feels dated compared with competition
The overall issue is Equinox’s design and presentation. On the practicality side, it has a roomy, easy-to-live-with cabin and good load versatility, but it looks even more chunky and heavy-set than most of today’s mid-size SUVs. And there is a nasty little space-saver spare wheel under the rear floor.
Inside, we can only speak for the LS+, which buries the occupants with a high window line, deep-sided doors and a high centre console.
It looks dated compared with the leading competition, and it also lacks the well-considered instrument/switch layout, sharp presentation and tactile feel of the controls found in its counterparts.