2018 Holden Equinox LS+ Review
Isaac Bober’s 2018 Holden Equinox LS+ Review with pricing, specs, performance, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.
In a nutshell: Holden engineers tweak a US designed medium SUV and hope for the best.
2018 Holden Equinox LS+
Price $32,990+ORC Warranty Seven-years, unlimited kilometres until December 31 Safety five-star ANCAP Engine 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol Power 127kW at 5600rpm Torque 275Nm at 2000-4000rpm Transmission six-speed automatic (tested) Drive front-wheel drive Dimensions 4652mm (L) 1843mm (W) 1661mm (H) 2725mm (WB) Turning Circle 11.4m Boot Space 846 – 1798L Spare Space Saver Fuel Tank 55L Thirst 6.9L/100km combined claimed (8.0L/100km as tested)
THE HOLDEN EQUINOX was launched late last month and further crowds an already crowded and competitive segment. Designed and engineered in the US, with Australian input to the ride, handling and steering tune, can the Equinox win-over Aussie buyers?
Possibly, the pricing is aggressive and the safety equipment list is strong, but it’s not all smooth sailing for the medium SUV as our test will reveal. Our test car is an LS+ which means it’s an entry level model; the ‘+’ means that it adds Holden’s active safety pack.
Pricing starts from $27,990+ORC for the entry-level LS in manual guise, while our LS+ lists from $32,990+ORC and is equipped with an automatic transmission only.
Key features for the LS are:
- 1.5-litre turbo ECOTEC petrol engine
- 6-speed automatic/manual transmission
- 6 airbags
- 17-inch alloy wheels
- Electric Power Steering (EPS)
- Rear view camera and rear park assist
- ISOFIX child seat anchorage system (x2)
- 60/40 split-folding rear seats
- Automatic headlamps with LED DRLs
- Active Noise Cancellation (auto only)
- Holden MyLink Infotainment System with 7-inch high-resolution colour touch-screen display
- Apple CarPlay and Android Auto phone projection
- Full iPod integration including Siri Eyes Free
- USB input (2x front, 2 x rear) and charge point (1 x front, 1 x rear)
LS+ features over LS:
- Holden Eye forward facing camera system
- Automatic Emergency Braking
- Lane Keep Assist
- Lane Departure Warning
- Following Distance Indicator
- Forward Collision Alert with Head-Up Warning
- Side Blind Spot Alert
- Safety Alert driver’s seat
- Rear cross traffic alert
- Automatic high beam assist
- Leather steering wheel
- Power folding exterior mirrors
The Equinox goes up against vehicles like the Ford Escape which offers petrol and diesel; we won’t see a diesel Equinox until next year. It’s also on the same shopping list as the new Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-5, Nissan X-Trail, Volkswagen Tiguan, Subaru Forester and even the Toyota RAV4. You’ve got to be on your game to do well in this segment; has Holden put its best foot forward with the Equinox?
Holden is certainly hoping so, see, it reckons the Equinox rolled into the rest of its SUV range will account for around 35% of all its sales…
What’s the interior like?
Climb inside and the Equinox certainly feels roomy with good vision right around the thing except for the odd-shaped c-pillar which means you’ve got to rely heavily on your mirrors; shoulder checks alone aren’t enough to see past it. It means changing lanes can take a little longer than expected just to make sure there’s nothing lurking in the blind spot. Yes, on our LS+ there’s blind spot warning but the forward and rear sensors on the thing are far more sensitive than the blind spot warning and so you can’t just rely on it alone.
In fact, that whole rear three-quarter not only effects the blind spot vision from inside the thing but it also makes the car look clumsy… anyone else see hints of Ssangyong Stavic in the rear? Moving on.
The dashboard is neatly designed with everything easy to reach and easy to understand on the move. But the way some of the controls work leaves a little to be desired, especially the single-zone climate control. The air-con is slow to cool down, even on a warm 25-degree day and there’s a delay on the fan speed, meaning that you turn the knob and nothing happens. So, you turn it another notch and then, suddenly, it sounds as if a jet engine is being fired up.
But, because it’s not yet blowing cool air you get a blast of warm air. Turn the fan back one notch and it seems to slow to nothing; it’s almost as if it’s missing a speed between three and four. There are rear air vents in the back (at the back of the centre console) which is a good thing.
The infotainment unit is only small and in base-spec LS+ gets very few functions. Luckily, it gets Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity and, so, in the end it doesn’t really matter about the lack of native features. The screen is easy to reach from the driver’s seat but it’s prone to washing out even in indirect sunlight.
In our base-spec car the interior is a dull shade of grey and the plastics feel cheap despite some of them being soft-touch, and the chrome accents do nothing to lift the drabness. There’s just too much hard, scratchy stuff around the cabin and our test car had only a few hundred kilometres on it when we collected it and had only completed the local launch but it looked grubby… how well it’ll stand up to years of family abuse I wouldn’t like to say. There’s decent storage in the front with cup holders and both a USB and 12V outlet at the base of the dashboard. You’ll fit a 500ml water bottle in the door bins.
Apologies to Holden, but the interior feels like it belongs to a car from a generation ago and compared with others in the segment it’s way down the back of the pack.
The front seats are comfortable with good support under the thighs making them relaxing to sit in on longer drives, and they offer plenty of adjustment too. Climbing in and out requires you to pull yourself up into the Equinox, so shorter drivers might feel like they’re climbing into a full-size 4×4. The doors are big and quite heavy; something my daughter struggled with when the doors are open at full reach.
And that brings me neatly to the back. There’s plenty of room in the backseat for three adults and so my two kids fit just fine as did my daughter’s booster seat. There are ISOFIX mounts for the two outboard seats and map/iPad pockets on the back of the front seats. The seats are comfortable but lacking in any real shape.
Moving into the boot, there’s an impressive 846 litres of room with the second-row seats in use (these are 60:40 split fold) and a cavernous 1798 litre with them folded down – they don’t fold totally flat unless you remove the centre headrest. There’s a temporary spare underneath the floor.
What’s it like to drive?
Our test car runs a 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine making 127kW at 5600rpm and 275Nm of torque at 2000-4000rpm. This was mated to a six-speed automatic transmission sending drive to the front wheels only. There’s also a 2.0L turbo petrol (in 2WD and AWD) and a 1.6L turbo-diesel (in 2WD and AWD) will arrive next year. The Equinox in LS+ trim weighs 1514kg and drinks a claimed combined 6.9L/100km.
With a glut of cars in the Practical Motoring garage this week, the Equinox was taken straight out to our test road and subjected to two laps. Holden’s engineers have done a lot of work on the Equinox, with the thing getting new springs and damper rates and a tweaked steering setup. Indeed, Holden’s Lead Development Engineer for Equinox, Tony Metaxas said: “We’ve worked closely with the team in the US to make sure Equinox has all the attributes to perform on Australian roads, sealed or unsealed. Not only do we have the most power and torque in the segment, we’ve got unique front and rear sway bars, front handling bush, front ride bush and rear lower control arm bushes, all of which work to give drivers a more connected and engaging driving experience.
“Combined with a beautifully weighted, confidence-inspiring steering tune, Equinox is a great SUV for the daily commute and rewards those that venture beyond the city limits.”
That might be true of the more-power 2.0L AWD Equinox, but the entry-level vehicle is dynamically uninspiring. From a standing start it’ll spin the wheels easily and for longer than you expect before the electronics grab a hold and cut the spin.
Once you’re up and running the transmission runs straight for sixth-gear and the only manual adjustment is via a plus and minus button on top of the transmission lever which is a baffling thing and why you can’t just flick the lever to one side and shift gears manually is beyond me. The transmission itself is fine when you’re running at a constant speed, but when you’re dipping in and out of corners, up and down hills or in traffic it’s easily confused and slow to catch up to the point where it feels more like a four-speed automatic than a six-speed unit.
The ride manages to filter out basic imperfections in the road but becomes crashy as the surface becomes rougher. A section of our test loop is like a cobble-stone road and the Equinox struggled across it, bumping and bucking its way along. The body control into corners is okay if you’re not hurrying the thing along.
The engine has got a reasonable amount of on-paper grunt, but on the road the transmission gets in the way and trips the thing up. I’m not suggesting it’s power-less, but it doesn’t build speed or cruise up hills as easily as the numbers suggest it should. I would expect the 2.0L turbo petrol with its 188kW and 353Nm of torque to feel much better, but whether that’s too much grunt for the chassis remains to be seen.
The steering is light in the straight-ahead which means you’re constantly nibbling at the wheel on the highway and that becomes tiring when doing a long stint. Its off-centre weight is better but in all the steering feels slow and feel-free.
The brakes held up well to our test loop although the pedal lacks feel or progression. The same goes for the throttle, you push it further than you think you should before it grabs… and this can make creeping along in stop-start traffic annoying.
Despite active noise cancellation which dials out almost all of the engine noise, unless you’re revving it, the Equinox suffers from wind and road noise. Sure, all cars in the segment do but, in comparison, the Equinox sits about middle of the pack in terms of its NVH.
What about safety features?
The Equinox gets a five-star ANCAP rating and because our test car was an LS+ it gets a host of active safety features under the guise of Holden Eye which is a forward-facing camera. You get, autonomous emergency braking, lane keep assist, lane departure warning, following distance indicator, and forward collision alert with head-up warning, rear cross traffic alert, blind spot monitoring, automatic high beam assist and a safety alert driver’s seat. And it’s the latter I think is an excellent idea… the seat jiggles to warn you that you’re too close to something, and it gets your attention; much better than an audible warning or a vibrating steering wheel.
So, what do we think?
Holden is trying, that’s obvious. But there’s only so much its engineering team can do to fix what’s clearly a lacklustre chassis and the interior trim is drab to say the least. The active safety features on the LS+, particularly the safety alert driver’s seat are excellent and the price is pretty good. But, as a competitor in this segment, unfortunately, the Equinox with its 1.5L engine is a back marker.