ROAD TEST: Sub-$30k Holden Equinox is a bargain with pluses
THOSE searching for an SUV bargain would be hard-pressed to go past the lion badge at the moment.
Ahead of the end of financial year, Holden is pulling out all stops to move cars and the Equinox LS+ is among the price leaders.
Launched late in 2017, the LS+ variant started at just shy of $35,000 drive-away. Find a 2018 plate version now and you'll drive out with $100 change from $30k.
New car sales have slowed across the country with many manufacturers reducing sales targets. Consumers are the winners with a surplus of stock.
This model of the Equinox is among those heavily discounted, and while bland in some areas it excels on others which sets it apart from the competition.
Given the price-point (the drive-away price for 2019 models is $31,990), it should come as no surprise the cabin has low-rent appeal. Basic yet functional, the Equinox is equipped for a family beating.
All variants come with alloys, seven-inch colour touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto along with cruise control, but this LS+ gets a few extra niceties like a leather-wrapped steering wheel, automatic high beam headlights and power folding exterior mirrors.
The warranty coverage meets the new industry standard of five years and unlimited kilometres, but the current deal sweetener is free servicing for the first four maintenance visits or three years - a saving of $817.
After those first three services, which are required annually or every 12,000km, prices jump to more than $300 per visit and the usual cost over five years/60,000km is $1565.
Reverse out of a park toward traffic or if frontal collision is detected the driver's seat will pulse and a red warning light flashes on the windscreen. The "safety alert” seat warns of dangers from the front, side and rear. Many drivers turn off vital safety aids because they find chimes and audible warnings annoying.
Compared to the base model, the LS+ gains some of the latest safety gear associated with a forward-facing camera system, including autonomous emergency braking that can help avoid or lessen the impact of a frontal collision, lane keep assist and departure warning, as well as a forward collision alert.
Sensors inform the driver of vehicles in the blind spot, while it also has rear cross-traffic warning, which is brilliant when reversing out of car parks.
One item missing from all variants is radar cruise control - a strange omission given it possesses most of the vital hardware.
Front seats hug the occupants into place and the trim feels hard-wearing with a neat quilt pattern. Adults will appreciate generous space across the rear pew, which has two Isofix points for kids' seats.
There is ample common sense surrounding the design, with cup-holders front and back, bottle accommodation in the doors, a large console storage bin, along with a nook for phones and other vital family stuff in front of the shifter.
Internal design doesn't challenge convention nor colour palettes, but the smartphone mirroring apps, reversing camera and easily navigated functions would tick key boxes for most users.
These variants come with noise cancelling technology so the cabin is well insulated.
Where the Equinox dominates is boot space. The official capacity is just shy of 850 litres which is in the league of upper large SUVs and nearly double the cargo space of the volume selling Mazda CX-5. That space expands to 1798 litres with the rear seats folded, which was enough to handle an adult-sized mountain bike without removing either 29-inch wheel.
Under the bonnet is a turbocharged four-cylinder engine that is an honest performer.
Neither rabbit nor turtle, right-foot power is reliable to push your way into traffic with vigour or overtake on the highway. It has a nice amount of shove if you are willing to flex its muscle courtesy of hefty torque at the ready.
Being a front-wheel drive it's confined to highway or around town - which is the primary use for the majority of SUVs with few actually heading off-road.
Real world fuel consumption was in the mid-seven litres per 100km, that is on par with most direct mid-size SUV competitors.
Those chasing more fire-power can opt for a 2.0-litre petrol or a diesel donk.
Anyone driving in rural areas should investigate improved headlights (up-spec models get LEDs)...our test car provided underwhleming vision at low beam.
There are flashier SUVs around but the price and size are key motivation points. Best to wait until the kids grow up and respect the family transport before spending much more coin.
I love the balance in my bank account more than keeping up with the Jonses, and the Equinox deserves endearment for being family friendly.
TOYOTA RAV4 GX $34,260 D/A
The new kid on the block, the base model is powered by a 2.0-litre 127kW/203 4cyl petrol engine. The hybrid variants are probably the pick, and it's a sharp drive with impressive road manners and quality safety tech. Apple CarPlay/Android Auto retrofitted at the end of the year. Boot is far smaller than the Equinox.
KIA SPORTAGE SI PREMIUM $31,990 D/A
Value pick of the Sportage range, with decent standard safety kit including AEB and lane keeping assistance, but it lacks the blind spot assistance and rear cross-traffic alert that are standard in the Equinox for the same coin. Stands apart with a full-size spare and a seven-year factory warranty. It too lacks the cargo space of the Holden.
AT A GLANCE
HOLDEN EQUINOX LS+
PRICE $31,990 drive-away ($2k less for 2018 models)
WARRANTY/SERVICING 5yrs/unlimited km, $1565 for 5 years/60,000km (free 3 years)
ENGINE 1.5-litre 4-cyl turbo, 127kW/275Nm (zesty)
SAFETY 5 stars, 6 airbags, AEB, rear camera and sensors, blind spot and rear cross traffic alert, active safety seat (good)
THIRST 6.9L/100km (pretty good, mid 7s on test)
SPARE Space-saver (expected)
BOOT 846L, 1798 seats folded (brilliant)