ROAD TEST: Holden Equinox LS+ is a sensible all-rounder
HOLDEN'S Equinox mid-size SUV bounded into showrooms in late 2017, a matter of weeks after the final Commodore rolled off the Australian production line.
The Holden faithful welcomed it as a bride would a groom's ex-girlfriend. That's unfair on the North American-designed Equinox, as it's a decent all-rounder and markedly better than the five-seat Captiva it replaced.
We let our family of four loose in the bargain LS+ model to see how it copes with daily duties.
IAIN: When I was a kid, the Commodore was the Holden family car. Now, like it or not, the Equinox and its rival mid-size SUVs are the popular choice.
JULES: Good. I like SUVs, this Holden looks attractive if a little dull - and who wants a boring old sedan anymore?
IAIN: Me. But I'll give the Equinox every chance. Some 5000 were sold last year. Sounds OK but the rival Mazda CX-5 shifted more than 26,000.
JULES: How much is it?
IAIN: This Equinox LS+ is currently $31,990 drive-away. There's a lesser LS but it lacks modern safety kit: integral for a family car.
JULES: It looks quite American, though not too big or cumbersome.
IAIN: It's Stars and Stripes underneath those Holden badges. Americans have been buying the Chevrolet Equinox since 2004. The design is safe rather than beautiful, unlike, say, a Mazda CX-5 or Hyundai Tucson.
THE LIVING SPACE
JULES: Impressively huge inside. Roomier than most medium SUVs.
IAIN: True - for many family buyers, cabin space is king. Helps you overlook the lack of fanciness inside.
JULES: Are you suggesting the interior is bland?
IAIN: Look, you get what you pay for. This being near entry level, hard plastic is everywhere, the centre console is just a big slab of featurelessness and the dash dials are trapped in the 1990s.
JULES: I've made my peace with it. Commendably, Holden has spent money on what mums like me really want. Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone connectivity, rear camera, park assist and loads of safety kit.
IAIN: True. The screen and buttons feel quality but rubber pads on the steering wheel for audio controls look like they'll wear away and perish after a few years of hot Aussie sun.
JULES: The engine has a bit of shove, doesn't it?
IAIN: It's not bad at all. It's a 1.5-litre petrol turbo with bags of torque to get you up to speed. Higher up the Equinox range is a 2.0-litre turbo, which is a firecracker for this segment.
JULES: Most journeys will be highways or traffic and it's quiet, composed and easy to drive in these circumstances.
IAIN: Americans typically like SUVs to ride like trampolines for straight-road comfort but, credit to Holden's engineers, they've given our Equinoxes better tyres and tuned the suspension and steering for Aussie preferences. It's a good blend of ride comfort and secure handling.
JULES: No radar cruise control - not even as an option - which is so useful for the daily commute.
IAIN: It has a massive boot. With 846L, it smashes the opposition. Mazda's CX-5 has 442L and the Ford Escape just 406L.
JULES: There's handy storage under the boot floor for valuables too.
IAIN: It's missing such niceties as an auto tailgate. Only pricier Equinoxes have that.
JULES: For an SUV it's actually quite low to load the boot easily, though there's no lip to stop shopping rolling out when you open the tailgate.
IAIN: Ours is front-wheel drive; only range-toppers come with all-wheel drive.
JULES: That's fine. The most off-roading these will do is up a kerb outside school.
IAIN: On back roads the Equinox is capable and safe-feeling rather than fun. Fine for its target market.
JULES: A lot of cars these days have really invasive, beepy, annoying safety alerts. This Holden has a much better red flashing light on the windscreen, and gives your butt a buzz if danger is detected.
IAIN: The silent Safety Alert Seat is very cool. Holden knows many owners turn off over-beepy safety gear. If there's danger up ahead it buzzes the front of your seat base, or if there's a hazard to the side - say a parked car you're about to hit on your left - it buzzes that side of the seat.
JULES: The buzz isn't unpleasant but I set it off a lot. It's very over-protective but ideal for the likes of school drop-off panic when your concentration isn't perfect.
IAIN: No doubt about it, the Equinox is a safe family car choice. Loads of leg and headroom in the back and, with our two car seats in the Isofix mounts, you could just squeeze an older kid in-between.
JULES: The cloth seats feel really hard-wearing with a neat quilt pattern, bottle holders front and rear are big and there's a giant bin under the front armrest.
IAIN: No rear USB points. They're great for kids these days.
JULES: The family budget likes the Equinox LS+. It feels really good value at this price and servicing is a bargain too.
IAIN: Our fuel use was 9.3L/100km, which does sting a bit. Those doing big kilometres should consider a diesel mid-size SUV instead.
JULES: If you're after an honest, good value, safe and competent family SUV, this Equinox has the goods. Mums favouring sensible over status symbol won't be disappointed.
IAIN: Holden's previous medium SUV, the Captiva, let down many buyers with reliability problems and this hangover may be hurting Equinox sales. It would be foolish to overlook its value for money.
HOLDEN EQUINOX LS+
PRICE $31,990 drive-away
WARRANTY/SERVICING 5 years/unlimited km, $1565 for 5 years/60,000km
ENGINE 1.5-litre 4-cyl turbo, 127kW/275Nm
SAFETY 5 stars, 6 airbags, AEB, rear camera, rear park sensors, blind spot and rear cross traffic alert, forward collision alert with head-up warning, lane departure warning and assist