What is it?

I had about as much interest in driving the new Holden Equinox as going to the dentist.

But then a funny thing happened — I liked it.

In fact, I liked it a lot.

The Chevy Equinox — I have a hard time substituting Holden for Chevy — is a mid-sized SUV that replaces the five-seat Captiva in the Holden lineup.

It’s sleek, sits relatively low, and is easy to get in and out of, as well as being pretty well equipped for the price — at least the mid-range LT that we drove.

The LT is a big step up with a larger, more powerful engine and 9-speed auto — both desirable items.

What’s it cost?

Built in Mexico, prices start from $27,990 for the LS manual. Add $2000 if you want an auto.

Next rung up the ladder is the LS+ at $32,990 which includes an auto, then the LT at $36,990, followed by the LTZ at $39,990 and top of the range LTZ-V at $46,290.

Standard kit includes 17-inch alloys, auto headlights with LEDs, active noise cancellation (auto only), 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus full iPod integration including Siri.

The LS+ adds an arsenal of safety equipment including Holden Eye forward facing camera system, Autonomous 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 plus Automatic High Beam Assist.

Our test car the LT still comes with cloth trim and dual zone climate control, but ups the ante with:

  • 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine
  • 9-speed automatic transmission
  • 18-inch alloys
  • Holden MyLink Infotainment system with 8.0-inch touchscreen
    • Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
    • Full iPod integration including Siri Eyes Free
    • Satellite Navigation with full colour mapping and live traffic updates
  • USB charge points (2x front, 2 x rear), 12v charge point (1 x front, 1 x rear) and 230V universal power outlet
  • Heated front seats
  • Front parking sensors
  • Dual zone climate control
  • Rroof rack mounts
  • One-touch 60/40 split-fold rear seats with rear cargo release
  • HID headlights

What’s it go like?

The 2.0-litre turbocharged four under the bonnet produces 188kW of power and 353Nm of torque, and is the same engine that powers the entry level Commodore (you know, the one that’s not made here anymore).

There’s also a 1.5 turbo, which powers the LS and LS+, but after driving this car — frankly we wouldn’t bother.

We are keen however to take the just released diesel for a spin.

The hip height in this car is much lower than the majority of SUVs we’ve driven, and as such getting in is more of a slide than a climbing motion.

This alone could do it for some people, because continually climbing in and out of high riding SUVs and utes can be tiresome.

Equinox sits relatively low to the ground and corners flat, and if you happen to accidentally punch the accelerator, it’s likely to light up the front tyres, traction control or no traction control (all but the LTZ-V are front wheel drive).

The 2.0-litre turbo is hooked to an impressive 9-speed auto, with smooth changes and excellent fuel consumption for a vehicle this size.

There’s no change gear paddles, but you do get a thumb-operated rocker switch at the top of the change lever that performs the same function — just not as well.

Wandering fingers will find what feels like change paddles behind the steering wheel, but they are in fact controls for volume and audio mode.

The steering is excellent, never heavy and never too light, responding nicely to input at just about any speed.

The ride from the 18 inch alloys and Bridgestone tyres however borders on stiff with lower profile rubber — guess that’s the price you pay to achieve a sporty feel.

Rated at 8.2L/100km, we were gettng 8.4 after just over 500km — slightly better than the Commodore we drove with the same setup.

A long list of active safety features includes Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), Lane Keep Assist and Blind Spot Alert.

You might have read about the vibrating driver’s seat, that warns along with visual cues of impending disaster — it’s a great idea and we’re surprised no one has throught of it before.

Equinox can tow 2000kg and Holden claims segment leading storage space of 1798 litres with the rear seats down.

What we like?

  • Plenty of stonk
  • Easy to drive
  • Quiet inside (thanks to headphone technology)
  • Digital speed and current speed limit reminders
  • Real satnav
  • Good fuel economy
  • Heated front seats
  • Rear air outlets
  • Front and fear park sensors
  • Interior lights either side in back

What we don’t like?

  • No digital radio
  • Noisey Bridgestone tyres
  • Space saver spare
  • Can’t disengage engine auto stop-start (some people hate it)

The bottom line?

The Chevy Equinox is smooth, comfortable, easy to drive, with plenty of power and doesn’t use much fuel. It’s pretty much everything you need in car, even though it’s an SUV. I think my dentist would approve. Did I mention Joe’s a crazy car guy who loves to talk wheels  when he’s got me in the chair. Of course I don’t get to say much . . .

 

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Riley

Chris Riley has been a journalist for almost 40 years. He has spent half of his career as a writer, editor and production editor in newspapers, the rest of the time driving and writing about cars both in print and online. His love affair with cars began as a teenager with the purchase of an old VW Beetle, followed by another Beetle and a string of other cars on which he has wasted too much time and money. A self-confessed geek, he’s not afraid to ask the hard questions - at the risk of sounding silly.