Never has a vehicle been so important for an auto maker.
In Australia, there are Holden people, and Ford people, or at least, that’s the way it used to be.
With the loss of local manufacturing, GM-Holden is now no different to any other retailer in Australia. Despite the loyalty built over a number of years, buyers no longer have a “made in Australia” motivation to buy.
Our road test, and interview with Holden’s marketing manager, Natalie Davey
Adding to that is the continued “premiumisation” of the OZ market.
However, Holden says it is now much better than before, it is a mobility and technology company among other things.
Despite manufacturing ceasing, design and development stays right here at the Holden HQ. The Lang Lang proving ground is also receiving a pricy facelift.
Our market is changing, and Holden is changing with it. One of the major changes after the cessation of local manufacture, is the meteoric, and unstoppable rise of SUV sales which show no signs of abatement.
Enter the rather nice-looking mid-sized Equinox.
Another GM global vehicle that has much to live up to, even if just to be another entry in the history book of Holden.
Holden has a bunch of SUVs of different sizes, in a market that is tighter than a fish’s posterior. Trax is not one of my favourites, nor is Captiva. Both feel a little “last week”. At least Captiva is value for money.
For me, the big thing will be a 7 year/175,000 warranty. Customers demand security and peace of mind, and is being offered through to the end of the year.
2 engines will be offered at launch, both 4 cylinders. I guess GM got the memo about small, “affordable”, economical, turbo 4’s.
Importantly, some models have AWD, and there is even a manual if that floats your boat.
Ponder the pricing for a moment:
LS MT $27,990
LS AT $29,990
The pricing spans current models of Holden SUV offering mentioned above, but eclipses them on equipment and safety.
All models have Holden MyLink with Apple CarPlay, and Active Noise Cancellation. The latter is a feature once only available in luxury Euros. CarPlay is a must for anyone under 70.
1.5-litre turbo ECOTEC petrol engine
6-speed automatic/manual transmission
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 o 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)
From the LS+ up, all models have:
- Holden Eye forward facing camera system with
- Lane Keep Assist
- Lane Departure Warning
- Following Distance Indicator
- Forward Collision Alert with Head-Up Warning
- and Automatic Emergency Braking
- Side Blind Spot Alert
- Safety Alert driver’s seat
- Rear cross traffic alert
- Automatic high beam assist
- Leather steering wheel
- Power folding exterior mirrors
2.0-litre turbo petrol engine
9-speed automatic transmission
18-inch alloy wheels
- Holden MyLink Infotainment System with 8-inch high-resolution colour touch-screen display
- Apple CarPlay® and Android® Auto phone projection
Full iPod® integration including Siri Eyes Free
- Satellite Navigation with full colour mapping with live traffic updates, traffic management control and points of interest
- Heated front seats
- Front parking sensors
- Dual zone climate control
- Provision for roof rack mounting
- One-touch 60/40 split-folding rear seats with rear cargo release
- Diesel engine option (coming 2018)
- HID headlights
LTZ features over LT:
19-inch alloy wheels
Hands-free power tailgate
Advanced park assist (automatic perpendicular and parallel parking)
Rain sensing wipers
Wireless phone charging
Heated front and rear seats
LED headlights and tail-lights
Bose® premium audio system
Power driver’s seat with lumbar and memory
Adaptive AWD system (optional)
Diesel engine option (coming 2018)
LTZ-V features over LTZ:
Dual-panel panoramic sunroof
Heated leather steering wheel
Power passenger seat with lumbar and memory
Ventilated front seats
Adaptive AWD system (standard)
Diesel engine option (coming 2018)
The list of inclusions is impressive, but the price seems a bit steep, only time will tell.
How does it drive:
We gave 3 grades a go, with a Holden Exec on board to answer questions. A ballsy move, they paid off.
It was one of the most refreshing drives I’ve had in a long time.
The Haptic driver’s seat, which vibrates warning messages for some functions, is incredibly useful. Holden’s effort to remove some of the noise pollution works well.
The active noise cancelling works only on drive-train tones, and that also works extremely well. Mics detect engine, transmission, and exhaust noises, then play back the opposite wave via the speakers.
Detecting any other wavelengths might have undesired results. A slightly frightening prospect.
There are 2 drivetrains available at launch, a 1.5 with a 6sp manual or 6 sp auto, and a 2.0 with a 9 sp auto.
Suspension is tuned slightly differently in each, and is unique to Australia. The ride in both feels smooth, and bumps are soaked up far better than a small car has any right to.
My pick is the plucky 2.0L/9sp. It has the best balance, the best torque and power, and the nicest “feeling”, whether cruising or cornering.
Steering tuning makes a decent fist of imitating road feel.
The rack mounted electric motor has also be calibrated for local conditions, and unlike overseas models, both suspension and steering are tuned for summer tyres only.
The tyres let remarkably little noise into the cabin, with only the most appalling surface eliciting a peep.
There is no active cruise control which seems to be a strange omission as this is available on cheaper models in other brands.
All controls are easy to locate and operate.
Menus via the main LCD touch screen have been kept simple and easy to understand for the most part. DAB, AM and FM stations can be stored on presets, but is a slightly fiddly process. Full handsfree uses “Hey Siri” when in range.
The driver can choose either the car’s voice control, or Siri, via the voice control button on the steering wheel.
The GM In-house developed 9Speed auto feels both flexible and solid. The changes were mostly imperceptible. It locks up from second gear meaning the torque converter won’t allow slippage between the engine and the drive shaft.
This improves fuel consumption.
You can manually shift gears using the little plus/minus button on the top of the selector knob, since the steering wheel is sans paddles.
Also improving fuel figures, is the fact the AWD models can isolate the rear wheels from the drive system. Then, only the front wheels do the work. The driver cannot select any other mode other than front, or AWD.
There are no drive modes either, as the suspension tuning is fixed.
The reversing camera, and self-parking, display in the centre LCD, and objects which come too close will make the driver’s seat vibrate.
If you play your cards right, reversing becomes a very relaxing experience.
Holden claims the Equinox (pronounced EEEq-uinox not ECK-uinox) drives like a car, and they’re mostly right.
However, I shall continue to pronounce it as ECKuinox, and I suspect Holden won’t really care as long as canny buyers snap up the nifty little run-about.
In a sign of the times, Holden stresses this is not an off-roading vehicle. Holden knows it is a city car.
The difference between the entry and top models of Equinox is $20,000, which is way too much.
Holden says Equinox will be found in and around the burbs doing things active peeps like to do. The SUV market is taking over from the passenger segment in a big way.
The first quarter next year is expected to be a little down as Holden sells the last of their Commodores, which they claim did the “heavy lifting”.
Holden bosses said a V8 car is on the way, but steadfastly refused to confirm Camaro was bound for OZ. This is despite a shiny blue Camaro being shown in the slide show.
This is an exciting prospect for GM-Holden in light of the run-away success of fellow Yank’s Mustang. Holden will release Arcadia early next year, as well as the diesel engine for Equinox.
We were promised 20 new models by 2020, with the count being 16 so far. That means another 4 models in the next 2 years, and one is definitely a V8. We now know is is in fact Camaro. It will be a right-hand conversion with HSV and that conversion will make Australian car much more expensive than the Ford Mustang against which it will naturally be pegged.
I for one, couldn’t be more excited.
Finally, a few thoughts on Holden as a company.
Holden execs say the brand has slipped from the shopping lists of buyers. It is trying hard to regain that tick of approval by offering such things as a 7-year warranty in December.
To that end, the quality of Equinox shows a huge step forward in finish and design. It is light years ahead of the tired and tatty Captiva not only in look and feel, but also in equipment and handling.
Holden has to reposition itself, so has invested in technology. In the USA, GM cars report usage back to HQ, and that feature is coming to Australian shores. It’s anonymous of course, but will let Holden know how their product is performing in real life, anonymously of course.