Equinox diesel: yeah, nah . . .

Riley Riley

What is it?

It’s our second time behind the wheel of the Equinox.

The first time around we drove the 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol LT model.

For our latest outing Holden again supplied us with an LT, but this time with a turbo diesel engine under the bonnet.

All things being equal, one would expect the cars to be quite similar, almost identical in fact — except the diesel would naturally use less fuel.

And use less fuel it did, but as for the rest — read on.

What’s it cost?

Equinox is a mid-sized SUV brought in to replace the five-seat Captiva in the Holden range.

It’s sleek, very car-like in its size and height, the latter at just 1.6 metres, which makes easy to get in and out of and also relatively easy to drive.

Built in Mexico, prices start from $27,990 for the LS manual, $32,990 for the LS+ with auto, $36,990 for the LT, and $39,990 for the LTZ — all of them front-wheel drive.

LTZ and LTZ-V come with all wheel drive, priced from $44,290, or $47,290 for the diesel. The LTZ-V petrol and diesel models are $46,290 and $49,290 respectively.

Standard issue 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 a truckload of safety gadgets 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 sticks with cloth trim, but brings dual zone climate air, larger 18-inch alloys, heated seats, front and rear parking sensors, a nicer 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, satellite navigation with live traffic updates, and lots of USB charge points (2x front, 2 x rear), 12v charge point (1 x front, 1 x rear) and 230V universal power outlet.

What’s it go like?

The 1.6-litre turbo diesel delivers 100kW of power and 320Nm of torque, compared to the 2.0-litre turbocharged four’s 188kW and 353Nm.

A bit disappointing because there’s nothing to be gained there and, worse still, it loses the 9-speed auto which makes way for a lesser 6-speed unit.

The good news is that fuel economy drops from a claimed 8.2 to just 5.6L/100km.

That’s the main and perhaps only reason for buying this car.

It had been a few months and returning to the car, it feels smaller and more cheaply finished than we remember.

Holden has apparently called a halt to production, at least for the time being, because sales have been slow and it has got too many in stock already.

With this in mind and Christmas on the way, buyers can look forward to some clearance deals in the new year.

Heading out on to the road for the first time, the diesel feels coarser and dare we say a little agricultural.

Like the 9-speed model there are no gear change paddles, but you can elect to change gear manually via a rocker switch atop the shift lever — or so we thought.

Before it will in fact respond, the selector must be moved from Drive to L mode — what the L stands for we’ve no idea (we assumed low).

Suffice to say the rocker switch is badly placed and awkward to use, and as such will probably get little use — unless perhaps you’re towing something.

It takes a backward step here too, because the tow rating for the diesel is 1500kg — 500kg less than the petrol model.

It’s a five-seater and sits relatively low to the ground for an SUV, that makes it a snack to get in and out of compared to most utes and SUVs, with plenty of front and rear leg room and a good sized boot.

But the driver’s seat is a little tighter than we remember and the cabin plastics are hard to the touch and look a bit low rent.

In stark contrast the large glossy touchscreen looks like it has been pinched from a Cadillac.

The steering is well weighted and one can punt the car hard with confidence, though it never manages to achieve a sporty feel.

Love the vibrating driver’s seat, that warns along with visual cues of danger. It’s a great idea, can’t be ignored and should be adopted across the entire GM range.

Fitted with 225/60 series Bridgestones, the tyres generate quite a bit of noise on some surfaces.

A space saver spare is located under the hidden storage area in the boot.

In terms of fuel consumption, we were getting 6.7L/100km after almost 500km (we got 8.4 from the petrol model).

What we like?

  • Easy to drive
  • Quiet inside (thanks to headphone technology)
  • Digital speed and current speed limit reminders
  • Front and fear park sensors
  • Proper satellite navigation
  • Good fuel economy
  • Heated front seats
  • Rear air outlets
  • Driver’s alert seat

What we don’t like?

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

The bottom line?

For once I see no real reason to buy the diesel. It doesn’t bring more torque to the table and the lure of better fuel economy is only important if you travel long distances every week. What’s more it lacks the appeal and refinement of the petrol model.

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Holden Equinox LT diesel, priced from $39,990
  • Looks - 7.5/10
  • Performance - 7.5/10
  • Safety - 7.5/10
  • Thirst - 8/10
  • Practicality - 8/10
  • Comfort - 7/10
  • Tech - 7.5/10
  • Value - 7.5/10

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