The much-loved but much-dated Holden Captiva was well overdue for a major overhaul, or a replacement. Holden has gone the totally-replace route, changing the Captiva out for the Mexican-built but American-designed GM Equinox.

The 7-seat Captiva will continue to be sold until a 7-seat replacement is released.

Holden invited Drive Life along to the media launch of the Equinox, in New Plymouth.

On the Forgotten Highway

First up to speak was the Managing Director for Holden in New Zealand, Kristian Aquilina. He said, “I’m happy to stack it up against anything in the market place at the same price point.” Those are fighting words, and Aquilina admits that they have the Mazda CX-5 set in their target.

He also went on to say the next big new for Holden here is that the satellite service, OnStar, is coming in 2019 to deliver online services – as it has been in the US for years. This will include a full concierge service, and will be Melbourne-based. He says they still need to work through privacy issues, but they will – for example – have the potential to shut down vehicles that have been stolen.

Marnie Samphier, the Marketing Manager for Holden New Zealand, was up next. She says that the new Equinox is leading the class in terms of quality and specifications. She went on to say that the medium SUV segment has grown 21% from 2016, with the 2017 Year To Date (YTD) numbers at 72% for private buyers. Surprising numbers! Also, according to the stats, for YTD for 2017 in this segment, 86.9% of all sales are for petrol-engined cars.

Probably for this reason, there’s just the one diesel option for the Equinox. It was the same scenario for the new BMW X3 – just one diesel motor option.

The Lead Development engineer from Australia, Tony Metaxas, was next up to chat. He told us that the Equinox was first launched in the US in 2004, and has since sold over 2 million units. The Equinox that New Zealand will be getting is the third generation of the car.

He says it’s now equipped with some pretty fancy tech, like electronically operated upper and lower grille shutters, which help give the car an overall drag-coefficient (CD) of just 0.336 – best in class according to Tony.

Another item that Holden says is unique to the Equinox, is that in the AWD models, the driver can disconnect rear wheel drive at any time with a button – at any speed. Of course, there’s been tweaks to the car for Australian/New Zealand roads. This includes suspension hardware, damper tuning, EPS steering calibrations, as well as region-specific 17”, 18“, and 19” summer tyres.

The Equinox is still at ANCAP for testing and they expect to have the rating by the end of the year, and the car will be available for sale in New Zealand on December 1.

Car change in the town of Ohura

Captiva be gone

The Equinox is pretty darn well kitted out, especially for the money Holden are asking. When compared to similar models in this segment, the Holden Equinox apparently comes in at the lowest end of the price range every time.

All new for Equinox, which the Captiva never had (depending on model):

  •       Power tailgate with gesture control
  •       Wireless phone charge
  •       Active noise cancelling on all models
  •       Driver seat alert
  •       Vented front seat
  •       Heated rear seats
  •       Dual panoramic sunroof in LTZ-V
  •       9-speed auto on 2-litre engine

There’s a good choice of models – 5 in total.

LS $35,990

  • 1.5-litre turbo petrol 127Kw/275Nm, 6-speed auto
  • Fuel economy rated at 6.9L/100k
  • Maximum torque available 2000-4000rpm
  • Front Wheel Drive
  • Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
  • Active noise cancelling
  • Electric park brake
  • Keyless entry and start

 

LS+ $39,990

  • Same engine and transmission
  • Front Wheel Drive
  • Automated Emergency Braking
  • Rear Cross Traffic Alert
  • Other additional features

 

LT $43,990

  • 2.0-litre petrol twin-scroll turbo 188Kw/353Nm, 9-speed auto
  • Front Wheel Drive
  • Fuel economy rated at 8.2L/100
  • 0-100km/h low 7s
  • Maximum torque available 2500-4500rpm
  • Maximum towing weight, 2,000Kg
  • Diesel option, $3000 extra, 1.6 turbo 100Kw/320Nm

 

LTZ $52,990 petrol, diesel $55,990

  • AWD standard
  • Switch to FWD reduces cost by $3000
  • Wireless phone charging
  • Digital radio
  • Advanced Park Assist
  • Front and rear heated seats
  • Power driver’s seat
  • Power tailgate
  • 19” alloys

 

LTZV $56,990, diesel $59,990

  • AWD standard
  • Dual panoramic sunroof
  • Power passenger’s seat
  • Vented front seats
  • Heated steering wheel

 

Time to Walk the Walk

Holden had pumped up the Equinox quite severely – constant references to being better driving and better value than the Mazda CX-5, which is a benchmark for the medium SUV class.

So, does the Equinox match the claims?

The next morning, 6 Equinoxes (Equinoxi?) hit the road out of New Plymouth, heading towards The Forgotten Highway and a stop at the Whangamomona Hotel for lunch.

 

LS 1.5

My co-driver and I purposely grabbed a base model LS finished in Nitrate (uh, grey), with the 1.5-litre turbo petrol motor. This was discussed at length the evening before by Holden, on just how smooth, quiet and powerful it is. We wanted to see if this was just hype, or not.

Verdict: great motor. Yes, it is pretty quiet most of the time, and the response under normal driving conditions is surprising for a 1.5-litre engine. Potentially, this motor is all many people will need. Smooth and torquey, you forget the size of it when driving. It reminded me of the 1.4-turbo Kodiaq in its power delivery, and smoothness. Nice.

There was a reasonable amount of road and tyre noise on coarse chip seal, but overall for just $35,990, this is a great car – based on our short drive of around 50km.

Looking around the cabin, there’s quite a bit of hard plastic, especially on the doors – the CX-5 wins on this front.

 

LTZV 2.0

At our next change, we ended up with an LTZV, finished in Blue Steel. This meant we went from the base model to the highest spec model in one hit. The LTZV comes with the 2-litre twin-scroll turbo petrol engine, which puts out a healthy 188Kw of power and a very reasonable 353Nm of torque.

Yes, you could feel the difference. The 1.5-litre engine is peppy, the 2.0-litre is grunty. That torque gives you some great acceleration out of the corners. It makes you wonder why you’d want a diesel. Actually, there weren’t any diesels in the test fleet as it’s not available yet.

While the 6-speed auto fitted to the two base LS models is just fine, the 9-speed takes it to another level – fantastic transmission.

This LTZV is the only model to have the dual panoramic sunroof, and it makes a huge difference to the interior feel. On this leg, we travelled on a lot of twisty metal roads, and the LTZV took it in its stride – then again it is AWD. Still, that power meant you could hang the back out a bit of you wanted too, then punch the gas again to get it to straighten up.

 

LTZ 2.0

Lunch over, we switched to an LTZ – still AWD and with the same 2.0-litre engine. This one was finished in Pepper Dust, or grey to you and I. Well silver really, but it all looks grey to me. On this leg, we got on some tight and twisty sealed roads. I’d be hard pressed to say if the Equinox handles better than a CX-5 – but it would be close. The Equinox really can be chucked around in the same way as the CX-5. I expect the CX-5 might win, but it would need to be a side-by-side test to really find out. When pushed, the Equinox can cope just fine.

One thing we noticed is that there’s no ‘real’ manual mode for the transmission – you can’t slip it into manual and use paddles shifters (there aren’t any) to change gear. There is a ‘+/-‘ switch on top of the shifter, but according to Tony this is for towing, so you can lock it in a gear. You can sort of use this for manual changing, but its position in front of the centre cubby means it’s awkward to use. This is all a bit of a shame as it means you must rely on the brakes – there’s no manual downshifting to give you some engine braking.

Our stop for lunch

LT 2.0

Our last leg of the day, we moved into an LT model, which is the cheapest model to have the 2.0-litre motor. This car was finished in Glory Red, and looked mighty fine. I wouldn’t say the Equinox is any match for the design of the CX-5, but it’s still a good-looking SUV and much more modern-looking design than the Captiva.

Glory Red + dust

Our last stop for the day was to the just-opened Holden Museum in New Plymouth. It was quite an experience being in brand-new museum, and although it’s a private collection, there are a good amount of cars and memorabilia on display.

Lined up for our last stop for the day

Added to this is the also-new Mount Panorama Mini Golf Course right next to the museum, and you have somewhere where you could easily spend half a day or more. Well worth a visit, even if you aren’t a Holden fan.


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How on earth to start this? I've been car/bike/truck crazy since I was a teen. Like John, I had the obligatory Countach poster on the wall. I guess I'm more officially into classic and muscle cars than anything else - I currently have a '65 Sunbeam Tiger that left the factory the same day as I left the hospital as a newborn with my mother. How could I not buy that car? In 2016 my wife and I drove across the USA in a brand-new Dodge Challenger, and then shipped it home. You can read more on www.usa2nz.co.nz. We did this again in 2019 in a 1990 Chev Corvette - you can read about that trip on DriveLife. I'm also an Observer for the Institute of Advanced Motorists - trying to do my bit to make our roads safer.

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