Holden’s next five-seater medium SUV has better potential than the last, the brand suggests – though what volume it might achieve is not being discussed.
LIKELIHOOD of a five-seater Chevrolet sports utility confirmed for New Zealand introduction in early 2018 meeting or beating the sales performance of the already-discontinued Captiva 5 it stands in for is not unrealistic, the brand’s top man here contends.
However, expressing general confidence in the Equinox just revealed in America and confirmed as a local starter – ultimately alongside another American-designed sports ute, the next-size-up GMC Acadia - is as far as Holden New Zealand boss Kristian Aquilina intends to go.
It’s just way too early to provide a more detailed forecast of the potential volume for this contender in the competitive mid-size sports utility sector.
“The potential for something like this, on what is one of the biggest segments in the New Zealand market is considerable – we’re excited about it and we cannot wait for it to join our lineup,” he says.
“We’re proud to be able to confirm it. It’s quite exciting and the great future for Holden just keeps getting rosier.”
This latest announcement fits with the company’s plans to expand its SUV presence significantly in the coming years, he reminded.
Although Captiva 5 was only capturing around 30 percent of Captiva volume and was “at odds with the market” by the time it was pulled, Aquilina suggests Equinox – even though it is about the same size and has the same chair count – has a better chance of breaking through.
All the same, he does not discount that consumer favouritism of seven-seater choices at this level might also impact.
The chances of Equinox ever gaining a third seating row is not known. In any event, Acadia will present that point of difference when it lands later in 2018.
Holden is steering clear of commenting on whether Acadia will ultimately usurp the Captiva 7 that has just been refreshed here but is also dated, being in its 11th year of production.
Aquilina’s preference is to offer only that, when Equinox arrives, the larger GMC sister ship will be still some months away.
“Captiva in its seven seat format continues beyond the introduction of Equinox.” He also asserts that “Equinox will come ahead of the Acadia.”
The medium SUV sector was important event before Captiva 5 departed, but has grown even more since it left.
Equinox seems better suited than the Captiva 5, which was an outdated design, in that it bases off a much newer platform, the D2XX also used by the new Astra hatch that lands in December.
The US market will be offered the model with three turbocharged engines, all of which are found in the Malibu medium sedan that is about to disappear from the NZ scene, due to its poor performance.
The entry unit is a 1.5-litre petrol unit matched with a six-speed automatic transmission, producing 127kW/275Nm.
A 188kW/353Nm four-cylinder 2.0-litre petrol unit with a nine-speed auto tops the billing.
Even though diesel share in this sector has diminished, it might still be important come 2018 that this model is rare in being an American car with a diesel opportunity. The Equinox’s 1.6-litre turbodiesel pumps out 101kW/320Nm and is paired with a six-speed auto.
Both front- and all-wheel drive versions will be offered Stateside and the Equinox has a MacPherson strut front and four-link independent rear suspension setup across the board.
Aquilina says it is too early to say what engines and drivetrain options will be offered here.
“They have released what is happening over in the US and we will have more to say about our engine lineup closer to the time (of NZ launch).”
Asked if diesel was a must-have, he replied: “It’s very early to call our powertrain approach … we will save it for another day.” As for whether front- and four-wheel-drive equally mattered? “To be determined.”
However, he said HNZ already identified that it was important to have more than one grade and one variant in this sector.
“I think there is more to be said about that in due course. But, given the size of the segment we would want to have more than one entry and trim level.”
Australia might well see Equinox in late 2017, perhaps up to several months ahead of us. Aquilina that’s just a reflection of shipping schedules.
“It will simply be the shipping lag that tips us over (into 2018). So we’re saying early ’18 but if it improves on that, then we will take it.”
Conceivably Equinox will face off against the Mazda CX-5, Toyota RAV4, Nissan X-Trail, Subaru Forester, Mitsubishi Outlander, Honda CR-V, Ford Kuga, Kia Sportage and Hyundai Tucson plus the just-landed Renault Koleos and VW Tiguan.
Whereas Acadia is definitely coming to NZ from a plant in America, it is unclear if Equinox will also ship in from Stateside. There is thought it might be built in South Korea.
Equinox features design cues already seen on recent Chevrolet-badged models such as the Cruze, Malibu and the Volt, with the American car-maker saying that extensive aero development in the wind tunnel influenced the shape.
The sharply styled, chrome-heavy front end features projector-beam headlights, LED daytime running lights, while the horizontal tail-lights – LED on higher-spec variants – lend a wide stance.
At 4652mm in length, 1843mm wide, 1661mm high and with a 2725mm wheelbase, Equinox is 76mm longer, 7mm narrower and 86mm lower than the Captiva 5, while the wheelbase is 18mm longer.
With all seats in place, the Equinox can swallow 846 litres of cargo and with the second row folded it can take 1798L.
A big improvement over the previous Equinox is with the interior; whereas the old US-only model was utilitarian, the replacement goes for a premium-looking cabin. Highlights are what the company describes as a “down-and-away” instrument panel and a low windscreen that provides a commanding front view.
A new ‘kneeling’ rear seat function where the bottom cushions tilt forward when the split-folded seatbacks are lowered makes for a flat floor, ensuring easier loading.
Available connectivity features will include 7.0- or 8.0-inch MyLink infotainment screens with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and in the US the OnStar4G Wi-Fi hot spot.
Active safety gear includes a Safety Alert Seat, Surround Vision, Forward Collision Alert with Following Distance Indicator, low-speed autonomous emergency braking, lane keep Assist with lane departure warning, Rear Seat Reminder, Lane Change Alert with Side Blind Zone Alert and rear cross traffic alert.
The US market line also has a Teen Driver function that allows parents to set controls and review an in-vehicle report card to encourage safer driving habits.