Holden Equinox Don't Buy

Holden Equinox: not a bad effort, but definitely not worth the risk. Here's why:

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Holden makes various crack-addicted marketing claims about the new Equinox - such as: “The Equinox is made for real life.” (How helpful. The real kind.) And: “Like you, this SUV has nothing to prove”. (Except perhaps that it’s slightly less shit than the Craptiva it replaces. That’d be nice.)

I’m getting a lot of enquiry about Equinox. This from Katrina is typical:

 
I’m aware Captiva had horrible reviews, but am just wondering if you have had a chance to review the new Equinox. Is it any better than the Captiva? (Probably not hard to be better when the bar is so low.) Does it genuinely compete with the other top selling SUVs like the CX-5 or Tuscon? - Katrina
 

So let’s break this down. If you don’t have time for the detail, my recommendation is: Buying an Equinox is a mistake. A big one. CX-5, Tucson, Sportage, and the new Forester when it lobs - all much better choices. Here’s why.

Jump over to my Kia Sportage >> or Hyundai Tucson >> reviews. If you need something bigger there's always the Kia Sorento >> and Hyundai Santa Fe >>. And if you're confused about fuels, check out petrol vs diesel >> 

When you buy a car you enter into two relationships - one with the car and the other with the carmaker. Let’s deal with them in order.

EQUINOX IN THE FLESH

 Equinox is a decent SUV spoilt by the badge

Equinox is a decent SUV spoilt by the badge

Equinox looks good on paper - there’s plenty of power and plenty of features.

POWER

The 1.5 turbo petrol is up there with the likes of Hyundai’s 1.6 turbo and Mazda’s 2.5 Skyactiv atmo engine. The big news is the 2.0-litre turbo petrol which outpoints the Ford Escape and Subaru Forester XT - but only just. And there’s a nine-speed auto - a conventional auto, which will appeal to the CVT and DCT haters among you. You know who you are. And there’s local suspension tuning - just like Hyundai and Kia. That’s unequivocally a good idea, too.

Equinox is also safe, scoring five stars in December 2017 >>

WARRANTY FIASCO

But you don’t get the big warranty. Holden launched the vehicle a month or so ago with a seven-year warranty and then almost immediately wound that back to the usual three years. How cynical is that?

 Cabin looks OK at first glance, but doesn't match Tucson or CX-5 on polish - and the charging pad for smartphones doesn't accommodate all. Nor can the auto start/stop for the engine be turned off...

Cabin looks OK at first glance, but doesn't match Tucson or CX-5 on polish - and the charging pad for smartphones doesn't accommodate all. Nor can the auto start/stop for the engine be turned off...

SPECIFICATIONS

Frankly the cabin lacks polish, too. Jump into a Sportage or a CX-5, then an Equinox, and you’ll see what I mean. Despite boasting a bajillion features in the marketing, there are notable omissions. For example: the engine stop/start feature cannot be turned off. I friggin’ hate that. There’s a space-saver spare: Ditto.

Also, the inductive charge pad will not accommodate the bigger smartphones (like a Galaxy Note) - I do not understand the wacky underlying logic there… And there’s no adaptive cruise control like you get on - say - the Forester or an upmarket CX-5. What were they thinking?

So, Equinox is comparatively grunty and it drives OK despite being a bit rough around the edges and a bit ill-conceived in the specs. Boot space is decent. They’ve even built in an inverter that delivers a 230-volt AC power. Plus heated rear seats on some models. But if you want a flat loadspace when you fold the seats, you have to remove middle seat headrest. And then, where do you put it?

 12.7-metre turning circle on 19-inch wheels: very QE2...

12.7-metre turning circle on 19-inch wheels: very QE2...

TURNING CIRCLE

The turning circle on the high-end 19-inch wheels is a staggering 12.7 metres - so it’s like an aircraft carrier when you want to go about in some tight inner-city back lane. On smaller wheels that turning circle is a metre less - pointing to some significant engineering compromise on the big wheels.

But at least the price is OK - certainly it’s competitive there. In some ways, Equinox reminds me of Colorado. If I could separate Colorado from Holden, I’d recommend Colorado all over town. Because the vehicle itself is OK. Unfortunately it’s Holden that’s not of merchantable quality - and this is the primary fly in the ointment. Sadly, if you are about to drop the big bucks on a car you don’t get to divorce the car from the carmaker.

HOLDEN: THE TRAIN WRECK

 Commercially, Holden has painted itself into a corner, and the future looks bleak - this will be sure to impact Equinox resale values

Commercially, Holden has painted itself into a corner, and the future looks bleak - this will be sure to impact Equinox resale values

So whether you like it or not, if you buy an Equinox, you’re in a relationship with Holden - one that’s very likely to turn bunny-boiling toxic at the first hint of trouble.

Here’s why.

SALES

Holden is a commercial basket case. This is not my opinion. It’s an objective fact. In the past 10 years, Holden sales have plunged by 40,000 vehicles annually. That’s about a third down. In a low margin business like cars, that’s Pearl Harbour, December 7, 1941.

WINNERS & LOSERS

Holden Sales: Past 10yrs

Kia Sales: Past 10yrs

In the same 10 year period, Mazda is up 45 per cent. Subaru is up 39 per cent. Hyundai is up 115 per cent and Kia is up 175 per cent. The balance sheet for those carmakers and those dealers is rock solid.

The major players in the automotive game have shifted dramatically in the past 10 years - but I'm not so sure the perceptions of all car buyers have kept up.

 30 Holden dealers were boned unceremoniously last year simply because sales volumes had shrunk to become insufficient to support the previously viable dealer network

30 Holden dealers were boned unceremoniously last year simply because sales volumes had shrunk to become insufficient to support the previously viable dealer network

DEALER CLOSURES

The market overall is up 17 per cent - so Holden is a shot duck. Things are so bad that in August last year, Holden announced sweeping national dealership closures >>

Nothing screams ‘financial difficulties’ like kicking dealers out onto the street. It’s a bad look. Too many sellers for the crap sales volume.

You might think this does not matter to you, but it does - because dealership profitability is directly related to the support they will offer you if you have a problem. The courtesy car when yours breaks down with a hard to diagnose problem. The investment in technical training. The spare parts inventory on hand.

RESALE BASKET CASE

And even if you are prepared to wear that, here’s one thing you can’t argue with: Holden has not yet felt the full impact of the factory closure. Popularity is already plummeting, and it’s going to get worse. Popularity drives resale value - it’s all about supply and demand.

Popular used vehicles are highly sought out in the used car classifieds, and this drives resale value up. Equinox is not going to be one of those popular vehicles - because you can see the Holden popularity trend over 10 years - it’s a train wreck in slow motion. Resale is likely to be a disaster.

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ACCC INVESTIGATION

On the customer support front - Holden is terrible at that. Malignant. So malignant, over such a long period that the normally sleeping giant that is the ACCC was moved to consciousness in August last year, when it stuck Holden’s head in a vice over how badly Holden had been treating its customers.

Specifically the ACCC put a gun to Holden’s head in the form of a court-enforceable undertaking >> to at least attempt to comply with Consumer Law - the company admitted it had an extensive track record of breaking the law here. Check out what legal firm MacPherson Kelly >> had to say about that.

According to ACCC Chairman Rod Sims:

 
“Holden acknowledged that it misrepresented to some consumers that it had discretion to decide whether the vehicle owner would be offered a refund, repair or replacement for a car with a manufacturing fault, and that any remedy was a goodwill gesture.” - ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.
 

The hubris at Holden, which I have witnessed firsthand for 10 or 15 years now, is nothing if not breathtakingly out of touch. Mr Sims added:

 
“Holden also accepted that some consumers were told that a remedy would not be provided because the vehicle had not been serviced by a Holden dealer or with sufficient regularity, or as the vehicle was purchased second hand.”
 

Also, grossly illegal to do that. It’s incredible - an admission like that from a company as traditionally up-itself as Holden. I don’t know what leverage the ACCC applied to coerce this admission, but I certainly would love to know.

BUYER BEWARE

My question to you is: Why would you - presumably a rational car buyer - jump into bed with any carmaker this philosophically predisposed to screw you over illegally and with great enthusiasm? Again - this is evidence-based observation, not my opinion.

Why would you roll the dice on resale, and hook up with a brand that’s sinking as if on board the RMS Titanic?

 Made in Mexico: probably better than anything from GM Korea, but still a poster boy for GM's expected manufacturing mediocrity

Made in Mexico: probably better than anything from GM Korea, but still a poster boy for GM's expected manufacturing mediocrity

MEX APPEAL?

And then there’s Mexico - where the Equinox is made. I’m willing to concede that any factory would be better than GM Korea, house of Craptiva. One of the developed world’s worst car factories.

So even here, being built better than a Captiva is a bit like being more religiously tolerant than Adolf Hitler. In point of fact, on Mexico, GM did not take the flamethrower to its North American manufacturing operations because they thought those sons of Aztecs down south would do a better job.

They did not move the factory to Mexico because of the Spartanesque work ethic down there. The latent Conquistador DNA of the local populace was also not a factor in the relocation. They did it because the labour was dirt cheap, and they got to divorce the unions.

‘Proudly made by Mayans’ is unlikely to be emblazoned under the hood of any Equinox - perhaps in a neat motif of a third cousin of Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman siestaing (if that’s a verb) beneath a sombrero after a hard day of packing Mexican marching powder into the wheel wells of Equinoxes heading north. Yessss!

If you are striving for automotive mediocrity, Mexico would be a damn fine place to achieve it. Katrina adds:

 
There doesn't seem to be a whole lot of useful reviews out there at the moment and I really like your honesty and independent reviews on your website (dirty jokes aside). Any useful information you could provide me about the Equinox would be most appreciated.
 
 Frankly, you're better off in a Tucson, Sportage or CX-5 (or you could wait for the Forester update...)

Frankly, you're better off in a Tucson, Sportage or CX-5 (or you could wait for the Forester update...)

CONCLUSION

In a nutshell, Katrina would have to be crazy to consider buying an Equinox, mainly because of the dishevelled, malignant predisposition of Holden. Furthermore, Equinox is so new that there is no hard reliability data to digest. Given Holden’s poor track record there, I would not be signing up to be a guinea pig in that experiment.

On jokes, both dirty and not, and my atrocious political incorrectness generally, I’d respectfully suggest, in the spirit of rational discourse on humour, that a joke that is neither dirty nor offensive is simply not funny, except of course to imbeciles.

You should buy a Tucson, Sportage or Mazda CX-5 - or a Forester after the upgrade this year - these are better medium SUVs to own. You need to remember that owning a vehicle is more than merely a three-to-five-year road test. You also have to sleep with the carmaker.

If you sleep with Holden, you’d better lock the knives away.

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