Holden Equinox VS Audi Q2
- Drives very well
- Great drivetrains
- Lots of choice for buyers
- Interior not very special
- Base model lacks safety kit of rivals
- May be thirsty in the real world
- Good value
- SQ2 has great performance
- Angular looks
- Cabin feels old
- Could have more standard safety tech
- Rear legroom limited
It has been a long time coming, but this is it - the replacement for the Holden Captiva.. sort of. It’s the 2018 Holden Equinox, a new mid-sized model that will take the fight to some of the most established and successful SUVs on the Australian market.
The competitive set is daunting for a newcomer - we’re talking the Mazda CX-5, Toyota RAV4, Nissan X-Trail, Volkswagen Tiguan, Mitsubishi Outlander, Honda CR-V… Some big selling models from some big name brands.
It’s not as though Holden hasn’t had a presence in this market in the past, though. The company has had the Captiva in the medium segment in the past, and there’s still going to be the seven-seat Captiva, which will soldier on as the brand’s offering in that space until the all-new Acadia arrives later in 2018.
As such the Equinox is purely a five-seat offering, and a roomy one at that - plus, there are five different versions for customers to choose from: the base model LS, the safety-focused LS+, the mid-spec LT, well-equipped LTZ and flagship LTZ-V.
So, how does it stack up? Read on to find out.
|Engine Type||1.5L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
Audi’s littlest and most affordable SUV, the Q2, has been updated with new looks and tech, but something else has snuck in with it. Or should I say roared in? It’s the SQ2, with a whopping 300 horsepower and a snarling bark.
So, this review has something for everybody. It’s for those who want to know what’s new for the Q2 in this latest update - those thinking of buying a cool-looking little SUV from Audi - and for those who want to wake their neighbours up and frighten their friends.
Ready? Let’s go.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
The Holden Equinox 2018 range has a lot of choice for buyers, and that will be enhanced even further when the diesel models arrive later in 2018. As it stands, there is no denying the Holden magic touch has been applied to the Equinox, and it drives confidently and comfortably in almost every situation.
It is let down by a bland interior with some questionable finishes, and an exterior design that looks a little dated for a brand new model in one of the most important segments in the market.
It isn’t a class leader, then - but it is among the better options in the class. This writer’s pick would be the LS+, which has the best comfort, peace of mind and a more-than-adequate drivetrain for most people’s needs.
Would you go for the 1.5-litre model? Or do you subscribe to the notion that there's no replacement for displacement? Let us know in the comments section below.
The Q2 is good value and great to drive – especially the SQ2. The exterior looks new, but the cabin feels older than the larger Q3, and most other Audi models.
More standard advanced safety tech would make the Q2 even more appealing, as would a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty. While we’re at it, a hybrid variant would make enormous sense.
So, a great car, but Audi could offer more to make it an even better proposition for buyers.
I guess you could say that it is interestingly styled, in that it doesn’t really look very much like anything else in the Holden stable.
I mean, if you squint you can see a bit of Astra sedan (Chevrolet Cruze) about it, and maybe some Trax, too. Some makers are nailing the whole 'brand identity' thing, but that’s not so easy for Holden, which has sourced from the European market and the North American market. The Equinox, for instance, is built in Mexico, primarily for the US, where it sells in big numbers.
That aside, there’s something about the look of it that has a familiarity to it. I personally think it would have been right at home in a 2005 model range line-up, because there are a lot of deep character lines and swooshes, stuff that has seemingly gone a bit out of fashion in recent years as companies push for 'European styling'. And in the same breath, I’d say that the D-pillar is more than a bit reminiscent of a Mercedes-Benz GLE…
The entry-level models have 17-inch wheels with big chubby tyres that look a little naff, but 18s and 19s on the higher-spec versions, not to mention the LED headlights on the flagship LTZ and LTZ-V (models below have LED daytime running lights).
The interior falls short of the styling highs we’ve seen in competitor cars, too. It isn’t as high-tech or sexy as, say, a CX-5, Tucson or Sportage. But it does have the practicality side of things sorted.
This updated Q2 looks almost identical to the previous one and really the only changes are subtle styling tweaks to the front and back of the car.
The front air vents (they aren’t real air vents on the Q2, but they are on the SQ2) are now larger and pointier and the top of the grille is lower. Around the back, the bumper now has a similar design to the front, with those pointy polygons set wide apart.
It’s an angular little SUV, full of sharp-edged shapes like some kind of acoustical wall in an auditorium.
The SQ2 just looks more aggro, with its metallic-trimmed air vents and beefy quad exhaust.
The new colour is called Apple Green and it’s not really like any colour on the road – well not since 1951, anyway when this hue was hugely popular on everything from cars to telephones. It’s also very close to Disney’s “Go Away” green – look it up and then ask yourself if you should be driving a car that’s kind of invisible to the human eye.
I digress. Other colours in the range include Brilliant Black, Turbo Blue, Glacier White, Floret Silver, Tango Red, Manhattan Grey and Navarra Blue.
Inside, the cabins are the same as before, apart from the larger, sleeker media display, and there are some new trim materials, too. The 35 TFSI has silver inlays with a diamond paint finish, while the 40TFSI has aluminium door sills.
The Q2 has beautiful quilted Nappa leather upholstery, which goes beyond just covering the seats and to the centre console, doors and armrests.
All options offer well laid out and premium feeling cabins, but the disappointing part is that it's an older Audi design, which started out in the third-generation A3, launched in 2013, and still exists on the Q2, even though most Audi models, including the Q3, have the new interior design. This would bug me if I was thinking about buying a Q2.
Have you thought about a Q3? It’s not that much more in price, and it’s a tad bigger, obviously.
The Q2 is tiny, at 4208mm end to end, 1794mm wide and 1537mm tall. The SQ2 is longer at 4216mm long, 1802mm wide and 1524mm tall.
The Equinox is undoubtedly one of the more practical and spacious models in the segment - up there alongside the brilliantly practical Honda HR-V and Volkswagen Tiguan - and a lot of that comes down to the fact that there aren’t seven seats squeezed in, and it’s on the bigger side of things for the class.
With dimensions of 4652mm long, a wheelbase of 2725mm and a width of 1843mm, it certainly has the supersized American market in mind. For context: Toyota RAV4 is 4605mm long (2660mm wheelbase) and 1845mm wide; Hyundai Tucson is 4475mm long (2670mm wheelbase) and 1850mm wide; Mazda CX-5 is 4540mm long (2700mm wheelbase) and 1840mm wide.
The result of the Equinox's extra footprint is a roomy cabin, easily large enough for a family of five. There are three top-tether anchor points and dual outboard ISOFIX attachments, and Holden claims a massive, class-leading boot capacity of 846 litres with the back seats in place, and 1798L with them folded down in a 60/40 fashion.
The higher-spec models have remote release levers in the boot area to drop the seats, too, and the LTZ and LTZ-V versions have a hands-free tailgate, which is handy if your digits are otherwise occupied.
There are cupholders up front and in the back, and the door pockets are a good size, too, with space for a bottle or (fold-up) umbrella. A central storage bin in front of the gear selector allows enough space for wallets and phones, while the console between the front seats is massive.
High-spec models (again, LTZ and LTZ-V) have four USB ports to keep the kids’ devices charged on road trips, plus there’s a 230-volt powerpoint in the back seat. The rest of the range makes do with a single USB port, and a couple of 12-volt plugs.
The media system you get depends on the model you choose. LS and LS+ models have a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto phone mirroring tech and Bluetooth, while the LT, LTZ and LTZ-V have a slightly more attractive (but no more intuitive) 8.0-inch touchscreen with the same tech, plus sat nav (including live traffic updates).
The interior presentation is a little bland and dated, and there’s an array of hard plastics throughout that don’t imbue the cabin with a sense of luxury - while competitor SUVs like the Volkswagen Tiguan can feel like expensive cars that have been de-specified, the air the Equinox gives off is one of a more affordable car that has been tarted up.
That’s not to say it’s unpleasant - I liked the leather on the seats in the up-spec models (and the seat cooling on the humid day of my test drive), but I reckon the fabric trim in the lower-spec models has a bit more character and charm to it.
The Q2 is basically a current model Audi A3, but more practical. I’ve lived with the A3 Sedan and Sportback and while rear legroom is just as confined in those as it is in the Q2 (I’m 191cm and need to squish my knees behind my driving position) getting in and out is easier in the SUV, with its elevated ride height and taller door apertures.
The easier access helps enormously when helping kids into their child seats. In an A3 I need to kneel on the footpath to be at the right level to put my son into the car, but not with the Q2.
The boot space of the Q2 is 405 litres (VDA) for the front-wheel-drive 35 TFSI and for the SQ2 it’s 355 litres. That not bad, and the large hatch makes for a big opening, which is more practical than a sedan’s boot.
Inside, the cabin isn’t enormous, but rear headroom is good, thanks to the fairly high roof.
Cabin storage isn’t terrific, although the front door pockets are big and there are two cupholders up front.
Only the SQ2 has USB ports in the back for rear passengers, but all Q2s have two USB ports up front for charging and media – plus all have wireless charging for phones.
Price and features
The new Holden Equinox 2018 model range isn't the outright most affordable mid-size SUV on the market, nor is it pushing the limits in terms of pricing. It's a middle-ground player.
The entry-level Holden Equinox LS is the only model available with a manual transmission, and it starts things off at $27,990. The automatic version adds two grand ($29,990). It's powered by a 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine, and is only available in front-wheel drive (FWD).
The LS has 17-inch alloy wheels, a 7.0-inch touchscreen media system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, automatic headlights with LED daytime running lights, dual ISOFIX child-seat anchor points, and the automatic has what Holden calls 'Active Noise Cancellation'.
Next up in the range is the LS+ at $32,990, which runs the same 1.5L auto drivetrain as the LS. The LS+ adds a leather steering wheel and power folding side mirrors.
It also adds a heap of safety equipment - some of it, arguably, that should be included in the low-spec car.
The list is topped by auto emergency braking (AEB), but packaged alongside that tech is a range of other potentially life-saving stuff: lane-keeping assist, lane departure warning, and forward collision warning.
Additionally, there’s blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and auto high-beam assist, and Holden’s 'Safety Alert' driver’s seat, which will vibrate to warn the driver of potential hazards.
Next up the list is the LT, at $36,990, which gets a bigger engine than the two lower-spec models - a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged unit with plenty of extra poke: 188kW and 353Nm, or about 48 per cent more power and 28 per cent more torque than the entry-level cars. Gone, too, is the six-speed automatic, with a new nine-speed auto transmission taking its place. A diesel will be available later in 2018.
The LT builds on the LS+ model, upgrading to 18-inch alloy wheels, a larger 8.0-inch touchscreen media system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, sat nav with live traffic updates, four USB points (two front, two rear) a 230-volt powerpoint in the second row, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, HID headlights and provision for roof-rack mounting.
The LTZ uses the same 2.0L drivetrain, and is available in FWD at $39,990 or all-wheel drive (AWD) at $44,290. A diesel will come for it, too.
It upsizes to 19-inch alloy wheels, while also adding a hands-free power tailgate, semi-automated parking (parallel and perpendicular), rain-sensing wipers, leather-appointed seats, wireless phone charging, heated front and rear seats, power adjustable driver’s seat, roof rails, DAB+ digital radio, LED headlights and tail-lights, and a Bose premium sound system.
The flagship LTZ-V comes solely in AWD and costs $46,290 - which effectively makes it a $2000 jump over the LTZ AWD, running the same 2.0L/nine-speed auto. A diesel will be offered later.
The LTZ-V adds a dual-panel panoramic sunroof, heated steering wheel, power adjustable passenger seat, and ventilated (cooling) front seats.
So, there’s something for everyone, really. I just reckon maybe the LS and LS+ should have been merged into one model with the safety kit…
The Q2 entry grade is the 35 TFSI and it lists for $42,900, while the 40 TFSI quattro S line is $49,900. The SQ2 is the king of the range and lists at $64,400.
The SQ2 has never been to Australia before, and we’ll get to its standard features in a moment.
Aussies have been able to buy a 35 TFSI or 40 TFSI since the Q2 arrived in 2017, but now both have been updated with new styling and features. The good news is the prices have only gone up by a few hundred bucks, compared to the old Q2.
Standard on the 35 TFSI are LED headlights and taillights, LED DRLs, leather seats and steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, eight-speaker stereo with digital radio, front and rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera.
That was all standard on the previous 35 TFSI, but here’s what’s new: an 8.3-inch media screen (the old one was seven inches); a proximity key with push button start (great news); wireless phone charging (brilliant), heated exterior mirrors (more helpful than you’d think), ambient interior lighting (aww… pretty); and 18-inch alloys (heck yes).
The 40 TFSI quattro S line adds sports front seats, drive-mode selection, a power tailgate, and paddle shifters. The previous one had all that, too, but this new one has the sporty S line exterior body kit (the previous car was just called Sport not S line).
Now, the 45 TFSI quattro S line may appear not to get much more than the 35 TFSI, but the extra money is getting you more grunt and an awesome all-wheel-drive system – the 35 TFSI is front-wheel-drive only. If you love driving and can’t afford the SQ2, then $7K extra for the 45 TFSI is absolutely worth it.
If you have saved all your pennies and the SQ2 is what you’re zeroing in on, then here’s what you get: Metallic/pearl effect paint, 19-inch alloys, matrix LED headlights with dynamic indicators, the S body kit with quad exhaust, sports suspension, Nappa leather upholstery, heated front seats, 10-colour ambient lighting, stainless-steel pedals, auto parking, a fully digital instrument cluster, and a 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen stereo.
Of course, you get an incredible high-output four-cylinder engine, too, but we’ll get to that in a moment.
Engine & trans
The entry-level engine offering is a 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder with 127kW of power and 275Nm of torque. It comes with a six-speed manual (LS only) or six-speed automatic, and is FWD only.
The other drivetrain on offer is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo with a class-leading 188kW of power and 353Nm of torque. It is solely mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission, but can be had with either front- or all-wheel drive (the LT is FWD only, the LTZ is FWD with the option of AWD, and the LTZ-V is AWD only).
The AWD model employs a clever system that can allow the driver to effectively disconnect the rear drive axle, in order to help save fuel - it is controlled by a button near the gear selector. If the car is in AWD mode it will generally default to front-drive, but can split torque up to 50:50 front to rear if slip is detected. The AWD model also has revised suspension and a higher ride height.
A diesel model will be added to the range later in 2018, with that drivetrain being a 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbocharged unit producing 100kW/320Nm. It will come exclusively with a six-speed automatic transmission, but will be offered in FWD or AWD.
Towing capacity is 750kg for an unbraked trailer on all models, while the 1.5-litre petrol and 1.6-litre diesel have towing capacity of 1500kg for a braked trailer, and the 2.0-litre petrol has a 2000kg braked towing capacity. That’s good, but not a benchmark for the segment (Volkswagen Tiguan 162TSI: 2500kg).
There are three grades and each has a different engine.
The 35 TFSI has a new 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine making 110kW and 250Nm; the 40 TFSI has a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four making 140kW and 320 Nm; and the SQ2 has a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol as well, but it puts out a very impressive 221kW and 400Nm.
I drove all three cars and, from an engine perspective, it’s like turning the ‘Smile Dial’ up from Mona Lisa in the 35 TFSI, to Jim Carrey in the SQ2, with Chrissy Teigen in between.
Claimed fuel consumption for the 1.5-litre drivetrain is 6.9L/100km for the manual and automatic variants. Our launch drive saw a much higher return, due to some pretty spirited driving: 10.4L/100km.
The 2.0-litre version is a bit thirstier, thanks to its extra grunt. It is claimed to use 8.2L/100km for the FWD model and 8.4L/100km for the AWD. On our launch drive, we saw 9.7L/100km
The diesel, when it comes, will be the most frugal in the Equinox line-up - exact figures haven’t been revealed at this stage, however.
Audi engines are superbly modern and efficient – even its monster V10 can shut down cylinders to save fuel, and so can the new 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine in the 35 TFSI. Audi says that over a combination of urban and open roads, the 35 TFSI should use 5.2L/100km.
The 40 TFSI is thirstier at 7L/100km, but the SQ2 demands a bit more at 7.7L/100km. Still, not bad.
What’s not good is the lack of a hybrid, PHEV or EV variant of the Q2. I mean the car is small and ideal for the city, and therefore a perfect candidate for an electric version. Not having a hybrid or EV is why the Q2 model range doesn’t score well for its overall fuel economy.
It’s as though Holden’s engineers have waved a magic wand and made the Equinox - a big-for-its-class SUV - drive much smaller, and with much more confidence than you might expect.
The steering is the highlight - Holden has nailed the electric power steering system for feel and weighting, with excellent response whether you’re simply twirling the wheel at low speeds to park, or pushing it through a series of corners. There’s bugger-all in the way of torque-steer, too (that’s where the steering wheel will tug to the side when you accelerate).
The suspension, too, is a compliant and comfortable balance of control and plushness. Only in the models with the 18- or 19-inch wheels do you start to notice some terseness, and that comes down to both the extra weight of those variants and the lower profile tyres.
The LS and LS+, then, are the models that are the peachiest of the five variants. With 17-inch wheels and chubby 65 profile Continental rubber, the pliancy was excellent, as was the grip.
That said, the turning circle in the LTZ-V, in particular, is poor - 12.7m, which is worse than a lot of much bigger dual-cab utes.
The drivetrain in the LS+, too, was a fuss-free affair: it never felt underdone with two burly adults and some luggage on board, easily dealing with pushing away from intersections and rapid-fire overtaking moves without hassle.
The 2.0-litre is undeniably faster, and it’s also pleasantly refined. There’s a level of effortless to the way it pulls away, but it never really feels quite as potent as, say, the Volkswagen Tiguan 162TSI (with 162kW/350Nm) - and that is, in part, down to the weight of the Equinox. It’s a bit of a tubby thing, tipping the scales at 1778kg (kerb weight) in the top-spec LTZ-V. For comparison’s sake, the aforementioned top-spec Tiguan is 1637kg…
The moral here is, then, that less can be more. Make sure you drive the 1.5-litre…
When it comes to the driving part, Audi can almost do no wrong – everything the company makes, whether it’s low powered or rip-your-face-off fast, has all the ingredients for engaging driving.
The Q2 range is no different. The entry-grade 35 TFSI has the least grunt and, with its front wheels pulling the car along, it’s the only one in the family that’s not blessed with all-wheel drive, but unless you’re doing laps at a track you’re not going to be wanting more power.
I drove the 35 TFSI for more than 100km on the launch, through the country and into the city, and in all situations, from overtaking on highways to merging and slow traffic, the most affordable Q2 performed well. That 1.5-litre engine is responsive enough and the dual-clutch transmission changes swiftly and smoothly.
Superb steering and good visibility (although that rear three-quarter view is slightly obstructed by the back pillar) makes the 35 TFSI easy to drive.
The 45 TFSI is a good mid-point between the 35 TFSI and the SQ2 and comes with a very noticeable bump in oomph, while the extra traction from the all-wheel drive is a reassuring addition.
The SQ2 isn’t the hardcore beast you might think it is – this thing would be super easy to live with daily. Yes, it has firm sports suspension, but it’s not overly hard, and that engine, which nudges almost 300 horsepower, doesn’t feel like a Rottweiler on the end of a leash. If anything, it’s a Blue Heeler that loves to run and run, but is happy to take it easy and get fat.
The SQ2 is my pick of the bunch, and not just because it’s quick, agile, and has an intimidating growl. It’s also comfortable and luxurious, with sumptuous leather seats.
At the time of writing there hadn’t been an ANCAP crash test performed on the new Holden Equinox, but the brand made specific reference to an expectation of a five-star score during a presentation to media at the launch.
Still, there’s an elephant in the room - the LS. If it were 2014 we would have applauded Holden for offering a reversing camera, rear parking sensors, ESP and ABS, and six airbags in a family SUV. But it’s not 2014, and times have changed.
That’s what makes the LS’s lack of standard safety equipment disappointing, because the brand had the chance to take it to its mainstream rivals with a strong safety package across its entire model line-up. Yet here we are, and those on a tight budget will miss out on the latest tech - maybe those buyers will head to a Toyota dealer, as the RAV4 now has a pre-collision warning with auto emergency braking (AEB), lane-departure alert, active cruise control and automatic high beam.
You can’t get active cruise control on any Equinox, but every model from the LS+ up has safety kit coming out the wazoo. Those models have the 'Holden Eye' camera safety system with AEB, lane-keeping assist, lane departure warning, and forward collision warning. Additionally, there’s blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and auto high-beam assist, and Holden’s Safety Alert driver’s seat, which will vibrate to warn the driver of potential hazards.
The Q2 was given the maximum five-star ANCAP rating when it was tested in 2016, but by 2021 standards it is light on advanced safety tech.
Yes, AEB with pedestrian and cyclist detection is standard on all Q2s and the SQ2, and so is blind-spot warning, but there’s no rear cross traffic alert or reverse AEB, while lane-keeping assistance is only standard on the SQ2, along with adaptive cruise control.
For a car that will most likely be purchased by younger people, it doesn’t seem right that they’re not being protected as well they would be in more expensive Audi models.
For child seats, there are two ISOFIX points and three top-tether anchor mounts.
A space-saver spare is under the boot floor.
If you buy a Holden Equinox (or any other Holden) before January 1, 2018 you will get the brand’s limited offer seven-year/175,000km warranty. If you buy one after that, you’ll get the bog-stock three-year/100,000km plan - another peculiar move from Holden, especially for a brand that needs a good news story at the end of a treacherous year for the company.
The service intervals for the Equinox will be 12 months/12,000km, which is better than some of the other models in the company’s showroom that require maintenance every nine months.
As with all Holden products, the company will back the Equinox with a capped-price service campaign for the life of the car. The first seven services, no matter the engine, average out at $310 per go.
The pressure for Audi to move to a five-year warranty must be hugely intense, with Mercedes-Benz offering one, along with pretty much every other mainstream brand. But for now, Audi will only cover the Q2 for three years/unlimited kilometres.
As for servicing, Audi offers a five-year plan for the Q2 costing $2280 and covering every 12-month/15000km service over that time. For the SQ2, the cost is only a fraction higher at $2540.