Holden Equinox VS Mini Countryman
- 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
- More mature looks
- Safety overhaul
- Still fun to drive
- Ride can feel overly firm on standard suspension
- No Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
- Inevitable price hikes
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|
Andrew Chesterton road tests and reviews the new Mini Countryman Cooper, Cooper D, Cooper S and Cooper SD All4 with specs, fuel consumption and verdict at its Australian launch in Canberra.
Mini's new Countryman is officially the least mini Mini ever made. So un-Mini, in fact, it now stretches over 4 metres in length for the first time ever. It's also taller and wider than the car it replaces, making it the biggest Mini ever produced by the brand.
But there's method to Mini's super-sizing madness, with the brand desperate to make sure its new Countryman isn't just big, but is also a big deal for the first time in its brief history.
The outgoing model makes up about 15 per cent of Mini's sales in Australia - despite playing in the most popular segment - and the brand's bosses reckon they know the problem. Internal surveys reveal more than 30 per cent of people who were considering a Countryman, but ended up buying something else, did so because it was too small and impractical to be used as a family car.
And so it's grown in every direction. Its now 20cm longer, 1.5cm taller and 3.3cm wider, and it sits on a 7.5cm longer wheelbase. And while those numbers might not sound massive, it makes a difference in the cabin, and adds an extra 100 litres of boot space.
So is a maximised Mini a good thing?
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
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.
Bigger is better for Mini's Countryman. More space, more technology and with a more mature styling treatment, the Countryman finally offers the right ingredients to appear on family shopping lists.
2017 Mini Countryman range specifications
Price: From $39,900
Fuel consumption: 6.0L/100km (Cooper), 4.8L/100km (Cooper D) 6.5L/100km (Cooper S), 5.2L/100km (Cooper SD)
Tank: 51 litres
Warranty: 3 years/unlimited
Service Interval: Condition based
Engine: 1.5-litre petrol, 100kW/220Nm, 2.0-litre diesel, 110kW/330Nm, 2.0-litre petrol, 141kW/280Nm, 2.0-litre diesel, 140kW/400Nm.
Transmission: 6-sp auto/8-spd auto
Spare: Run flats
Turning circle: 11.4m diameter
Dimensions: 4,299mm (L), 1,822mm (W), 1,557mm (H)
Would you prefer a Countryman to an X1 or a Q2? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
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.
Like an old-school Mini that's been stung by something flying and horrible, the Countryman has swollen in every direction, with Mini also smoothing out some of the design quirks of the outgoing model.
A redesigned grille and bonnet give the front end a calmer, more mature look, while the higher roof line and the fact the 18-inch alloy wheels have been positioned at the furthest corners of the car make the Countryman seem bigger but more well-proportioned than the car it replaces.
Inside, there's a half-premium, half-techy air to the cabin. All models get well-bolstered, leather-trim seats, a meaty steering wheel and some genuinely cool touchpoints including the bright-red switch that fires up the engine. The dash is still dominated by a huge and light-ringed (part of a more extensive illumination set up that also shines ambient lighting in the footwell) circular display that houses the multimedia screen, while the air-vents have now been placed vertically.
There's a new-found maturity to the cabin. Nicer materials, less in-your-face dials and a genuine sense of premium. The cabin lighting is hit and miss though, but the little Mini dial that lights up on the sidewalk as you approach and unlock the car will surely put a smile on some owner's faces.
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.
Growth is good for Countryman buyers, with more room for passengers and luggage. Shoulder room and leg room have both grown (albeit by about 5cm), and the interior never feels cramped no matter whether you're sitting in the front or the back.
Boot space has increased, too, growing from 350 litres to 450 litres with the 40:20:40 rear seat in place, and from 1,170 to 1,390 when it is folded flat.
Standard fit includes two cup holders for front seat passengers, plus room in the doors for bottles, but both the S and SD models also get a pull-down divider in the rear seat that houses another two. There's two ISOFIX attachment points, one in each window seat in the back.
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 bad news first: there's pricing pain right across the streamlined Countryman line-up, with the like-for-like cost of entry into an automatic model climbing by $3,400, and the cheaper still manual option banished from the line up altogether.
The range now kicks off with the entry-level Cooper, now starting from $39,900, sitting below the Cooper D at $43,900. The first of the fun-flavoured variants arrives next, the $46,500 Cooper S, with the 2017 line-up topping out with the $51,500 Cooper SD (Sport Diesel) All4 - the only model to get all-wheel drive.
You do get a heap more kit for your money, though, even if some of the items really should have been included on the outgoing model, too. You get a reversing camera for the first time, for example, but you'll also find front and rear parking sensors, an auto-parking system, cruise control, 18-inch alloys and a powered boot you can open by waving your foot under the rear bumper.
Elsewhere, expect leather-trimmed seats, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry, a 6.5-inch screen (still not a touchscreen, but you can option one) paired with a six-speaker stereo and an admittedly cool light system that illuminates the Mini logo on the footpath when you unlock the car.
But the big news is the standard safety equipment that makes an appearance even on the entry-level Cooper. But more on that under our Safety heading.
Spring for the Cooper D and you'll find the same kit, but add two gears to your automatic gearbox, now an eight-speed. The Cooper S adds a sports transmission, a rear centre armrest, LED headlights and the steering wheel from the John Cooper Works models. You also get a drive-mode selector, but adjustable dampers are a cost option. The SD model gets the same as the S, only with all-wheel drive.
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).
Things kick off with a less-than-exciting three-cylinder engine housed within the entry-level Cooper. The 1.5-litre power plant produces 100kW at 4,400rpm and 220Nm from 1,400rpm, fed through a six-speed automatic before being sent to the front wheels. It'll squeeze a 9.6sec zero-to-100km/h sprint out of the cheapest Countryman.
Step up to the Cooper D and you'll find a 2.0-litre diesel under the bonnet producing 110kW at 4,000Nm and 330Nm from 1,750rpm. It will reduce the sprint time to 8.8secs, using the first of the eight-speed automatics in the Countryman line up.
The sporty Cooper S squeezes 141kW at 5,000rpm and 280Nm from 1,350rpm from its 2.0-litre petrol engine, channeled to the front wheels via an eight-speed sports automatic, which is enough to produce a 7.4sec sprint to 100km/h.
Finally, the Cooper SD All4 gets a 2.0-litre diesel donk producing 140kW at 4,000rpm and an impressive 400Nm from 1,750rpm, fed to all four wheels through an eight-speed sports automatic. The 100km/h sprint takes an identical 7.4 seconds, however.
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.
The entry-level Cooper will sip a claimed/combined 6.0 litres per hundred kilometres and produce 138g per kilometre of C02. The Cooper D is the most miserly of the Countryman family, returning 4.8 litres per hundred kilometres on the claimed/combined cycle, and will produce a 126g per kilometre of CO2.
The sportier models will predictably cost you more at the pump, with the Cooper S drinking 6.5 litres per hundred kilometres (claimed/combined) and emitting 149 grams of CO2 per kilometre, while the Cooper SD need 5.2 litres on the same cycle, while emitting 138 grams of C02 per kilometres.
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…
There's s reason F1 cars don't offer much boot space, and that's because bigger is rarely better in the slippery world of aerodynamics and performance. So the model we were most excited about driving - the overgrown Cooper S - was also the one we approached with the most trepidation.
Happily, it still feels the most urgent of the current crop (a JCW version is still en route) with a zero-to-100km/h time that doesn't set the world on fire, but equally doesn't feel anything resembling slow. The optional variable dampers ($700) make a different on rougher road surfaces, with the harsh and jarring ride of old banished in favour of something a little more smooth, but no less connected.
Equally important, though, is that its weight gain hasn't hurt it in backroad hillclimbs. While the tired old "like a go-kart" description can't be applied to something now the the genuine size of a small SUV, it still feels constantly planted to the road, with direct steering and plenty of feedback fed through the meaty steering wheel.
Step up to the range topper, the diesel-powered SD All4 and things take a turn for the weirder. On paper, the all-wheel-drive model should kill it. A mere kilowatt less power than the Cooper S, but a bucketload more torque, along with the ability to channel that power though a clever all-wheel-drive system should see it devour the sprint. But with that extra kit comes extra kilos (1530kg versus 1460kg), and so the offical time is bang-on that of the petrol-powered S.
But it never feels as quick in the real world. It lacks some of the free-revving fun of the petrol, instead choosing the next gear early in the rev range in automatic mode, and flat-out refusing to shift down a gear as you approach a corner should you take over the shifting via the manual paddles. It feel no less planted than the Cooper S, and it grips and sits beautifully on the twister stuff, but the fun factor just isn't the same.
While we didn't sample the Cooper D, we spent some time in the fun and frugal Cooper. Its three-cylinder engine offers enough power to keep you entertained in the city, but things get a little less fun out on the open road where the climb from 80km/h to 100km/h can feel eternal. The ride, too, feels rougher, with the suspension set to a sportier ride which allows harsher bumps into the cabin.
But all of that stuff will fade into obscurity when you're off the twisting roads and back in the city - and let's face it, that's where the Countryman will spend the bulk of its time. And it's here where Mini's changes make the most sense. The cabin feels light and airy, you can fit more stuff in the boot, the interior treatment is first-class and the addition of crucial driving aids will make day-to-day driving so much easier.
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 Countryman has gone from one of the worst in show (no reversing camera?) to one of the strongest standard safety performers. The now-standard reversing camera joins front and rear parking sensors and an automatic parking system that will take over the steering for you when manoeuvring into a tight spot.
But you'll now also find Mini's Driver Assistant Package, which includes forward collision warning with pedestrian detection and AEB, and street-sign recognition that reads the signs as you pass them and displays that info on the in-car screen. You can add to that active cruise that will come to a complete stop with traffic before accelerating to speed again, and five airbags (dual front airbags, a side airbag for the driver and two curtain airbags covering both rows of seats).
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 Mini Countryman is covered by a three-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty and requires what BMW calls "condition-based servicing", meaning your car is serviced when it needs to be, rather than after a predetermined amount of kilometres. Owners can prepay their maintenance costs for five years or 80,000km for $1,240.