Mexican built Equinox has launched in Brazil loaded with equipment for a very good price

Mexican built Equinox has launched in Brazil loaded with equipment for a very good price

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SUVs' share of the Brazilian market has soared to 17.4% in 2017 from just 6.8% in 2012.

With that sort of growth, and opportunity, no automaker can afford not to field more and more products so that's exactly what GM did.

In order to defend its leadership, it has filled the gap between the Tracker and Trailblazer with the medium size, top specification Chevrolet Equinox Premier imported from Mexico with which Brazil has a free trade agreement.

This broad ranging segment hosts 15 competitors from the locally made Jeep Compass (by far the leader), Hyundai ix35 and Tucson, to the more expensive Volvos and Land Rovers.

However, the US brand's newest entrant has been aimed at the mid price point which accounts for 50% of sales in the segment.

The first surprise is the BRL149,900/US$46,000 price. Equinox replaces the now axed GM Korea designed Captiva and offers better trim and equipment. Even though the new model is exempt from import tax, it seems the price is subsidised by GM. The equivalent model retails in the US for about the equivalent of BRL120,000 and, with Brazil's high domestic taxes, industry watchers had expected a suggested retail price over BRL160,000.

Design is attractive, though not aggressive. Interior finished is similar to the Cruze which shares architecture with the Equinox. The synthetic leather seats are better but there is a bit much hard plastic. Compensation comes with items such as a full length, panoramic sunroof, sound wave cancelling noise control, Multi-user memory power front seats, triple door sealing, eight inch centre multimedia touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple Car Play, and cell phone inductive charging.

The tailgate can opened by waving a foot under the rear bumper.

Safety equipment is generous. Besides six airbags and emergency braking assist, there is front collision avoidance, blind spot  and rear seat occupancy monitors and rear cross traffic alert. The rear floor is flat despite the Brazilian version having all wheel drive. The button-activated system can alter torque distribution from 0% to 100% from the default front drive, including left/right torque distribution.

The direct injection, turbocharged two litre petrol engine delivers 258bhp of power with 363Nm of peak torque and is well matched to a new nine speed epicyclic automatic gearbox. This Equinox can sprint to 100km/h (62.5mph) acceleration in 7.6 seconds, faster than most competitors. Power flow is seamless with barely perceptible gear shifts. At 120kmh/75mph the engine is loafing along at just 1,600rpm. This helps achieve the claimed, excellent Inmetro-standards fuel economy of 8.4km/litre (24mpg imperial) in the city and 10.1km/litre/28.3mpg on the motorway.

Very well calibrated electrically assisted steering and suspension deal satisfactorily with the 1,693kg/3,732lb kerb weight and the 4.65m/183 inch overall length. The Equinox, despite its typical SUV height, almost drives like a car.

The only missing item is a brake hold function for Brazil's notorious stop and go traffic.

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