What does the world need now? At this moment, I sincerely doubt the answer lies with more pickup trucks, but here’s Suzuki’s offering – which is little more than a warmed-over Nissan Frontier.
That isn’t, mind you, a bad thing. Using a frame derived from Nissan’s full-size Titan pickup, the Frontier is a solid, rugged, and capable pickup – so too, then, is the Equator. Apart from the front sheetmetal (which curiously resembles that of a Toyota Tacoma), the Equator is all-Frontier from the A-pillar on back. The same goes for the interior, which – aside from Suzuki-embroidered floor mats and a chrome ‘S’ on the grille, is just as you’d find it on the Frontier.
I’m not normally a pickup person, but over the six days I drove the Equator, I found myself falling for the truck. It was plenty practical for both cargo (I was an inch shy of fitting a double mattress in the bed) and passengers (four adults rode along to help move said mattress), and the powertrain – a 4.0-liter version of Nissan’s exemplary VQ engine mated to a five-speed automatic – propelled the truck along without breaking a sweat. Yes, it shudders its way around broken freeway like a good, old-fashioned body-on-frame pickup, but it refrains from breaking any spinal cords or inducing motion sickness while doing so. I’d argue it’s a great truck – but then again, so is the Frontier.
I can’t tell if a Frontier by any other rhinoplasty still looks as sweet. I’m partial to the Frontier’s front clip, and Nissan also offers a host of package and trim combinations one can’t find on the Suzuki. Though American Suzuki hasn’t yet released pricing or package information, I’m predicating the Equator will cater to the same “crowds” who buy the Isuzu I-370: those who want a name-brand truck, but with a lengthy warranty and a cut-rate price.
Evan McCausland, Web Producer
Yep, the Suzuki Equator is the automotive world’s latest example of the time-honored practice of badge engineering. You know all those bright and shiny Suzuki dealerships that have been popping up on the suburban landscape over the past few years? The owners of those dealerships wanted a truck to sell. Suzuki Motor Corporation struck a deal with Nissan, which had extra capacity at its Frontier plant in Smyrna, Tennessee, and the result is the Equator pickup which my colleague Evan McCausland already has described.
This is a stout, old-fashioned mid-size pickup that makes few attempts at refinement, and that’s just fine. It’s stiff-legged, with a rigid but not back-breaking ride and a rudimentary four-wheel-drive system with low range – there’s no leaving this in four-wheel drive on dry pavement unless you are a fan of axle binding in corners. But the Equator’s powertrain – a 4.0-liter V-6 and a five-speed automatic – is strong and well-integrated. No complaints there at all.
I noted that our test vehicle has the requisite cargo tie-down channels in the bed and what I presume is a factory-sprayed bedliner; Nissan pioneered that technology when it introduced the Frontier’s big brother, the Titan. Its advantages over plastic drop-in liners are said to include a less slippery surface; no opportunity for water to collect between metal and plastic; and supposed durability on par with molded plastic liners. It also looks quite good with its matte black finish.
If you’re shopping for a mid-size pickup and you happen to like your local Suzuki dealership, the Equator is worth a test-drive.
Joe DeMatio, Executive Editor
Evan likes this pickup, despite not being a pickup truck guy, because of its simple honesty and integrity. At a time when it’s hard to find a pickup with an interior that hasn’t been pimped into a state of hedonistic overload (the way all of us sissies like them!), the Equator is simple, to the point, and with only the most cursory of amenities. There is no extra anything. The Equator doesn’t look different than your average modern pickup, and it has simple and effective four-wheel drive which is easily accessed with a switch on the dash and which worked like a charm in two inches of early slushy snow.
The Equator was low-hanging fruit for Suzuki, so certainly worth building, and as Joe D. says, it’s worth a test-drive.
Jean Jennings, President & Editor-in-Chief
For years, many foreign automakers looked longingly at the U.S. full-size pickup market, with its big sales volumes and hefty profit margins. But cracking that market hasn’t been so easy – just ask Nissan and Toyota. So Suzuki, in its quest to give its dealers a pickup to sell, was wise to rebadge a mid-size truck like the Nissan Frontier, rather than something bigger. I’d argue that an even smaller, more economical pickup, like the kind Japanese automakers sold here successfully for years, would have been an even better choice for Suzuki – and closer to the brand’s core competency – but nobody makes small pickups any more. At least not for our market.
As it is, the Frontier/Equator is a highly useful machine. I put it to work over the Thanksgiving weekend, carrying four adults in relative comfort, shuttling kids around without an arduous climb aboard, and filling the cargo bed, once with two bicycles, four mounted snow tires, and a smattering of firewood, and another time with two Adirondack chairs. I suspect that a midsize pickup like the Equator would easily meet the needs of most weekend truck guys, without the gigantism and general overkill of the true biggies (“Tows 14,500 pounds!”). Unfortunately, because Frontier/Equator uses the stout, and heavy, frame from the Titan, this V-6 powered mid-sizer doesn’t save much fuel compared to a full-size truck.
Joe Lorio, Senior Editor
For those who need a truck, the Equator makes a lot of sense. It’s not being built for an Urban Cowboy and it’s got everything a truck needs: good V-6 power, a simple 4wd system, and a factory bedliner. For me, it all comes down to the sticker price (which is curiously absent on this tester). Suzuki must undercut the Frontier pricing to make any sense. I don’t see this truck as being more luxurious than a Nissan, so the only leg left to stand on is value.
For those who laugh at the idea of buying a Suzuki truck, ask yourself if you’d rather be driving a Ridgeline and riding a Honda dirt bike or in a real truck with a Suzuki dirt bike in the bed. If you’ve totally bought into the Suzuki brand with a motorcycle or other toys, the Equator is a logical choice to cart them around.
Phil Floraday, Senior Online Editor
Base Price (with destination): $28,095
Price as tested: $28,095 (est)
Fuel Economy: 15/19/16 mpg (city/hwy/combined)
Size:4.0 liter V6
HP: 261 HP @ 5,600 RPM
Torque: 281 lb.-ft @ 4,000 RPM
Transmission: 5 speed automatic w/ overdrive
Weight: 4,248 lb.
Wheel/Tire Info: 17×7.5 Alloy (size)
P235/75R15 General Grabber AW