By KBB.com Editors
Considering Suzuki's long history of selling capable yet affordable off-road vehicles, its new mid-size Equator pickup truck seems like a logical addition to the brand's lineup. Interestingly, the decision to sell the Equator was driven largely by the needs of Suzuki's motorcycle and ATV riders and not pent-up demand by automotive buyers. From Suzuki's perspective, fans of the company's dirt bikes and ATVs should get to haul their toys with a Suzuki-branded truck. Rather than building one from the ground up, Suzuki achieved its goal by partnering with experienced truck builder Nissan. The end result is the Suzuki Equator, a clone of the Nissan Frontier sporting a lightly revised exterior, expanded warranty, lower purchase price and those all-important Suzuki badges.You'll Like This Car If...
The 2009 Suzuki Equator is every bit as capable, comfortable and solidly built as the Nissan Frontier we like so much. If you like the Frontier – and plan on keeping your next pickup for a long time – you'd be wise to consider the Equator and its longer warranty.You May Not Like This Car If...
If you have so many Suzuki off-road machines that you need V8 power to pull them all, the Equator won't meet your needs.What's Significant About This Car?
Suzuki has modest sales expectations for their truck but hopes enough Suzuki motorcycle fans want a Suzuki-branded truck to make it worth their while. Helping to bolster the case for the Equator, buyers also enjoy a seven-year, 100,000-mile warranty and reduced purchase prices compared to the nearly identical Nissan Frontier.Driving It Driving Impressions
Like most trucks, the 2009 Suzuki Equator compromises precise handling in the name of functionality. The body leans in the corners, the steering ratio is slow and the brakes feel a bit soft, shortcomings that are easily forgiven when towing up to 6,500 pounds or making use of the Equator's nearly 10 inches of ground clearance while traveling off-road. And while it's not as comfortable as a car, the Equator actually proves quite livable on long freeway journeys where other less refined pickups require more tolerance from passengers. The Suzuki Equator offers the raised seating position expected of a pickup truck, providing a good view of the road ahead. When that road ends, the available four-wheel drive system can be engaged without bringing the vehicle to a stop. Off-road the Suzuki Equator impresses, doubly so in RMZ-4 guise, crawling over rocks, fording streams and deftly climbing up and over daunting hills.Favorite Features
Suzuki borrows the RMZ-4 moniker from its range of off-road motorcycles for this highly capable four-wheeler. Skid plates, off-road tires, Bilstein shocks, and an electric locking rear differential make the RMZ-4 an impressively competent off-roader.
Adjustable Tie-down System
Anyone who has ever tried loading a motorcycle into the bed of a pickup truck will appreciate the adjustable tie-down points included on Crew Cab and Sport Extended Cab models. Rather than struggling to reach fixed anchor points, channels built into the Equator's bed let you slide the anchor points to right where they are needed.
Favoring function over luxury, the interior of the Suzuki Equator offers a simplified dash layout, big buttons and knobs and a wealth of storage nooks. Interior surfaces are largely composed of hard plastic but soft material in the right places makes the Equator's cabin feel adequately inviting. Those in the front seats enjoy plenty of room to stretch out, but back seat passengers may complain about the nearly vertical seatback found in the five-passenger Crew Cab or the extremely tight quarters of the rear jump seats found in the four-passenger Extended Cab.Exterior
Stylistically speaking, the 2009 Suzuki Equator hits all the right notes for a mid-size pickup truck. Big flared fenders, recessed side glass, a towering grille and a solid stance give the Equator a suitably masculine appearance. The Suzuki Equator is offered in two cab styles and two bed lengths. The Equator Extended Cab features rear hinged mini-doors for access to the rear jump seats, while the Crew Cab offers four conventional doors. A five-foot bed is standard with a six-foot bed available exclusively for Crew Cab Sport trims.Notable Standard Equipment
The least-expensive 2009 Suzuki Equator Extended Cab comes modestly equipped with fabric seating, a pair of 12-volt power outlets and not much else. The larger Equator Crew Cab is similarly sparse in base form but includes essentials like air conditioning, a CD audio system and tilt steering wheel. Buyers who opt for the Extended Cab Premium or Crew Cab Sport are treated to such 20th-century advancements as power windows, mirrors and door locks, cruise control and remote keyless entry. Standard safety features found on all Equator trims include anti-lock brakes, a tire pressure monitoring system and six airbags.Notable Optional Equipment
There are only a few optional features available for the Suzuki Equator, many of which are tied to specific trims. A power sunroof, Bluetooth phone connectivity, steering wheel audio controls and stability control are offered exclusively for the RMZ-4 trim while a six-foot bed is available only for the Crew Cab Sport. A Class-3 tow hitch is also offered for all Crew Cab trims and the Extended Cab Sport trims. Also available is a navigation system featuring real-time traffic, weather, movie times and more, but only for Crew Cab Equators.Under the Hood
There are two engines available for the 2009 Suzuki Equator; a 152-horsepower four-cylinder (included only in Extended Cab base and Premium trims) and a 261-horsepower V6. All trims feature a five-speed automatic transmission with the exception of the base Equator Extended Cab, which comes equipped with a five-speed manual transmission. Shift-on-the-fly four-wheel drive is also offered on the Crew Cab Sport (optional) and on the top-of-the-line RMZ-4 trim (standard).
2.5-liter in-line 4
152 horsepower @ 5200 rpm
171 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4400 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/23 (manual), 17/22 (automatic)
261 horsepower @ 5600 rpm
281 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 15/20 (2WD), 15/19 (4WD)
The base 2009 Suzuki Equator Extended Cab 4x2 with manual transmission has a starting price of right around $18,000, while the base Crew Cab 4X2 with V6 and automatic transmission checks in at nearly $24,000. At the top of the line is the Equator Crew Cab RMZ-4 which, when equipped with the Sport Package, brings the price just above $31,000 and includes niceties like a sunroof, auxiliary input jack and Hill Decent Control. To compare the actual transaction prices for the Suzuki Equator, be sure to check the Fair Purchase Price. The Suzuki brand generally suffers from lower-than-average resale values, but the Equator's competitive purchase prices and limited sales numbers should help it hold residual values closer to those of its Nissan Frontier twin.