By KBB.com Editors
Given that American Suzuki launched its automotive arm - in 1985 - on the strength of its offroad-specific Samurai, the addition of a pickup to its automotive mix should have caught no one by surprise. That American Suzuki took a Nissan Frontier and added but a smattering of cosmetic tweaks (such as an all-new front clip) caught more than a few by surprise. Its stated purpose was to supply Suzuki's motorcycle and ATV constituents with a truck sharing the same brand and spirit of adventure. That said, the m/c and ATV crowd would seem to be spending their money on gas and tires; the Equator, with virtually no marketing budget since its fall 2008 launch, has achieved little in the way of sales volume. Lack of sales shouldn't, however, take away from the goodness of the truck. As a donor vehicle, the Frontier is one of the best mid-size offerings. And the Suzuki changes - in combination with what Suzuki calls America's #1 Warranty - have done nothing to diminish its attractiveness.
Suzuki's Equator stands out in a crowd for all of the right reasons. The Nissan Frontier, on which it is based, has long been regarded as an overachiever in the segment. The Suzuki is - to most eyes - the more attractive iteration. Get it if you like looking at your vehicle before positioning yourself behind the wheel.
Despite the inherent reliability of the platform, Suzuki has but 25 percent of Nissan's dealer count. To that end, if you are saddled with a problem needing immediate attention - and you remain under warranty - you might very well incur an out-of-pocket expense in the absence of an accessible Suzuki dealer.
Now in its third full model year, the Equator's most notable point is its continued production. In 2010 stability control was made standard on V6 models, while a semi-integrated Garmin navigation unit was added as an option. For 2011, according to Suzuki, the Equator is "designed to deliver real capability to consumers focused on both the journey and the destination." We think they've made the "journey" a mandatory option.
Driving Impressions We have about one-hundred words, but we could do it in three: it's a truck. With that as a given, the Equator and its Frontier twin are highly regarded for...an extremely stiff - albeit heavy - chassis structure. In point of fact, this platform isn't engineered for the mid-size truck segment; rather, it's downsized from the Titan full-size chassis. To that end, it's amazingly capable as a truck, but also rather heavy in its size segment. The suspension, steering and braking, however, do what's expected of them, with no surprises and little to disappoint. The folks at "4-Wheel & Offroad" magazine recognized it as their 4X4 of the Year at the Equator's launch, an accolade rarely given to something that is - at its core - a rebadging of an existing vehicle. We like the attributes of the RMZ-4 off-road more than we like the characteristics of the base RWD models on-road.
In a brazen - albeit predictable - attempt to borrow some mojo from its motorcycle brethren, Suzuki takes "RMZ" from the motocross side of the business, adds the numeral "4" and - in the process - turns the Equator into one of the most capable off-roaders available from the showroom. The skid plates, off-road specific rubber, Bilstein shocks and locking rear differential take it to the dirt and allow you to drive out. We like it all, and only wish this trim level were available as an Extended Cab variant.
Adjustable Tie-down System
Taken intact from Nissan, the adjustable tie-down system employs five special "C" cross-section rails mounted in the bed. Removable utility cleats slide into the channels, providing a wide range of attachment points for securing cargo. It's great for securing virtually anything, although state laws will (typically) prevent you from securing a live passenger via a tie-down system.
It's a truck (or sport truck) with a base price of roughly $18K, and its interior fully conveys that. A simple dash, buttons and knobs operable (for the most part) with a gloved hand, and adequate room in both the Extended and Crew Cabs make for an interior that neither delights nor offends. Were leather seating offered we'd take it, but given the comparatively low take rate on the pickup itself an interior upgrade hasn't been offered by American Suzuki.
Most observers - and the handful of customers - have liked those changes wrought by Suzuki's design team; in short, they didn't screw it up. And in the front they seemingly improved on the original, which is no mean feat. That said, there's nothing significantly new here - only the basic, honest representation you want from a work or play truck. In its aggressively 4X4, RMZ-4 guise, this is the perfect exclamation point to your off-road pursuits.
Both 2011 Suzuki Equator Extended Cab and Crew Cab models feature flip-up rear seats, a fold-flat front passenger seat and removable storage boxes located beneath the rear seats. Beyond that, the base Extended Cab is appropriately spartan. Opt for the Premium, Sport or RMZ-4 packages and power mirrors, door locks, and windows are built into the base price, as is air conditioning and a 4-speaker AM/FM/CD audio system. The Crew Cab is better equipped in its standard spec, but the base MSRP is several thousand dollars higher. Standard safety equipment in both cabs is more comprehensive, with ABS braking, tire pressure monitoring system and both front seat side-impact airbags and curtain airbags for front and rear outboard passengers.
Most options are tied to the trim levels: Premium, Sport and RMZ-4. Opt for the RMZ-4 with Sport upgrades and you'll enjoy the benefits of Vehicle Dynamic Control, Hill Descent Control and Hill Hold Control. Inside, the Sport package on the RMZ-4 adds 380 watts of Rockford-Fosgate audio, eight high-performance speakers plus subwoofer, an auxiliary input jack and Bluetooth capacity. And while there's little or no aftermarket support specific to the Equator, there is a plentiful number of aftermarket options for the Frontier.
Suzuki offers two engines on the 2011 Equator, but only one real choice. The base 2.5 liter has little to endear it beyond simplicity and longevity. Highway economy gives you a 2-mpg bump over the V6 (both with auto transmissions), but at $4/gallon over 15,000 annual miles, that 10 percent improvement represents all of $300 in savings over the course of a year. The 4.0 liter V6 gives you smooth, responsive power and the ability to tow some 6,500 pounds. We wouldn't, to be sure, tow that tonnage with a mid-size truck, but it makes towing something (boat, trailer, etc.) weighing 3,000 pounds just that much easier.
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), 14/19 (4WD)
By chucky on Monday, February 02, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 91,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "Was very fun to drive especially off road"
Cons: "Horrible fuel drinker, off road acted out"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 6
"Great truck was a good deal. The fuel economy is horrible drinks fuel like a v10 but has some torque and power."
3 people out of 3 found this review helpful
By Turbo on Saturday, August 16, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 29,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "On Off Road, comfortable, reliable, versatile"
Cons: "not so great gas mileage, no option for leather"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"Comfortable, but not fancy. Excellent performance at the cost of fuel economy. Which would be my only complaint, gas mileage should NOT be your first concern if buying this truck. Although it improved quite a bit since new, it still only gets appx. 18 mpg overall IIRC. Very versatile hauling and towing capabilities. I love this truck after almost 2 years of ownership."
11 people out of 21 found this review helpful
By Foxster68 on Tuesday, March 12, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 2,200overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Suzuki RMZ-4 equals Nissan Pro-4X enough said."
Cons: "No 6-speed, leather, or sunroof option!"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I Purchased this truck new in the RMZ-4 trim which included a V-6 and 5 speed automatic. I had to take it on a trip immediatley, so it's just over 3 weeks old and I have 2,200 miles on it. I am suprized at the over all quietness in the cabin, a reflection of the quality build. The overall mileage average was 19 mpg. for the entire trip, which was mostly interstate. The engine has plenty of get-up-and-go. The view from the cabin is perfect, neither to high nor to low. The ride quality was excellent. I would recommend this vehicle before their gone, It's a Nissan Frontier for heavens sake...a wolf in sheeps clothing. Suzuki is offering great incentives, mine was $5000.00 off sticker."
6 people out of 9 found this review helpful
By Mike O on Thursday, March 07, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 5,800overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great price, love to drive, power of motor"
Cons: "Interior a little plain, gas mileage is so so"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I bought this truck in November and so far I have no complaints. My favorite part about the truck has to be the motor. It has a lot of get up and go. I used to have a Sport Trac and don't quite have all of the interior features I had with that, but am thrilled with the power, it's ease of driving in winter conditions and am looking forward to the large towing capacity this summer."
3 people out of 4 found this review helpful
By John on Thursday, November 01, 2012
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 20,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I bought this truck new off the lot. Have been looking for a mid size pick up. I previously owned a Chevy Colorado Z71 Crew Cab inline 5, great on gas, but no 4wd or posi, just plain old limited slip (no good). I paid 19,000 used for that one and well i thought it was time to get a new one since i've driven it for 5 years plus my son was getting his license so decided to give him that one. I searched for many Mid size trucks. Noticed that alot of people had the Toyota Tacom, Nissan Frontier, Chevy Colorado, GMC Canyon, Ford Ranger, but no Suzuki. I looked it up on pickuptrucks.com and found it for 26,800, Crew Cab, RMZ4, 4wd, locking rear diff (it is a DANA axle also comes in the Nissan Frontier Pro-4x), Blisten Shocks, Came with Garmin GPS(removable, but hard to find them with it), 10year warranty(no other manufacture gives that much), Sweet bf goodwrich allterrain tires, lacks on fuel economy but hey if you have the money to buy it then it wont bother you! Now tell me are you going to go to chevy and buy a colorado for 29,000, 4wd, no locking rear diff, no 5 star crash test, no 10 year warranty??? I would chose the equator over any other company. The motor is AMERICAN but the transmission is Japenes. Shifts good, has plenty of storage, easy to clean interior. Test drive it. Oh yeah i drove it in a 2ft deep pond with thick mud/clay didnt get stuck at all. My buddy with a Suzki Samurai started spinning tires! With bigger size tires. and my other buddy with a chevy colorado that was 4wd had got it stuck. So go SUZUKI!"
2 people out of 5 found this review helpful
By joe on Tuesday, August 28, 2012
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 70,000overall rating 7 of 10rating details
Pros: "get up and go leaves all other trucks behine"
Cons: "see notes"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"great gas mileage, powerful get up and go, comfortable ride needs turning lights on mirrows, larger back up light on cab, close up side mirrows, radio volume control on wheel, full power seats in front,"
1 person out of 2 found this review helpful