Let's face it: The compact truck segment has been thinning out for some time. Dodge axed the Dakota in August 2011, and Ford ended U.S. production of the Ranger last December, with no plans to bring the all-new global Ranger stateside anytime soon. Toyota slapped a new front end on its aging Tacoma, and Nissan gave the Frontier a Sport Appearance Package. However, there is hope on the horizon from Chevy with a fully redesigned Colorado -- but it will be at least a year before it hits the U.S. market.
And yet, one compact truck has unfortunately eluded the automotive mainstream since its debut in 2008 -- the Suzuki Equator. Ask any random person on the street about the Equator, and you're met with blank stares. When Suzuki partnered with Nissan, the goal was that Suzuki would target its loyal motorcycle and ATV buyers. The Equator essentially is a rebadged Nissan Frontier with some sheetmetal tweaks.
At first glance, the exterior bodylines of the Equator can easily be mistaken for its counterpart. Look again and you'll notice the beefier horizontal front grille; rounder headlights; restyled hood, fenders, bumpers, and front fascia; and a Suzuki insignia on the tailgate.
A little over two years ago we had a 2009 Suzuki Equator RMZ-4 in Motor Trend's long-term fleet, and it was a staff favorite for trips on and off the pavement. Now that the Equator is in its fourth year of production, our feelings haven't changed, and neither has the truck.
We took the 2012 Suzuki Equator Crew Cab RMZ-4 4x4 home for a long holiday vacation, with only 1340 miles on its fresh 4.0-liter V-6 engine. Its 261-hp, 281-lb-ft torque powerplant is mated to a five-speed automatic transmission--a strong combo that provides the power and performance we needed for a week full of travel and yardwork. Our tester reached 60 mph in a respectable 7.7 seconds and ran a flat 16.0 seconds at 86.9 mph in the quarter mile.
On a 700-mile round trip from Orange County, California, to Kingman, Arizona, we averaged 17.1 mpg with a bed half full of boxes. This RMZ-4 4x4 is outfitted with Bilstein shocks, which made the drive fairly smooth on the asphalt. We experienced very little wheelhop on the poorly maintained two-lane interstate. The compact-size Crew Cab interior featured the RMZ-4 trim with red stitching and didn't have the optional $600 Garmin portable nav system. The cabin was comfy for three full-size adults, and there was room for a child seat, but we were less than impressed with the wind noise that came from the windshield.
The Equator is equipped with such standard features as a spray-on bedliner and tiedown tracks, in addition to the RMZ-4 Moto bed extender (a $359 option), of which we took full advantage with many trips to the hardware store to repair fencing lost in recent windstorms. The four-wheel-drive system with hill hold and hill descent control came in handy on our hillside back yard, keeping the truck secure whenever we moved it. This rather simple feature is a great help when your driveway dips 39 degrees below the street surface and you're loading the bed with fresh-cut tree branches, six bags of raked leaves, and the remnants of a dead tree for a voyage to the local dump.
If going full-size isn't an option for you, the Suzuki Equator is the half-hidden treasure box waiting to be discovered. It's also the only truck backed by a 100,000-mile/7-year limited powertrain warranty.
|2012 Suzuki Equator RMZ-4|
|Price as tested||$30,847|
|Layout||Front-engine, 4WD, 5-pass, 4-door truck|
|Engine||4.0L/261-hp/281-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6|
|Length x width x height||206.6 x 72.8 x 70.1 in|
|Curb weight (F/R dist)||4461 lb (56/44%)|
|Payload capacity||1105 lb|
|Towing capacity||6100 lb|
|0-60 mph||7.7 sec|
|Quarter mile||16.0 sec @ 86.9 mph|
|Braking, 60-0 mph||132 ft|
|EPA city/hwy fuel economy||15/19 mpg|
|Fuel economy as tested||17.1 mpg|
|CO2 emissions||1.17 lb/mile|
|On sale in U.S.||Currently|