Full 2009 Suzuki Equator Review
What's New for 2009
The 2009 Suzuki Equator is a new midsize pickup truck. It's based on the Nissan Frontier and offers two cab styles, plus a choice of four- or six-cylinder engines.
Those in the know and even casual observers will note the all-new 2009 Suzuki Equator looks pretty familiar. That's because the company's first pickup is essentially a rebadged Nissan Frontier. Arguably more handsome than its platform mate (then again, maybe not), the Equator features a few things unavailable on its Nissan cousin, such as standard front side and curtain airbags and a very generous seven-year/100,000-mile transferable powertrain warranty.
One may wonder why Suzuki decided to enter the pickup truck game now, of all times. Actually, there are a few good reasons. In the last five years, sales of midsize crew-cab pickups have doubled as folks realize they don't need a truck that can pull a house and seat a basketball team. And Suzuki, being a motorcycle, ATV and boat-engine producer, figured a capable pickup (with a towing capacity of up to 6,500 pounds when properly equipped) was a natural addition to its vehicle lineup.
As the Frontier is one of our favorite trucks, thanks to its strong V6, ideal size, relatively nimble handling and considerable off-road talents, our sentiments for the Suzuki Equator are likewise favorable. The Equator is a very capable workhorse that also happens to be a comfortable daily driver. The few downsides to the Suzuki are, yep, the same as those for its cousin, a tight crew-cab backseat and the complete lack of a regular-cab option.
That latter con is pretty minor, though, given that most small- and midsize-truck buyers get an extended cab or crew cab anyway. Boasting a handful of advantages over its highly regarded progenitor, the 2009 Suzuki Equator is a "badge job" that deserves serious consideration.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Suzuki Equator midsize pickup truck is available in extended- and crew-cab body styles. Extended cabs are available in base, Comfort, Premium and Sport trims, and all come with a 6-foot bed. Crew cabs are available in base, Sport, RMZ-4 and RMZ-4 Sport trims, and all have a 5-foot bed except the Sport trim, which can be had with a 6-footer. All trims are rear-wheel drive except the Sport (which can be either rear- or four-wheel drive) and RMZ-4s, which are 4WD only.
The price-leader base Equator is a stripper, fitted with 15-inch steel wheels and bucket seats with a console but little else, as neither air-conditioning nor a sound system is standard. The Comfort trim adds the A/C and a four-speaker stereo with a CD player. The Premium adds 16-inch alloy wheels, a sliding rear window, a tilt steering wheel, keyless entry, full power accessories and upgraded cloth upholstery. Opting for the Sport gets you 17-inch alloy wheels, a sprayed-in bedliner and movable tie-down cleats in the bed.
The RMZ-4 adds chrome exterior trim, heavy-duty axles, an electric locking rear differential, Bilstein shocks, skid plates, 16-inch alloy wheels with off-road-oriented tires, foglamps, unique upholstery, height and lumbar adjustments for the driver seat and metallic cabin accents. The RMZ-4 Sport adds a sunroof, hill descent and hold control and an upgraded audio system with a CD changer, an auxiliary audio jack, satellite radio prep, Bluetooth connectivity and a subwoofer.
Oddly, an aftermarket-style navigation system is optional on all crew cabs but not available on the extended-cab Equators. Bluetooth is optional only on the RMZ-4 crew cab.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2009 Suzuki Equator comes with a choice of two engines -- a 2.5-liter four-cylinder (152 horsepower and 171 pound-feet of torque) or a 4.0-liter V6 (261 hp and 281 lb-ft). The V6 is the only engine choice for crew cabs and 4WD variants, while the four-cylinder is available only in the lower-trim extended-cab models. The four-cylinder is matched to either a standard five-speed manual transmission or an optional five-speed automatic (standard on the Premium). The V6 is equipped with a five-speed automatic only.
Properly equipped, the Frontier can tow up to 6,500 pounds. Fuel economy estimates range from 19 mpg city/23 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined for the rear-drive, four-cylinder extended cab down to 15/19/16 for a 4WD V6 crew cab.
Antilock brakes, front side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags are standard on all trims. Traction control is standard on Sport models, while stability control is only available on the top RMZ-4 Sport trim.
In government crash testing, the Equator crew cab received four stars (out of five) in frontal tests for both driver and passenger while the extended cab garnered four and five, respectively. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety frontal offset testing, the Equator scored a rating of "Good," the agency's highest.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2009 Suzuki Equator extended cab utilizes small, reverse-opening doors to allow rear-passenger access to the fold-up jump seats. As expected, accommodations in these are cramped and meant only to be used in a pinch. The crew cab employs conventional rear doors along with a larger rear cabin, but passengers will find less room in back than in the Dodge Dakota or Toyota Tacoma. Otherwise, the cabin is attractively designed, with intuitive controls and comfortable front seats. The various plastics are hard, but so are those found in all compact pickups -- therefore, the Equator isn't great, but it could be worse.
Anyone planning on a fair amount of cargo hauling would be well advised to spring for the Sport trim, which includes the sprayed-in bedliner and movable tie-down system. Using two "C" cross-section channels running the length of the bed floor (one on each side bed rail and one mounted on the rear of the cab), the system employs removable cleats and a host of accessories like dividers, trays, storage bins and bike racks, providing a very flexible cargo storage solution.
The 2009 Suzuki Equator four-cylinder model makes for a good choice as an inexpensive, light-duty work truck, especially considering the higher fuel efficiency. However, for those who plan on really using the truck for more than "just getting around," the V6 is the only choice.
Providing an abundance of low-end torque, six-cylinder models are up to almost any task, with a competent automatic transmission delivering well-timed shifts whether you're tearing up the sand dunes, hauling supplies to a work site or navigating a morning commute. Steering is precise, with ample feedback, and ride quality is unexpectedly pleasant for a pickup truck (although the RMZ-4's off-road suspension makes that model's ride a little more rough-and-tumble). The 4WD models are capable off-roaders, thanks to a maximum ground clearance of 10 inches and an abundance of suspension travel. For those seeking an even more heavy-duty off-roader, the RMZ-4 Sport model is definitely the pick of the litter.