Full 2011 Suzuki Equator Review
What's New for 2011
For 2011, the Suzuki Equator's V6 engine is no longer offered with the rear-wheel-drive extended cab, the RMZ-4 Sport trim has been discontinued and the tilt steering wheel is no longer available for the base trim level.
Like most everything else in the U.S., pickup trucks have been supersized over the last couple of decades. Perhaps with the latest trend of downsizing, midsize trucks may regain some footing. Choices are few in this category, but among this select group, the 2011 Suzuki Equator ranks very highly.
Although the Equator has its own traditional style, it's essentially identical to the 2011 Nissan Frontier on which it's based under the sheet metal. The Equator and Frontier interior treatments are fundamentally similar as well, with just a few badge changes for the Suzuki. Under the hood, you'll even find some traces of Nissan labeling.
As a result, you get all the advantages and disadvantages that come with the Nissan Frontier. The Equator shares the strength of an optional V6 engine, relatively nimble handling, a manageable size, sturdy construction and respectable off-road performance. Likewise, both trucks suffer from the same cramped quarters in the rear of the crew cab. The Equator also isn't available in the simple standard cab from the Frontier lineup, although this is simply because it has relatively little market appeal.
Suzuki offers a seven-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, while the Nissan stops at five years and 60,000 miles. The drawback here is that warranty work must be performed at Suzuki dealerships, which are outnumbered considerably by Nissan dealers. If a Suzuki dealer is conveniently close to you, however, the 2011 Equator should be an enticing midsize pickup.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Suzuki Equator is a midsize pickup truck that is available in extended- and crew-cab body styles. Extended cabs are available in Comfort, Premium and Sport trims, and all come with a 6-foot bed. Crew cabs are available in Sport and RMZ-4 trims. The Sport comes with either a 5-foot or 6-foot bed, while the RMZ-4 has the short bed only. Rear-wheel drive is standard for the Comfort and Premium trim in the extended cab, while the Sport extended cab and crew cab can be had with either rear or four-wheel drive. Finally, the RMZ-4 crew cab with its short bed is only available with four-wheel drive.
The entry-level Equator with its 15-inch steel wheels has bucket seats and an interior center console, but little else in the way of convenience features. Buyers who desire air-conditioning will have to spring for the optional Comfort package, which also includes a four-speaker sound system 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 spray-in bedliner and movable tie-down cleats in the bed.
The RMZ-4 adds chrome exterior trim, heavy-duty axles, a locking rear differential, Bilstein dampers, skid plates, hill descent and hold control, 16-inch alloy wheels, off-road-oriented tires, foglamps, unique upholstery, metallic interior accents, and a driver seat with height and lumbar adjustment. A removable Garmin navigation system and a bed extender are optional for the RMZ-4 crew cab.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2011 Suzuki Equator comes with a choice of two engines: a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that produces 152 horsepower and 171 pound-feet of torque, and a 4.0-liter V6 that makes 261 hp and 281 lb-ft. The V6 is only available 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 Equator can tow up to 6,300 pounds, while payload maxes out at 1,471 pounds. Fuel economy estimates range from 19 mpg city/23 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined for the rear-drive extended cab with the inline-4 engine to 14/19/16 mpg for the 4WD crew cab with its V6.
In a recent Edmunds test of a V6-powered Sport model, the Equator accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 8.0 seconds, a suitably quick time for a midsize pickup.
Antilock disc brakes, front side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags are standard on all trims. Traction and stability control are standard on Sport and V6 models. Hill-hold and descent control is standard on the four-cylinder Sport and V6-powered long bed and RMZ-4 models.
The 2011 Equator has not been rated using the government's new, more strenuous 2011 crash testing procedures. Its 2010 ratings (which aren't comparable to 2011 tests) resulted in four stars (out of five) in frontal tests for both driver and passenger and five stars for side impact protection. The extended cab garnered four stars for driver protection in frontal impacts and five stars for frontal-impact passenger protection and driver protection in side impacts. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded its highest score of "Good" for frontal-offset testing.
In Edmunds brake testing, a crew cab Equator Sport model came to a stop from 60 mph in 122 feet. It's an admirably short distance, but the soft pedal was far from confidence-inspiring, and sometimes it went all the way to the floor under heavy pressure.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2011 Suzuki Equator makes use of small reverse-opening doors for extended cab models to allow rear passenger access to the fold-up jump seats. As you would expect, rear-seat passenger space is quite cramped. The crew cab has conventional rear doors and a larger rear cabin, but rear cabin space is still smaller than that of a Dodge Dakota or Toyota Tacoma. To the Equator's credit, its cabin features an attractive design, intuitive controls and comfortable front seats. There is an abundance of hard plastic surfaces, but no more than you'll find in other compact/midsize pickups.
Those who frequently haul cargo should consider the Sport trim, which includes the sprayed-in bedliner and movable tie-down system. Using two C-type 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 inexpensive 2011 Suzuki Equator four-cylinder model is well-suited for light-duty work. The models with the hearty Nissan-built V6 with its plentiful low-end torque are worthy of more demanding tasks, whether it's tearing up sand dunes, hauling supplies to a work site or navigating a morning commute -- all while the competent automatic transmission delivers well-timed shifts.
The Equator steers precisely with ample feedback, though effort is a bit on the heavy side. The Equator's ride quality is unexpectedly pleasant for a pickup truck, although the RMZ-4's off-road suspension has a tendency to be too busy on pavement. Understandably, the RMZ model is a prime candidate for drivers with a penchant for serious off-roading. But for the vast majority of truck owners who keep to the pavement, the Sport model will be a wiser choice, with its quieter tires and more compliant suspension.