Why reinvent the wheel when you can just put your own spin on it?
Suzuki and Nissan might be worlds apart as competitors, but not when it comes to creating the new Equator pickup.
While Nissan supplies the cake, Suzuki gets to give it a new name and place its stylized “S” logo as icing on the grille.
These days, automakers can literally spend hundreds of millions of dollars designing and tooling up their factories to produce a new model. Or they can eliminate most of that expense by purchasing an existing vehicle from another manufacturer. Suzuki has been doing just that for years, most recently by arranging with Daewoo of Korea to supply their now departed Reno and Forenza models.
In this case it’s an ideal solution for a relatively small importer like Suzuki and a good deal for Nissan since it helps to keep its Smyrna, Tenn., plant humming, but Suzuki isn’t alone in this globalization practice. Volkswagen’s new Routan minivan comes from Chrysler with only a different front fascia and some interior trim separating it from
its Town & Country counterpart.
The Nissan Frontier is ideally suited as the basis for the Equator, which is scheduled to arrive later this year. It’s compact dimensions (slightly larger than a Ford Ranger and just a touch smaller than the mid-size Toyota Tacoma) neatly fits Suzuki’s small-car-focused lineup, yet its solid body-on-frame construction and impressive power
from an available V6 give it tremendous versatility.
To provide the Equator with at least some degree of separation from the Frontier (certainly Nissan would have insisted on it), Suzuki has attached a unique bumper, headlights and a front grille featuring three bold horizontal bars framed by bright metal trim. Also unique are the hood, front fenders and tailgate that have been reshaped to Suzuki’s specifications.
As with the Frontier, the Equator can be ordered in both extended- and four-door Crew Cab cabins (no regular cab), in rearor all-wheel-drive, with a choice of short or long beds (on Crew Cabs) and with two engine choices.
Straight out of the Nissan is a 152-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder and an optional 261-horsepower 4.0-liter V6 that’s better suited to towing and off-roading since it’s the only way to get the 4x4 system.
A five-speed manual transmission is standard on four-cylinder models, while a five-speed automatic is optional, but is exclusive to the V6.
Extended-cab models are offered in base and Premium grades and four-door Crew Cab body styles come in three trim levels starting with a base model that’s available only in rear-wheel-drive and includes air conditioning, cruise control, remote keyless entry and power mirrors, locks and windows. All trims also include a sprayedon bed liner applied at the factory.
The Sport is offered in rear- and fourwheel-drive and adds, among other amenities, an eight-speaker Rockford Fosgatebrand sound system that includes a six-disc CD changer and redundant audio controls on the steering wheel.
For true off-roading practitioners, RMZ-4 (named after one of Suzuki’s more popular dirt bikes), is the real deal of the bunch and includes shift-on-the-fly fourwheel drive, off-road-tuned performance shocks, skid plates, Dana 44 front and rear axles, unique 16-inch wheels and electronic
locking rear differential. Fog lamps and a removable bed extender are also part of the RMZ-4 content.
The Equator’s maximum towing capacity is 6,500 pounds and naturally Suzuki hopes that will assist you in hauling a variety of the company’s playtime products, such as motorcycles and a variety of fourwheel all-terrain products.
The Equator might not be entirely original, but it’s a welcome addition that helps Suzuki fulfill its goal of becoming a more complete automobile company.