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When Suzuki decided too many of its two-wheeled owners were turning away from its car brand, it didn't have many options at hand. Building its own truck for American customers would be a fiscal folly. So instead of tooling up, it picked up the phone and ended up with a rebadged Nissan Frontier to sell as its first modern pickup for the United States.
The resulting Suzuki Equator returns for the 2011 model year with no changes, but with the Frontier's goodness still intact. Available in Extended Cab and Crew Cab models, the Equator has the Frontier's wide portfolio of talents, with marketing that's pitched more at the recreational and off-road users Suzuki thinks it has sewn up with its motorcycles, ATVs and jet skis.
The Equator arguably looks better than the Frontier, even though the differences amount to a different grille, paint colors and some Suzuki badging inside and outside the vehicle. The choice between its two powertrains is easy: take the V-6 if it's at all affordable, since the four-cylinder has much less power but not much better fuel economy. Four-cylinder trucks also lack stability control, even as an option.
The Extended Cab doesn't have the room for five passengers of the Crew Cab, but it does have a longer pickup bed (which also comes on one V-6 edition). The longer bed still isn't quite up to the task of hauling a 4x8 sheet of plywood, but Suzuki sells bed extenders along with the well-thought-out bed that can have a spray-in bedliner, tie-downs and adjustable tracks, all for transporting all kinds of truck loads. It'll tow 6,500 pounds in 4x2 V-6 trim, too. Safety ratings from the NHTSA are pending, but the IIHS scores the Equator highly.The Equator is offered in several different trims, including base, Comfort, Premium, Sport, RMZ-4, and RMZ-4 Sport. The RMZ-4 Sport is the standout of the line, including the bed extender, a moonroof, a Rockford-Fosgate sound system, Bluetooth, plus Hill Descent Control and Hill Hold Control. Suzuki also has one of the best warranties, good for 100,000 miles or seven years and fully transferable, for powertrain.
- Tough, playful styling
- Well-built feel
- Pickup bed's nifty tie-downs
- Off-roading gets electronic help
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- Ride can get choppy
- Handling in 4WD models is lackluster
- Cabin is a bit narrow
- Extended Cab's jump seats
- No stability control on four-cylinder models.