DRIVE badly in the newest Holden and you're likely to get a kick in the pants.
The kick comes from the newest safety system in the Equinox, a family-sized SUV imported from Mexico to take the place of the unloved Holden Captiva wagon.
It uses haptic feedback through the seat to alert the driver to potential danger to the front, rear and sides of the car.
The Safety Alert seat is intended to take the place of the various bells, chimes and beeps that have invaded cars in recent years as everything from parking radar to auto safety braking have revolutionalised crash protection.
"This is the world's first safety alert seat,” says Tony Metaxas, the lead development engineer at GM Holden on the Equinox project.
"Audible chimes tend to be a little bit overwhelming. It helps you get rid of the audible busyness in the car.
"It can also warn the driver of the location of the hazard. Right side of the seat for a danger on the right, the same for the left, and both sides for something at the front or rear.”
Holden is pitching the Equinox into one of the toughest sectors in the new-car business, where the Mazda CX-5 and Volkswagen Tiguan are the benchmarks and there are more than a dozen five-seater rivals.
It is priced from $27,990, but the basic Equinox LS comes without auto safety braking, which is bundled in a suite of safety systems bundled under the Holden Eye banner and costing a minimum of $32,990 for the LS+ model.
The Safety Alert seat is among a number of family-friendly features in the Equinox range that include wireless phone charging, multiple USB ports, a 230-volt power socket, a hands-free powered tailgate and - on the LT-Z flagship from $39,990 - ventilation for both front seats.
"We really have thrown the kitchen sink at this car,” Metaxas says.
On the safety seats, which use similar haptic technology to the latest computer keyboards, he says there are a number of advantages over traditional warning sounds.
According to research in the USA, people are far more likely to leave the safety systems active with the Safety Alert seat because they are not offended by excessive noise in the cabin.
"It's an extremely effective feature for the hearing impaired, as well,” he says.
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