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As births go, the Chevrolet Captiva has suffered from a rather protracted labour.
It was orginally due to be launched at the tail end of last year, with its sister car the Vauxhall Antara due to follow close behind, but manufacturing problems have beset the General Motors SUV twins.
The factory in South Korea has been struggling to adapt the vehicles for right-hand drive, which is why it is only now, nine months late, that we have finally got behind the wheel of this new model.
The timing couldn’t have been worse, what with a mass of new launches in this sector in the next couple of months, most notably from Peugeot and Citroën with their Mitsubishi Outlander-derived 4007 and C-Crosser.
To be promoted as a leading value SUV to rival the Kia Sorento and seven-seat Hyundai Santa Fe, the Captiva is expected to win 4,000 sales next year in the UK market, seen as critical to Chevrolet’s expansion plans in Europe.
Chevrolet sees the Captiva as primarily a retail car, with around 400 sales earmarked for fleet out of a total of 2,000 units available between now and December.
With user-choosers a key target for such a lifestyle-oriented model, and limited supply, residual values should remain relatively strong with the knock-on effect of lower monthly rentals and competitive wholelife costs.
CAP estimates that a Captiva 2.0 diesel LT seven-seat will retain 39% of its cost new after three-years/60,000-miles, compared to 35% for the Hyundai Santa Fe which costs around £1,000 more.
That sales target should be reachable as the Captiva, along with other Chevrolets, is sold alongside Vauxhall and Saab models under the umbrella of the massive General Motors UK fleet sales operation headed by Maurice Howkins.
This tri-brand approach means GM has three disinct bases from which to offer fleets cars – Chevrolet stands for value for money, Vauxhall is the mainstream offering and Saab is the prestige brand. The fleet team will now be positioning the Captiva on its customers’ choice lists to find the right hole for it – and ensure there is as little overlap as possible with the forthcoming Vauxhall Antara.
Conceived and built in South Korea but designed and engineered by GM in Europe, the car comes with a choice of five or seven seats – unusual in the sector – and three trim levels: LS, LT and LTX. The Vauxhall Antara will be offered only as a five-seater and with sportier trim in a bid to differentiate the two models.
A 2.4-litre petrol engine powers the entry LS, which has front- wheel drive, air-conditioning, alloy wheels, glass-flip tailgate and steering wheel audio controls. All other versions use diesel power (likely to take the lion’s share of sales) and on-demand all-wheel drive, with LT form bringing ESP, a descent control system, fog lamps and a cooled glovebox.
LTX has leather trim, heated front seats, climate control, cruise control and a trip computer.
The entry-level petrol five-seater is priced at just under £17,000, but there is then a steep price walk up to the base diesel of £3,000.
Chevrolet product manager Dave Doublett said: “We may be at the value end of the SUV market, but customers will enjoy the best security from features such as sensors to monitor lift and glass breakage, ultrasonic protection and an electronic deadlock, all of which have been developed specially for the UK cars.
“This means the Captiva will cost no more to insure than our Tacuma MPV.”
Behind the wheel
Rugged but with rounded lines, the Captiva is a roomy, all-purpose car that has good styling, neat detailing and a quality feel, considering the low entry price.
There’s lots of space in the boot – 465 litres – and this can be stretched to a massive 1,565-litre maximum. Even with the middle rear seats in place, capacity is a handy 930 litres and when they’re not needed, the two rearmost squabs in seven-seat versions fold down to provide a flat load area behind a tailgate with a handy opening glass section.
But Chevrolet’s first diesel engine proves to be less of a success. Reasonably responsive in acceleration and quiet when cruising, the Italian-built VM unit sounds noisy at low revs and clatters at idle, despite boasting the latest technology and being mounted in a special cradle that’s claimed to improve running refinement.
The ‘value’ theme is also reflected in handling finesse and our manual LT suffered from slightly vague steering and a tendency to wallow through the bends. Strangely, the automatic version – expected to be the most popular – felt more composed with a stiffer suspension set-up still providing a comfortable, fuss-free ride.
The Captiva’s packaging should appeal if seven seats are a priority, but stiff competition will soon arrive in this sector to join established players such as Honda’s CR-V and the Land Rover Freelander.
|Model:||2.4||2.0 diesel||2.0 diesel auto|
|Max power (bhp/rpm):||136/6,000||147/4,500||147/4,500|
|Max torque (lb-ft/rpm):||162/2,200||236/2,000||236/2,000|
|Max speed (mph):||115||111||112|
|Fuel consumption (mpg):||31.7||37.1||32.8|
|CO2 emissions (g/km):||217||197||233|