What is it?
A fresh crack at the family 4x4 market from General Motors’ budget brand Chevrolet: this is the facelifted Captiva, which goes on sale in the UK this May.
The Korean-built big brother of the Vauxhall Antara, the Captiva has been on sale in Europe since 2005 – and it’s been relative success compared with the Vauxhall. Selling on the strength of being ‘a lot of SUV for the money’, the Captiva offers seven seats, a big boot and plenty of standard specification for relatively little.
With this mid-life tweak, Chevrolet has improved the Captiva’s performance, refinement and overall desirability. The car gets a new 2.2-litre turbodiesel engine offered in either 161- or 182bhp tune, as well as front- or four-wheel drive, five- or seven seats, and six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission.
What’s it like?
Judged on looks alone, you’d expect the facelifted Chevrolet Captiva to handle like a Porsche Cayenne. So pronounced is the styling update that this family 4x4 has been through, from gaping grille through flared wheelarches to bulging bonnet, that from some angles it’s unrecognisable from the dowdy old model. And yet this budget SUV could hardly be less Cayenne-like if it were a £7000 shopping hatch.
Our test car was a mid-spec ‘LT’ model powered by the 182bhp engine, with on-demand four-wheel drive. In stark contrast to the outgoing diesel Captiva, it was particularly refined. New hydraulic engine mounts, better-bushed suspension subframes, thicker door seals and improved sound deadening have made the interior of this car several decibels quieter on the move. It’s probably more hushed than a diesel-powered Honda CRV now.
We can’t report a commensurate improvement in material cabin quality though. The Captiva’s interior is spacious and storage-rich, but although well-chosen seat fabrics and dash trims lift its impression in places, elsewhere shiny, thin, scuffable plastics make the car feel decidely low-rent.
Higher chassis rates and bigger wheels have done little for the Captiva’s dynamics. Intended to contain body roll and make the car more wieldy, they actually just take the shine off the old car’s pliant ride.
The Captiva has all-independent suspension, but handles more like an old-school large 4x4 than anything else. Winter tyres didn’t help provide our test car with the utmost in steering precision, but even on regular rubber we suspect you’d feel every kilogram of this car’s near two tonnes in the dull weight of its helm, and in its general unwillingness to change direction.
For the most part, this is still a comfortable, refined and spacious family car however, and in 182bhp form, doesn’t lack in-gear urge. Performance is strong enough to feel flexible on country roads and authoritative on the motorway, and 40mpg economy is achievable at a modest cruise.
Should I buy one?
Not unless you can get a big discount. In the UK, you won’t get a Captiva with seven seats and four-wheel drive – both of which you’d surely want from a family 4x4 this big – for much less than £28,000. That’s because Chevrolet’s UK range doesn’t allow you to have the Captiva’s entry-level engine or equipment spec in combination with seven seats or four-wheel drive.