THERE are a variety of reasons why SUVs have proved to be popular purchase options in the past few years. A raised driving position may be a universal positive, but then there are those to whom the bigger, bolder looks of an SUV appeal as a symbol of might at the shopping centre, while others genuinely do require the extra space and versatility that such a vehicle offers.
There are those who will only ever require all-wheel drive to mount the pavement, and then there are those who plan to explore some of the less travelled gravel roads of the country. Most SUVs on the market have been sold with a specific lifestyle in mind, whether it be boutique looks, extra seating, or off-road ability, but what of those buyers who want a little bit of everything?
Chevrolet is hoping that its new Captiva appeals to a wide variety of customers by offering respectable levels of off-road capability, high levels of convenience and user-friendliness with additional seating when required, all in a good-looking package with a standard specification level that will force the other players in its segment to sit up and take notice.
With styling aimed at the European market, the Captiva can hold its own in the looks department on any shopping mall pavement. Neat touches, such as protective plates below the front and rear bumpers, give the vehicle some street cred, and the standard 18-inch wheels fill the wheelarches purposefully. During the design of the vehicle, particular care was taken to keep the front and rear overhangs short, creating a shape that defies its large frame by actually looking quite compact. In LTZ trim, the features list has almost all the boxes ticked as standard. The vehicle’s onboard display shows information on everything from climate control settings to an (inaccurate on the test unit) compass. With a high level of perceived quality, all switches and controls are positioned conveniently throughout the cabin, and buttons for the audio system are repeated on a satellite mounting on the steering wheel. These features, together with plenty of electric adjustment for the driver’s seat, make for comfortable and relaxed driving at an elevated SUV height.
Easy-fold action allows for simple manoeuvring of all passenger seats, including a third row, which is stowed below the luggage area when not required. As with most vehicles offering this seven-seat layout, luggage space becomes somewhat tight with this extra row erect. The seats at the rear are designed to accommodate smaller members of the family, but there is good legroom for three adults in the second row.
The pleasing overall driving experience offered by the Captiva is due, to a great extent, to the smooth and refined 3,2-litre petrol engine, mated with a five-speed transmission, whose only negative is a slightly delayed kick-down that sends the engine revs soaring to intrusive levels. With 169 kW available at 6 600 r/min, and 297 N.m of torque on hand at 3 200, the V6 provides smooth cruising, with healthy overtaking punch should it be required. The 65-litre fuel tank is good for a range of over 560 km. We were able to achieve a top speed of 197 km/h with minimal fuss, thanks mostly to the sleek shape of the vehicle. Speed-sensitive power steering ensures that the wheel is nicely weighted at cruising speeds, and the Captiva is an easy vehicle to manoeuvre around tight parking areas. Standard rear parking sensors assist in this regard.
In an attempt to appeal to a wider audience than simply the school run moms, the Captiva has been given a relatively high dose of off-road ability, without impacting on the day-to-day driving character of the vehicle.
Under normal driving conditions, power is transferred through the front wheels only, which aids fuel economy and allows for a more car-like driving experience. With its Intelligent Torque Controlling Coupling (ITCC), power is transferred to the rear wheels within 100 milliseconds when the system senses that traction is being lost at the front. Up to 50 per cent of the power can be directed to the rear. The Captiva also comes equipped with Hill Descent Control, which, once engaged by the driver, will restrict the vehicle to 7 km/h while going downhill. On test, we were impressed by just how well these systems come together to complement the driving experience, rather than attempting to transform the Captiva into a hardcore offroader.
The steering is precise, and, although the market for this vehicle will surely not be for tackling mountain passes in anger, the chassis is a good one, with high levels of grip.
An electronic stability program (ESP) and traction control keep watch over proceedings, and the ABS braking system incorporates BAS with EBD to ensure that the fairly large Captiva boasts ample stopping power.