Friday, 23 August 2013

REVIEW - Chevrolet Captiva LT

When you hear the word 'Chevy' you instantly picture one of two things. The first is a muscle car. The second is a heap of FBI agents climbing out of a large black SUV. Well I got the opportunity to test a vehicle which falls into the latter category- the Captiva. This 7-seater SUV is essentially the same as a Vauxhall Antara, and I wanted to see how it performed. So I broke out the black aviators and hit the highway...

Looks - 8/10

I rather like how the Captiva looks. Although it is only really the front end that is different from its Vauxhall sibling, they look completely different. The Captiva does have a sort of American aura about it, but before you run for the hills I shall explain why that's a good thing. Just look at that mouth. Its very shouty, and it's shouting "get out of my way!". This car is the big bad SUV you expect to see the aforementioned FBI agents stepping out of. The bold lines and sheer size give the Captiva a presence and you know you're bearing down on people with that imposing front end. At the back there are twin exhausts and more bold lines. Where I feel the Captiva is let down is the wheels. Not only are they small- 17-inch on the LT model- but the design is just plain boring. There's nothing to it, and they're noticeably bland too. If you opt for the range-topping LTZ, you get much nicer 19-inch alloys, but there are also alternative packages available which would definitely add to the looks.

On the inside, I was impressed with the big Chevy. The materials are all very nice, and the finish well-put-together. The seats are half leather, the trim is a sort of carbon-effect, and the plastics are nice. The steering wheel looks like it came from a cruise liner-it's that big- and the controls are all a good quality. I'm not too sure about the front headrests and also the top display which shows fuel economy and the likes. It reminded me of an old clock radio type, and just didn't fit with the quality of the rest of the interior. The dials were very nice too, with their large red needles and white detailing. There are also some clever storage solutions which look great, especially the sliding centre console.

Handling/Performance - 7/10

Powering the Captiva is a 2.2-litre diesel engine producing 184PS and an impressive 400Nm of torque. The base model LS gets 163PS, but the 184 sounds a much healthier number. On my test car this was fed to all four wheels via a 6-speed automatic gearbox. Considering this car is as large as a city, the 0-62mph time of 11 seconds and top speed of 118mph aren't too bad at all. Power delivery is smooth thanks to the gearbox, which makes best use of the vast amount of torque available, and you can really feel the mid-gear acceleration. It feels natural too, like this car is meant for surging through the gears and picking up speed at a rate that feels faster than the figures suggest. The Captiva can cruise comfortably on the motorway and the engine is quiet at cruising speeds. It doesn't like being revved, but there is really no need to either.

The handling was hit and miss on the Captiva. Hit was the suspension, which was comfortable, yet minimised body roll through the corners which is often a major downfall of cars this tall. Where the Captiva misses is the steering. I do not doubt that the cruise-liner steering wheel is connected to the wheels at the front. What it is that connects them though, I have literally no idea. A blancmange, perhaps? It seems like you are forever adding more lock and not turning as much as you'd hoped for. The Captiva is not alone. Vague steering has been a common feature amongst vehicles this size I have tested, and you do get used to it the more time you spend driving one, so if you owned one you'd probably not notice at all after long.

Economy - 6/10

Now as I mentioned my test car was fitted with an automatic gearbox, which was very nice to drive. However it does have an adverse impact on the economy. CO2 emissions are a staggering 208g/km and combined fuel consumption is 35.7mpg, which would have been fine 5 years ago. Now though, emphasis is placed on economy and the Captiva. The road tax is £280 a year, and a whopping £620 in the first year. To put that in perspective, the manual Captiva LT emits 170g/km and achieves 44.1mpg, which is more like it. Road tax is £200 (£280 first year), and that's much more preferable figures. So a poor score for the auto here. A manual would have scored better, but those emissions are still a bit high by today's standards.

Practicality - 10/10

Any brownie points lost in the economy section are more than made up in practicality. In LT and LTZ trim, the Captiva sports seven seats. The extra two at the back are proper seats too- my evidence for this is all 5ft7 of me could sit in them comfortably. They're fantastically easy to operate and fold flat when not in use. Even with them all up there's still a bit of room for your shopping. Fold the middle row down and you get a vast space in which you could probably fit a couple of wardrobes. The cabin itself is full of storage pockets, the most impressive of which is the centre console drinks holder, which slides away to reveal a cavernous storage space- great for valuables to keep them out of view. There's plenty of room in the front and middle so even the tallest of folk wouldn't struggle to find the space limited.

To live with the Captiva was a breeze. It has great visibility, so is easy to park. It's very easy to judge when you're behind the wheel and doesn't feel as large as it looks. Put it on the motorway and the Captiva will cruise happily and is relaxing on longer journeys. You can fit all the kids and their friends in with ease, and just about anything if you fold all the seats down. You'd most definitely struggle to find something the Captiva can't do, and for that it is easy to award top marks.

Fun - 7/10

I have said time and time again that there is no single way in which a car is either fun or not. Some cars are fun because they are fast and exciting. Some are neither, but still a hoot. I judge fun on how a car makes you feel. Does it make you want to go out and go for a drive? Well the Captiva does well on that front. Because it cruises so well, and has those striking looks, I did find myself reaching for the keys. This was mostly when I needed to do something though, and not just for the crack of it. It's fun because no matter what the task, you know it can be done easily. The Captiva will never leave you stressed because something won't fit or one of the children must be left at home, because it won't happen.

Concluding Remarks

So, the Chevrolet Captiva LT. It's a good car for those who need the space, and has plenty of power to get you moving. Personally I'd steer clear of the auto unless you really must. Prices for the auto start at £28,430 but go for the manual and you're looking at £26,995. It is a fair amount of money, but it's also a fair amount of car. And for when you've had a bad day at the office, just think to yourself of that American tough-guy look, and stick a bit of classic rock on. You might just think you're on route 66, not the M66. And that will cheer you up to no end...

Total Score - 38/50

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