Jude Morte / Jude Morte | March 31, 2008 00:00
Everything but the driveThe Chevrolet Captiva positions itself as a value-for-money option to other entry-level crossover SUVs (such as the Honda CR-V) due to its interior equipment abundance and pleasing outside design stance. But can it make buyers look past significantly better - and even storied - competition?
Outside-wise, the Captiva's (specifically this 2.4L FWD gas variant) resemblance to the Audi Q7 proved to be an instant onlooker magnet, with over ten people asking this writer about the vehicle. The faux mesh cooling aids under the side mirror housings and the dual tailpipes give an impression of speed, while the roof rails and silver front and rear center splashguards hint of its utility.
Inside, an aluminum beltline - plus silver accents on the steering wheel, middle a/c vents, door pull handles and a/t stick - break a dark grey monotony, giving it a touch of class. Also, grab handles similar to the ones on the BMW X5, two electric outlets and the grippy seat fabric portray a ride in style and comfort. The audio entertainment is topnotch, but the same cannot be said of the a/c. Constant use of the blower two setting (and the temperature gauge at maximum cool) is needed to get decent air conditioning within the cabin. Another negative is the dashboard gauge cluster, whose speedometer and tachometer gauges closely resemble that gauge cluster on its Optra sedan siblings.
The Captiva has great storage ability. Undertray areas below the flat cargo floor, nine cupholders within the cabin, a two-section glovebox and numerous storage areas make it suitable for long trips. The cargo area can handle five to six DHL Jumbo boxes, and the second row folds flat for swallowing additional load. The rear hatch has a separate partition for the glass and the hatch proper, and the former can be accessed via a button on the key fob or on the driver's side armrest, which makes loading groceries inside quicker. About the only negative storage-wise is the storage bin above the head unit; far better for it to be used as a performance indicator screen.
The kudos given to the interior and exterior masks its performance shortcomings. Acceleration is slow, with high powerband entry (2,800 rpm). Middling is its top speed (190 kph) and fuel consumption is bad (6.1 km/l, five days mixed driving). Not helping much either is the five-speed a/t, which has a tall fourth gear and a useless manual mode. Getting into the powerband - and acceleration enough for overtaking - is much quicker using "Drive" instead of the manual mode. The need for forced induction, a 100 cc displacement increase, or GM's 3.2L Alloytec V6 (found on the Captiva's Opel Antara platform twin) is obvious for its gas variants.
Whatever sins exhibited by the engine and tranny are absolved - or perhaps absorbed - by the suspension. The ride is comfortable on any type of tarmac (along with dry earth and pebbly roads), there's little NVH (noise, vibration, harshness) and body roll, and traction from the Maxxis MA-707 215 70R16 100Ts break at 70 kph. Steering is light in feel but low in response.
Also helping out in the absolution of this P 1.199 million Captiva variant's performance sins are its safety features. The four-wheel disc brakes grip hard (even at the slightest prod) and the ABS wakes up at one half pedal effort. The doors automatically lock when the SUV hits 17 kph, there are turn signals on the side mirror housings and the pleasing seatbelt warning chime incessantly tells you to buckle up. Also, the Captiva has high-strength steel used in the body shell that was designed to spread crash forces over distinct load channels, therefore ensuring occupants' safety.
The launch of the Chevrolet Captiva - and a subsequent number of the aforementioned crossover SUVs on the road - showed a welcome change from its box on wheels, gas-guzzling large SUV American brethren. It may be a powerpuff when it comes to its powerplant, but everything else is a superlative.