2011 Chevrolet Captiva review

With Chevrolet priding itself on offering affordable motoring, the new Chevy Captiva crossover SUV should make for a popular entry into the market, with generous specifications and strong diesel engines at prices that should undercut comparable rivals.

However, with low-spec front-wheel drive petrol models now deleted from the range, the Captiva starts at £21,995 and reaches a quite staggering £31,845 in top LTZ specification with seven seats, a stronger iteration of the 2.2-litre diesel engine that’s paired with an automatic gearbox and all-wheel drive.

Captiva Specifications

Available with the 161bhp version of the 2.2-litre VDCI turbodiesel engine only, the five-seat LS features ESC, Bluetooth, folding mirrors, six-speaker CD system with MP3 compatibility, an eight-way adjustable driver’s seat, two-piece glass flip tailgate, rain-sensing rear wiper, 17-inch alloys, aircon and electric windows all round.

That’s impressive for an entry-level model, though buyers may have favoured the opportunity to take a stripped-out car at several thousand less, as in the previous model. Seven seats are standard on all models above entry-level LS trim.

Moving up the range, LT trim gains on-demand All-Wheel-Drive, seven seats, climate control, solar control glass, part-leather trim, rear parking distance sensors, rain-sensing windscreen wipers, self-dipping electro-chromatic rear view mirror, front fog lights, cruise control, trip computer and passenger’s under-seat storage tray. The LT also gets the 182bhp version of the same 2.2-litre diesel engine with a choice of six-speed manual or automatic transmission.

Top trim levels pack in all manner of goodies, adding full leather trim, sat nav, reversing camera, power-adjustable driver’s seat, heated front seats, 19-inch alloys, dark taillight lenses, privacy glass and headlamp pressure washers to LT specification.

Those are serious levels of gadgetry and tech – packing in some kit you might only expect on execs or luxury models. But £32K is a huge amount of money for a crossover SUV, enough to buy a Jaguar XF or a BMW X3, and few buyers will be prepared to hand over the full amount for a Chevrolet model – and there a big jumps in asking prices between the different specifications.

Captiva Powertrains

I spent some time with the 182bhp version of the engine through both the six-speed manual box and the six-speed automatic transmission. With the manual box and all-wheel drive it will return a very impressive 42.8mpg on the combined cycle, while CO2 emissions are a relatively low 174g/km.

However, switching to the auto box with exactly the same engine means a stiff financial penalty, at 36.6mpg combined and 203g/km meaning more regular visits to the petrol pumps and a jump in both road tax and Benefit-In-Kind from 26 per cent to 32 per cent.

This is frustrating, as the autobox makes much more sense in the Captiva. It’s smooth and responsive, handling the awkward gearing better than the manual and kicking down eagerly when more power is applied. With the heavy stick shifter the engine needs to be worked hard, thanks to what feels like higher gearing from second to sixth gears.

Lose the revs and you have a slow, painful trip back up through the gears to get them back again. The longer gearing may mean that fuel economy is up, but it doesn’t feel like the trade-off is worth it when slogging up another hill and developing a sore left arm from all the required gear-changing.

There’s a weaker 161bhp version of the same engine that’s only available with the entry-level LT trim that will return 44.1mpg combined and emit 170g/km, while the 182bhp manual variant emits 174g/km, putting both in the 26 per cent BIK band.

Quoted 62mph sprint times are 9.6 seconds and 9.3 seconds – impressive for a car of the Captiva’s size, but working through the manual box to that speed in under ten seconds would take some strong-arm tactics. With the autobox, on the other hand, response and gearchanges are slick and fast, with a barely detectable turbolag, though the engine sounds strained on dropping a gear to accelerate.

For response the 182bhp unit with the automatic transmission is best, but those seeking economy and low running costs should stick with the manual. There’s no fuel economy penalty between the two power guises.

Driving The Captiva

While response depends on which powertrain the Captiva comes with, driving manners are likely to be similar on all-wheel drive models. It’s certainly comfortable, with a compliant suspension and impressive ability to iron out bumps and other potholes.

The Captiva does wallow in corners, however, with anything approaching spirited driving likely to throw occupants and contents left to right, though stability control keeps the Captiva on the straight and narrow – with the result that grip is good.

Speed-sensitive electrically-assisted steering isn’t especially sharp, however, and there’s little feedback meaning the Captiva comes down heavily on the comfort side of the equation. Bizarrely huge wing mirrors may aid visibility but there’s quite a lot of noise generated by them at speed, despite improved sound-proofing.

Those wing mirrors are part of a more chunky design for the new Captiva – and it’s a bit of a looker in the crossover SUV segment, certainly more interesting to look at than the VW Tiguan or Nissan Qashqai.

There’s a new-look grille and resculptured front wings and bonnet, while a rising profile lends a vaguely coupe-esque silhouette, but than does mean that rear visibility insideisn’t great.

Inside the cabin the new Captiva looks fresher and more airy – although a sunroof is only an optional extra. All in al the new interior looks superior and though there may only be a fiddly electronic parking brake it does allow for for more centre console storage. Binnacles and oddments may be words only known to car journalists, but you’ll be glad of them when you’re looking for somewhere to put your sunglasses, your drink, your iPhone.

As for the iPhone – other electronic devices are available – you get Bluetooth and an aux jack so you can connect up and go hands-free or fire up iTunes in the Captiva at every trim level.

There is good space inside for five – particularly upfront – but the Captiva can also fit in seven if specified. While these rearmost seats are realistically for children only and can only be used with the parcel shelf removed, seating for seven in this sector at some of the prices available on the Captiva are not a given.

The rear seats do split and fold, meaning umpteen different seating and storage combinations, meaning that storage space ranges between 477-942 litres, though storage with all seven seats up is poor. The seats aren’t the easiest to wrestle with in this day and age either.

Chevy Captiva – Summary

All told the Captiva is a curious car. It offers strong specifications levels, a deent engine, improved road handling and smarter looks.

But the engines and transmissions feel mismatched, to the extent that switching from a manual to an automatic gearbox makes the Captiva feel like and totally different car – and bring significant financial disparities.

Shorn of a sub-£20K entry-level model the Captiva is facing off with some strong competion in this sector – including the likes of premium mid-size SUVs and executive estates at top-level prices.

That said, many will find that the Captiva fits their requirements nicely – and Chevy is bullish about planned UK sales. If deals can be negotiated the Captiva offers a spacious, well-equipped alternative to the other seven-seat offerings on the roads. With certain – important – caveats the Captiva presents a competent all-round buy.

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