IN THE CROWDED lower section of the softroader market, you need keen value and standout features to hook sales. GM’s Korean-built Captiva has always had its generous space and seven seats, with six of them able to fold flat to take all manner of loads. Since local launch in 2007 it’s racked up steady sales, taking 12% of the SUV market with 2010’s tally at around 1800 units, more than half of these in the entry-level 2.4-litre FWD-only model. Bought then for its space, high driving position and all-round capability rather than outright off-road status. Generation II moves things along with substantial revisions that bring the refinement, aesthetic appeal and equipment levels closer to rivals including the Kia Sorento and Nissan X-Trail without a major push in the purchase price.
The principal changes are to the drivetrain offering. The 2.4-litre four-pot VVT petrol has been uprated to 123kW/230Nm (up from 100/220) and is available in LT trim with a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic in front-wheel drive or manual only in all-wheel drive. A new 3.0-litre V6 with 190kW/288Nm debuts in place of the previous 3.2-litre V6 (169kW/297Nm) with a six-speed auto, available only in 4WD and LTZ highest-spec trim. Pricing ranges from the R300k mark for the entry model to R434k for the top-liner.
At the local launch a fast slalom course set up on the runway at Upington airport demonstrated the benefit of revisions to the suspension. Stiffer springs make for less body roll, but also make the ride slightly more jittery on corrugated dirt. On the drivetrain front the 2.4 is better, but not particularly punchy, with more agility in the 2WD version, but less understeer on the 4WD. The 3.0-litre is the pick for towing and overtaking manouevres and the six-speed auto is a vast improvement on the previous four-speeder. The engines are relatively frugal, GM claiming 8.8l/100km for the 2.4 and 10.6 for the 3.0 LTZ in the combined cycle. Look out for the 2.2-litre diesel (likely to be the ‘lower output’ 120kW/350Nm version available in other markets with a six-speed auto) due for release later this year, which is sure to improve on the 2.0-litre oilburner in the previous line-up.
External changes include a deeper double smile grille with a bigger Chev bowtie logo, new headlamps with polycarbonate lenses, revised side vents, side steps standard across the range and new alloys – plain 17s on the lower models, 18s on the AWD versions and tastier fluted 19s on the LTZ, all shod with 235 section tyres. The rather upright rear is the same, as is the bold upsloping shoulder line. Work to reduce NVH including thicker bulkhead material and laminated windscreens shows benefits in the cabin, while build quality goes up a few notches. The interior is cleaner, featuring blue instrument lighting, more upscale materials where it counts, a better HVAC system and an electronic parking brake across the range that frees space for a larger centre console. Hill-start assist is now standard. Plus there’s a new 8-speaker CD/radio unit with RDS capability, MP3 compatibility, Aux/USB sockets and Bluetooth. An under-the-skin feature dubbed RVC (Regulated Voltage Control) attenuates power spikes to enhance the life of the switchgear and battery. A four-star NCAP rating assures a comprehensive safety suite including driver and passenger airbags, side airbags, ABS, EBD and traction control, while on AWD version an electronic differential progressively sends up to 50% drive to the rear wheels when the default fronts sense more than 12% loss of traction. Missing from the lower versions are such niceties as cruise control, this confined to the LTZ which also gets full leather and a sunroof. A three-year/60 000km service plan is thrown into the mix. In all, the new Captiva is a likeable, practical package that represents good value for money.