Chevrolet Captiva review

Where to start… hmm, well the Chevrolet Captiva has always been a fairly decent SUV, its always been predominately purchased in its 7 seater guise, mostly with a diesel lump under its vast bonnet and more often than not by buyers looking for the most metal their money will get them.  These little clues to the past audience of Captiva, shout loud… it’s never really been purchased by cash savvy pimps as a blinged up cruising wagon to ferry their rent about.  Nor is it likely to have graced the drive of any of the winners of Britain’s-got-very-little-talent-it-would-appear-factor-on-ice…Not even the good ones.

So that’s what it used to be, but what is the new one all about, I hear you all you aspiring SUV drivers shout.  Well although not wishing to alienate the previous buyers of Captiva, Chevrolet have based the new one and its exterior styling to appeal toward a new younger more ‘dynamic and active’, ‘sporty’, ‘extreme sports’ crowd, basically - they’ve butched it right up, proper styli. It’s all about big imposing full length split grilles, front splitters; smoked headlights, privacy glass and 19” alloys are standard.  There’s even now the option for some rather tasty 19” low profiles in the arches if you so desire (and plan to do ZERO off-roading).  Whereas the old Captiva crowd would be pulling something across a field with it, the new crowd will be pulling something in a club and then parking near a field in it if you get my drift lol. 

The new Captiva, due in the UK May time (but available to order very soon) will only available in two brand new 2.2L diesel engines, one with 160bhp and the other a more throaty 180bhp.  Its not just the engines and the exterior that’s new, since Chevvy have become independent of GM, its out to prove its ditched the clingy fag-hag and that its on the prowl by itself again.  That means going on a genuine gay-boys holiday and doing some crazy stuff up a mountain, with a Latino waiter called Zeus…. But none of that ‘cutting the fag-hag’s head out of all your ‘you’re-my-bestest-friend’ pictures’, to celebrate the split, well not just yet.

Which brings me nicely on to the actual Captiva launch itself, which Chevrolet UK so kindly invited us to join them for.  Don’t get me wrong, unlike a boy with bad skin on a Saturday night, our launch dance card is fairly busy, but like a spotty boys dates, most are overnighters and are normally billed as being something hot, that usually ends up fairly damp and overcast.  Now the Captiva launch was somewhat different, firstly it was a long weekend event and it was somewhere unbelievably cold!  Secondly, the serious off-road and ‘winter driving’ testing took place 2,000m above sea level on the highest car testing track in Austria, on the world famous Teststrecke-Tirol in the Ötztal Alps (the Austrian bit of the Alps to you and I).  Lastly, it was going to involve some serious off-roading, on a track cut out of snow, ice, sweeping bends and curves of icy tarmac, we were also going to be doing it at 40mph, just to add to the danger aspect.  Chevrolet would be getting us to test all of the fabulous new safety, stability, 4x4 and ‘Hill Assist / Hill Descent’ electronic gadgets and gizmos that its loaded onto the new Captiva, just to prove that when it comes to winter driving, its got all the bases covered. 

Upon arrival we were chucked the keys to a 180bhp 7 seat Captiva LTZ (top of range) with the new 6sp Automatic box and the new on-demand All-Wheel-Drive system (which is standard on LT and LTZ models), told to follow the Sat Nav (standard on LTZ model) or our road books and go have fun.  We didn’t need telling twice!  Slipping into the good quality leather seats, which come as standard on the top spec model we tested, and opting to allow the rather excellent touch screen Sat Nav to guide us (again standard on LTZ), rather than trusting ourselves with the road book, we spent 2hrs climbing higher and higher, roads getting thicker and thicker with snow and ice to arrive at Teststrecke-Tirol and the welcoming face of Rob Huff (Huffy!!) Chevrolets WTCC champion driver. 

After an hour of sliding sideways on the speed / tight corners test track, designed to showcase just how well the ESC and 4x4 traction control systems help to compensate for you ‘understeering’ and ‘oversteering’ when making quick lane changes in snow and ice, we were massively impressed by just how much control we had and also managed to avoid crushing any of the ‘other cars / people’ cones placed in our slalom.  Time for 20mins of ascending and descending 20% gradient hills covered in 4ft of snow and topped with pure ice over the manmade 2.5m high 28m long ramp, again the Captiva didn’t even break a sweat, proving that icy snow covered hill will prove no bother.   The last 30mins at the test track was spent tackling (I use the word very lightly, as the Captiva made mincemeat of it) one of the more challenging and one of the fastest off-road courses I’ve driven.  An off-road course consisting of a 6ft deep track barely wide enough to fit the giant SUV in, carved entirely out of compacted frozen snow and ice.  The uphill section took minutes, with the powerful 400lb of torque pulling us sure-footedly up the 20% gradient, then round the tight uphill turns, one after the other, left then right, not once did it let me down or force me to even break a sweat. 

So finally having thought we’d finished our snow covered endurance test, came the final blow, a high speed sprint on pure snow and ice, then slam the brake pedal to the floor and let the one tonne monsters ABS and BAS (Brake Assist System) bring us to a straight line safe stop.  What they failed to mention is that 6ft from the edge of our braking line, an 8ft deep rock strewn running stream!  Firstly I have to say the ESC (electronic stability control) and the traction systems proved their weight in gold.  Slamming accelerator pedal into the carpet is never the best plan, never mind in bad winter conditions (and something you seriously shouldn’t be trying at home yourself) however once again we weren’t disappointed and the Captiva’s amazing systems helped us take off with minimal wheel spin and stop in a totally straight line and in a shorter distance than the space between Robert Patterson’s eyebrows, now that’s impressive distance for the conditions. 

Our home from Friday to Sunday would be the more-than-top-notch-pleasure-palace (complete with its own outdoor thermal spa’s and totally nude Sauna ‘Sauna World’ which is a whole other story!!) the ‘Aqua Dome Spa and Hotel’ complex.  Nestled 1800m up the side of the Längenfeld Mountain, now all I needed to do was learn to Ski and I was practically James Bond.

The Captiva really was a joy to drive, handling sweeping and tight bends at speed and with little or no drastic body roll or body shake.  Acceleration was smooth, the 0-60mph time is a very respectable 9.8secs (9.3secs for the manual), overall the suspension and ride quality was superb and having spent nearly 6hrs in the driving seat, I sprang out at the hotel and could have gone back from more.

So come Sunday it was time to check out, having been driving through the Alps for over two days, I was yet to get to test the actual on-road performance of the Captiva.  But Chevrolet had its bases covered, a short-cut route down the mountain found us hitting the freeway (not literally) and cruising along at a steady 120-140kmh.  I couldn’t really find fault with the ride or handling on the freeway, the Captiva felt steady, stable and more than capable.  Overall I was massively impressed with Chevrolets latest offering.  Fun, easy to drive, loaded with kit toys and gadgets, as well as some serious 4x4ing abilities and equipment, it looks like the dogs nuts, sounds great and is super fuel efficient for an SUV of its size and weight, returning 28.2mpg round town, 44.1mpg on the motorway and a combined economy of 36.6, which are fuel economy figures you’re never going to see a Land Rover Discovery doing!

Starting from £21,995 OTR for the entry level 160bhp Captiva LS 5 seater, £27,695 for the mid range LT manual with AWD, without doubt the bargain is the 180bhp top of the range, LTZ Auto coming in at £31,845 on the road, with just about every conceivable item of luxury spec you could possibly think of coming as standard. The Chevrolet Captiva is a great SUV with bags of room for a very good price and its certainly going to give many of the full sized SUV brands a BIG headache.