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Why this Chevy is so captivating
OK, so Chevrolet are hardly beginners. In fact, the American brand is one of world’s motoring powerhouses.
Chevrolet is the biggest brand in the General Motors stable which includes the better-known (at least to Brits) Vauxhall and Opel marques.
And Chevrolet sells 3.5 million models a year in 130 countries and is the fourth-biggest car brand in tbhe world and one of the fastest-growing. So, it’s strange that we in the UK tend to view the brand as a minor player, a consequence no doubt of its recent chequered history. It was almost dormant in the UK until 2005 when GM decided to re-badge the Daewoo models as Chevrolet and turn it into the cheap and cheerful wing of GM.
History lesson over, so what do we make of Chevrolet now? Pretty good, actually. Cruze is a fine value-for-money saloon car and estate, while Spark is an exceptional smart little hatchback which is winning new friends with aplomb.
But, for me, the best of the new Chevy army is this formidable SUV, the Captiva. We shouldn’t be surprised, after all Americans are past masters at these type of vehicles, even if this one is built in South Korea.
It may look familiar, and it should, for it shares some of its roots with Vauxhall Antara. But the Captiva is now establishing itself as a fine competitor in what is a rather congested market full of polished offerings like the new Audi Q3.
Captiva is well worth a look, though. It looks the part and has a great feeling of quality which you might not expect from a modern Chevrolet. The interior, especially, has been upgraded and the engine is superb.
Captiva is, in Chevrolet's terms, a ‘full-blooded sports SUV with confident and dynamic new styling’. I’d go along with that and I’d add that the active on-demand all-wheel drive system that distributes power as needed is fantastic.
At the same time it retains the advantages of its adaptable, theatre-style seating in three rows which comfortably accommodates up to seven passengers. Few vehicles in this class offer so many seats in such comfort.
Captiva has won praise ever since it first appeared in 2006 but the latest model is certainly more polished. It comes up against some premium opposition, and although it is a little on the expensive side it is still a pretty impressive motor.
Some features are immediately noticeable when viewing from the front, adding up to its athletic stance, such as the re-shaped bonnet, new larger grille and the Chevrolet 'bow-tie' proudly in the middle and the prism headlamps.
It's under the Captiva's bonnet that the most significant changes have taken place, with three new powerful engines that will come as standard with a new manual or automatic six-speed transmission for a powerful, smooth drive. The line-up, which is comprised of one 2.4 litre petrol engine and two 2.2 litre turbo-diesel variants, incorporating a host of advanced technologies aimed at delivering an optimal balance of performance and fuel economy.
The new 2.2 litre common rail turbo-charged diesel units will be available with either 163 or 184 hp outputs, while the 2.4-litre dual overhead cam gasoline unit with variable valve timing, is rated at 171bhp.
The chassis has been re-tuned to improve cornering and ride feel. With Electronic Stability Control (ESC), Traction Control System (TCS) and Braking Assist System (BAS) standard, as well as front, side and curtain airbags, it provides a high level of safety.
The 161bhp version is more than adequate, but the 182bhp version delivers an impressive selection of statistics: with a manual gearbox and standard four-wheel drive it can reach 60mph from rest in only 9.3 seconds, run on to 124mph yet also achieve 42.8mpg on the combined cycle and emit 174g/km of CO2.
Those figures translate well in the real world too. A good SUV needs easy torque at low revs and the Captiva has plenty of it, and when combined with the automatic gearbox it results in hassle-free progress. It’s pleasingly refined too and while it can’t match limousine-levels of refinement there will be no raised voices at speed. Although a fraction less frugal than in manual form the automatic transmission combined with the high output engine shows the Captiva off in its best light.
Comfort is in plentiful supply too, partly due to the supple suspension and decent noise insulation but also the excellent driving position and supportive seats. A good view out thanks to the lofty stance is a feature that many people will pay for, and it all contributes to the Captiva’s relaxing demeanour.
If you’re so inclined that can even include some off-road work too.
There is a front-wheel drive version available with the lower output engine, but the real deal has an automatic system that will divert up to 50 per cent of the power to the real wheels if it detects slip.
That means no complicated levers to operate, just maximum traction only when you need it. It’s very capable off-road too, and strikes a fine balance between off-road ability and on-road comfort.