The Holden Captiva has undergone another major facelift. Is it enough to bring it back into the fight?
For: Eye-catching frontal styling, space for seven, good infotainment update.
Against: Feels dated, V6 light on performance heavy on fuel, light on driver assists.
IN the automotive pop quiz, naming the oldest sports utility from an Australian brand is an easy starter for 10: It’s the Ford Territory, here with us since 2004.
Stop sniggering Holdenites. Your equivalent isn’t much younger. The updated editions rolling out now are essentially facelifted versions of the Series II Captiva 7 that debuted in 2011. And ‘Series II’ was itself a facelift of a model that arrived in … gosh … 2006. So, you know, it’s something of an OAP, too.
While Territory production ceases in October, Ford NZ intends to stockpile enough to maintain showroom availability until at least mid-2017, because the car lined up to replace it, the smaller Edge, won’t be ready before then. In fact, the Edge that might yet become a T2 won’t be here until … wow, 2018. Yup, that’s right. And there we were thinking the ‘One Ford’ global efficiency approach was supposed to simplify things. Patently, it hasn’t.
And what of Holden’s plans? Still tightly guarded, but the brand has spoken about a desire to have a whole heap of new models, SUVs included, here by 2020. In respect to Captiva, talk suggests what we have now will ultimately be replaced by one or two all-new crossover vehicles.
Some bets are on a large SUV based on the same E2XX mid-sized car platform as the new-generation Insignia that will also become the next Commodore. GM has previously suggested such a vehicle will roll down Opel’s Russelsheim production line in Germany before the end of the decade. What about a Holden version of the Buick Equinoxx? Whatever happens, it might need to happen soon. The SUV sector is utterly stacked now with new talent.
To be fair, Captiva now has some new tricks, one being how it formats. Once again the line-up again comprises front- and four-wheel-drive and petrol and diesel variants, but now there’s just one body shell, with the mid-sized five-seat Captiva 5, drawn off an Opel, having been dropped. Now everything bases off the larger, seven-seat Captiva 7, still sourcing from South Korea, but now tied more closely to the Chevrolet versions seen elsewhere around the globe, taking their styling cues and being renamed simply ‘Captiva’.
That simplifies things, yes? Sort of. There’s still a lot of choice. The model is available in five or seven-seat versions with three engines – a pair of petrols, in the form of a 2.4-litre four-cylinder and a 3.0-litre V6 – plus a four-cylinder 2.2-litre turbodiesel.
The diesel and the V6 are four-wheel-drive models, come as mid-grade LT and highest-grade LTZ formats and are seven-seat only. The front-drive 2.4 launched in less affluent LS specification with a choice of five or seven chairs, but now there’s an Equipe that bumps both those into special order status and costs less, even though it offers more spec.
So, anyway. Today’s assessment is of the LTZ 3.0-litre petrol V6 that, at $54,490, is the second-most expensive model in the family, beaten only by a like-configured diesel edition that is $2000 more.
As I say, it’s easy to pick the latest Captiva; it gets a whole new front mask featuring a new twin-grille, front fascia and LED daytime running lights, new body-coloured cladding and side steps and new-look 19-inch alloy wheels.
Inside, upgrades include a restyled multi-function steering wheel, and the addition of Apple CarPlay/Android Auto to the carry-over 7.0-inch MyLink touchscreen, which is again home to a standard rear-view camera. Satellite navigation duties are now performed via connected mobile devices, which is good and bad. Good in that you get a smarter interface and the operability speed and functionality both improve. On the other hand, every time you employ it you’re eating into a phone data allowances, which can be costly depending on where you how, how you use it and what sort of plan you have. But, yeah, in terms of usability it’s a win because the in-built sat nat that it previously had was quite clunky.
The LTZ specification also takes an eight-speaker stereo with Bluetooth audio streaming, heated leather-appointed front seats with eight-way electric adjustment for the driver, an electronic handbrake, hill-start assist and hill-descent control, a sunroof, side steps, front and rear skid plates, and satin silver-finished roof rails.
On the safety front, new blind-spot assist and rear cross-traffic alert technology joins Isofix-compatible seating (second row outboard seats), front and rear parking sensors, six airbags and a five-star Ancap safety rating.
When Captiva first came out, the only powerplant was a V6 petrol built by Holden. The engine was shipped to the South Korean factory to be installed in Captivas used on many global markets.
All different now? Only a bit. Yes, the six is has reduced in capacity and, with two four-cylinders also on offer, has now become the least popular powerplant. It’s still Australian-made, though obviously not for much longer: Holden will close its engine plant in October. What happens then? The question was put, but not yet answered.
Going to a V6 brings quietness and refinement; but this plant also likes a drink - Holden can probably be thankful that it sells in a period of softened petrol pricing – and that alone is enough to ensure it might be the version that loses the most value, at the fastest pace.
The best reason for buying into the V6 is that it has more power than the other choices; 190kW versus 123kW out of the 2.4 and 135kW from the diesel. It’s different in respect to torque: Then the six-cylinder shifts down to mid-place, the 288Nm optimum looking good against the entry petrol (230Nm) but less so compared to the oiler’s 400Nm.
What also weighs in is how it operates; with optimum power unspooling at 6900rpm and top torque at 5800rpm, this is not the laziest six cylinder around by any means. Chasing those revs certainly puts the ‘sports’ into sports utility, but it’s not exactly the epitome of a relaxed big-capacity engine. At least, when it revs, it does so with smoothness; there’s a nice emergent exhaust note, too.
Captiva’s styling suggests it’s more medium than large, but the driving impression reinforces that there’s more weight than meets the eye; just under two tonnes, in fact.
You sense as much when pressing on; the six-speed automatic transmission’s response to throttle inputs is not super sharp to start with, but when you do need to put the foot down, to overtake for example, it starts to jump down the cogs quite abruptly to keep on the power band and, with that sort of thing going on, there’s also an impact on thirst.
Claimed consumption of 10.7 litres per 100 kilometres might be possible across an Australian desert, but won’t be easily achieved on New Zealand’s hillier terrain. The overall average out of this run of 14.1 litres per 100km is not something I’d personally want to live with.
So it’s the diesel, then? Well, sales rates suggest so, but I’d actually say no that that one as well. It’s quite an old mill now and, by standards of the day, is less punchy, much more agricultural and less responsive than newer alternates. Compare with the like-capacity Hyundai/Kia unit in the Santa Fe/Sorrento and you’ll understand what I mean.
The conjoined pair most comprehensively pull the rug out from under Captiva in every respect, should comparison be made, and no surprise why. Both are newer cars from the same source country that, during development, would have had the (originally Daewoo) Captiva as their template.
The Holden’s on-road demeanour has improved over the years and direct involvement by Australian engineers in respect to suspension tuning has definitely been positive, though ride quality falls short of class best. The downside of those snazzy-looking low-profile 50-profile Hankook Optimos evidences with tyre roar over anything but smooth surfaces, yet it has good traction and is not as fidgety as it once was. The steering feel, though, seems a touch heavy for a family-oriented SUV and the 11.8-metre turning circle can create issues when u-turning in urban streets. The brakes also have a spongey feel.
As a pure seven-seater, the 4.6 metre-long Captiva now only just holds its own; other brands have found smarter ways of using similar space.
Obviously the rearmost chairs are only for children who have outgrown a booster seat or, at the most, dexterous mini adults, as the bench seat ahead lacks a sliding function to enhance access. The second row is comfy enough, though legroom is more toward adequate than amazing.
The boot is claimed to offer 465 litres of space with five seats in place and 930 when the second row folds flat), but 85 litres’ capacity with the rearmost seats up is laughable: Only the high rear lip will keep even small bags of groceries from toppling out when the boot is opened. Most rivals have at least 100 litres’ more capacity.
The Captiva is not without some clever storage solutions, though: There’s a ‘hidden’ area under the transmission tunnel accessed by sliding back the cup holders that could prove a useful spot for tucking away items you prefer weren’t seen by prying eyes. Occupants of the second and third rows also have access to storage cubbies and cupholders. They’re not brilliantly provisioned for ventilation, with a lack of rear air vents.
This update stopped short of provisioning new front seats, which is a pity because, while okay for lumbar support, they’re rather flat and lacking in lateral support. I bet there will be Captiva owners out there who must wish this car was able to take the Commodore’s far superior chairs.
It also irks a little that, while the centre console has come in for a redesign, the brand has not found the desire (or dollars) to upgrade the cabin plastics; many of the touch points just have a hard, low-rent look and feel –likewise, too many switches are clicky and cheap.
Updates to the instrumentation and the infotainment in particular are nonetheless welcome; Holden’s new touchscreen is a modicum of good design and the tethering that ensures all smartphone operability transfers wholly to the touchscreen is a huge safety plus. Pairing a Bluetooth phone is also quick and easy. It’s a great technology advancement, though it’s a pity that the screen’s other role – to provide a display for the rear-view camera – wasn’t better. The view in low-light conditions was rather pixelated.
The big screen cannot make up its age, though. Look in vain for new-age assists such as active cruise control and autonomous emergency braking. Though offered on some rivals, they are not provided to the Captiva. A lack of third row airbags is also a lapse that cannot be addressed.
There’s weirdness, too: What kind of off-road expedition would you dare take in a four-wheel-drive that lacks a spare wheel (there’s just an inflation kit)? And the proximity key’s operation is strange indeed; in part because - despite the keyless fob, there’s no push-button start but a knob that still needs to be turned to kick the engine into life – but also because the thing allows for keyless entry but not exit. In that, you seem to have to actually lock the car with the key to secure it (also, there’s no getting out quietly if you chose to egress without the key: The moment you step out the thing toots at you).
Simple: You can do better than this. The only rival that the flagship Captiva outclasses is the Territory, and that’s hardly anything to gloat about. Otherwise any newer model in this sector has to be considered a better bet, not least those others out of South Korea. The entry Equipe is a different story: It’s at the right price to win in terms of space, flexibility and equipment for the money.