– Fuel-efficient V6 engine
– Spacious practical interior
– Cabin materials and features
– Offroad capability
– Lacks rear a/c vents
– Needs more cup-holders
It seems we start the review of every crossover with the same broken tune – something about there being too many of them and not exactly filling any real purpose other than being pretend-4x4s. Most of the smaller ones come with wheezy four-banger motors and economy-class interiors. But this is likely the first time when we’re actually impressed enough with a compact crossover to recommend it.
The crossover we’re talking about is the Chevrolet Captiva, a product of GM’s Korean division. We never drove the docile original that debuted a few years ago, but the tall wagon got a frontal facelift for 2011, and looks all the better for it, though still not a head-turner by any means.
But what captured our attention was the interior. While the cabin design is reasonably handsome, with a silver-plastic centre-console and black wood-looking panels, the real deal is the quality of the other trim materials. Most competitors in this segment, some costing a fair bit more, make-do with hard-plastic dashboards and door panels, but this Korean trucklet gets a soft-touch dash and upper door panels to complement the smooth leatherette on the seats, door inserts and padded armrests.
In terms of practicality, what sealed the deal was the cabin space in such a small footprint. Good space up front, very spacious in the second-row seat, and a third row that is cramped but can still hold average-sized adults without scraping their knees. The second row is even adjustable, to make more room for last-row occupants. With all seats in use, cargo space is very limited, but fold down the third row and the boot volume becomes enormous for a crossover. There are only four cup-holders for forward passengers and three bottle-holders including one for the third row, but other storage spaces are generous, with door pockets, seat-back pockets and front armrest cubby, but most interestingly, the front cup-holder panel slides away to reveal a huge storage bin underneath to hold a laptop, assuming it fits.
As for gadgets, there are enough available for its class, such as a decent CD/MP3 stereo with AUX port and six-CD changer, power driver’s seat, sunroof, keyless entry, compass, cruise control, fog lamps, working Bluetooth phone and the usual power accessories. One interesting bit is the button-operated electric parking-brake, something found in only premium cars. The automatic a/c worked well during our May test, but it is a simple affair with single-zone controls and no rear vents, although it even has fan controls on the steering wheel! Safety includes front and side-curtain airbags, and all passengers get seat-belts, but the middle seat in the second row only gets a lap-belt.
Our top-spec LTZ tester was powered by a 3.0-litre V6 with direct injection and variable valve timing, good for an impressive 264 hp at 6950 rpm and 300 Nm of torque at 5100 rpm, fed via a smooth 6-speed automatic and all-wheel-drive. Performance isn’t blisteringly fast, but is well above adequate, as we clocked a 0-100 kph time of 9.5 seconds during our May test. Throttle response is good, and there is enough torque when needed, while the tiptronic feature doesn’t need to be bothered with. Our as-tested fuel consumption of 10.9 litres/100 km also makes it ridiculously economical for its size.
Comfort levels are good enough, with pretty good sound-deadening and fairly smooth suspension, although most of its competitors are equally good on that front. What sets the Captiva LTZ apart is the V6 engine that is less stressed when overtaking, so you don’t have to rev its nuts off and listen to the clatter like you would in a CR-V or a Sportage. Parking sensors are supposed to be available, but our tester didn’t have them, although we didn’t have any issues slipping it into spaces.
The Captiva maintains its composure very well in spirited driving, just like most other compact crossovers. The steering is light and lacks feel, but the handling is pretty decent, very stable and car-like. On fast sharp turns, only moderate body roll occurs and that too is quickly quelled once the vehicle straightens out, with no bouncy after-effects. Cornering at the limit offers up reasonable grip from the 235/60 tyres on 17-inch rims, though the front tyres eventually squeal with gradual understeer if stability control is turned off. The ABS-assisted brakes are okay but not spectacular, while the hill-descent control feature is largely redundant, considering the Captiva has the frontal ground-clearance of an Aveo.
But that would simply be bringing up the usual disadvantage of crossovers, which is to say, they imitate offroaders, drive like cars, and are good at neither. However, this is the first time that we were truly impressed by one at its price point. If that single lap-belt and missing rear a/c vents don’t bother you, then the relatively-premium interior, spacious cabin, useable third-row seating and an efficient V6 motor, all make it the best compact station-wagon for family men shopping in the “crossover” segment.
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