Australians are flocking to four-wheel drive
vehicles, not for off-road use but for the versatility and high seating position
that these vehicles bring. But we’ve always had extreme doubts about family use
of these vehicles: compared with traditional cars, they invariably handle more
poorly and with their high floors, typically don’t have the interior space many
people expect. But the biggest downfall is fuel consumption - a high, wide and
heavy vehicle cannot get fuel consumption that we regard as acceptable for a
family car. Well, that’s the case for the petrol engine models - but enter the
The Holden Captiva is a case in point. When we
reviewed the Captiva MaXX we got a woeful 14.5 litres/100km fuel economy. But isn’t ‘woeful’ too strong a
term? Nope, not when you consider that most of the kilometres were at 100 km/h
with the car carrying just one person...
But the Captiva diesel on test here has fuel
economy that is simply radically better than the petrol models. The official
figures might say the 3.2-litre petrol V6 gets 11.6 litres/100km and the
2.0-litre diesel automatic gets 8.7 litres/100km (that’s a 25 per cent
improvement), but we found that on the road the diesel was more like 30 per cent
better in fuel economy.
Or to put that another way, in similar testing,
the petrol Captiva used 45 per cent more fuel than the diesel!
And it isn’t as if the diesel Captiva is a slug.
The diesel engine develops 110kW at 4000 rpm and 320Nm of torque at 2000 rpm.
That strong torque, low in the rev range, translates to the availability of
plenty of bottom-end power. Matched to a 5-speed automatic transmission (an even
more frugal manual trans version is also available), the diesel Captiva is
responsive and seldom lacks for power.
The turbocharged engine uses a front-mounted
intercooler (rather than an under-bonnet type that can often heat-soak), so even
when performing hard low-speed work (eg towing), we’d expect the performance to
remain good. (Incidentally, max unbraked tow weight is 750kg; with the auto
diesel, max braked tow weight is 1700kg)
The engine isn’t as quiet and smooth as the petrol
V6 – at idle it’s obvious that you’re driving a diesel. There are also some odd
noises produced as the engine moves through its rev band. (However, the engine
is much more subdued in the Captiva than in the Epica
The auto trans has a manual mode (accessed only
through the central lever) and this works well, especially when engine-braking
down hills. The transmission calibration is also much better than we found in
the petrol Captiva, without up/down hunting when climbing long hills.
The gearbox/engine combination may be effective
for engine braking down hills, but the slow-speed Hill Descent function
(accessed by a dashboard press button) is pretty crude: it simply activates the
brakes to keep the speed low. The system isn’t smart enough to also utilise
engine braking, and the brakes are noisy as they click on and off ABS-style.
With this system, we can also imagine the brakes (vented discs front and back)
getting a real work-out, especially when towing.
In this 60th Anniversary special
edition, the Captiva is fitted with 18 inch wheels clad in 235/55 Dunlop tyres.
The ride on these tyres is poor – it feels lumpy, the suspension acting as if it
has a high unsprung weight, and tyre impact is harsh. We carried some elderly
people in the car on a secondary country road and felt embarrassed that the ride
was so bad.
However, outright grip and handling are fine. With
standard stability control and on-demand all-wheel drive (the car is usually
front wheel drive and swaps to all-wheel drive when it detects slippage), the
Captiva can be hustled along reasonably quickly, feeling safe and stable.
However, the steering can kick-back over rough surfaces.
For this type of vehicle, the bias seems to be too
much in favour of handling and not enough in favour of ride.
In addition to the wheels and tyres, the
Anniversary model also adds a large touch-screen colour LCD display complete
with navigation, effective rear vision camera and DVD player (note: the DVD
screen turns off when the handbrake is released). Also included in this special
model are a self-dimming interior mirror and some cosmetics and badges. These
features are in addition to those of the standard Captiva LX that include seven
seats and front and curtain airbags.
The interior packaging works better than in many
vehicles of this type. The third row of seats easily appears out of the rear
load area floor, and because the second row seats fold and tumble forward on gas
struts, access to the third row is surprisingly good. And the amount of room in
the third row? At a pinch, you could put two adults in there for a short trip –
although they are designed primarily for children.
The second row of seats split-folds - this motion
is again easy to do, even for a smaller person. The second row seat back angle
is also angle-adjustable.
With all the seats fully folded, a large,
near-flat rear load area is formed. However, the opened rear door height is a
little low for tall people, who can easily hit their heads. Access to the rear
load area can also be gained through the lift-up rear window – this is released
only by the remote.
The spare wheel is lowered from underneath the car
– it’s not an alloy wheel with the same size tyre as the other wheels but
instead a steel rim with a cheap 215/70 Hankook tyre.
The front seats are flat and lack side support –
with the poor riding suspension, this is not a particularly comfortable car.
Only narrow front door pockets are provided (although they incorporate bottle
holders) and electrics are fitted to just the driver’s seat. Rear seat room is
OK if the front seats are moved forwards a little – so with a tall driver, the
room directly behind the driver will be tight for large adults. No rear vents
In general the controls are clear and well
labelled – and far better to the different design used in the MaXX. However,
exceptions are the non-illuminated steering wheel buttons and the dashboard
dimmer knob that works in the opposite to expected direction. We also found the
vents difficult to aim directly at the driver’s face.
Build quality on the test car was mixed – the
doors shut well and the paint was fine but the margins (that is, the gaps
between panels) were uneven.
With a fuel economy on test of 10 litres/100km,
good packaging versatility and a $44,990 price tag, the 60th
Anniversary diesel Captiva is a competent buy. We’d like to see running
suspension changes to improve the ride, and some minor interior design changes,
but overall this is a much more convincing family car purchase than the V6
petrol engine Captiva – and many other petrol engine competitors.
Holden Captiva was made available for this test by Holden.