With the new Captiva, which is a heavily face-lifted version of the original model, GM believes it now has muscle to steer buyers into its showrooms. Look at this refreshed SUV head-on and you will tend to agree. The massive new grille has completely transformed the car and perhaps addressed the Captiva’s biggest weakness – that it just didn’t look SUV enough. The two-part grille, split by a thick strip on which the Chevy bowtie sits, is the now-familiar signature of modern Chevys. The fog lamp housings look much neater too and the headlamps are more striking than before.
Other interesting details are the re-shaped side air vents, a chrome strip for the window line and turn signals integrated into the mirrors. The muscular wheel arches with protective mouldings are bigger than before to accommodate wheels ranging from 17 to 19 inches. For the Indian market however, it’s likely the 17-inch option (to match higher profile tyres) will be offered. The Captiva’s rear is unchanged and, not surprisingly, is the least interesting part of the car with its rather generic lines.
The interiors are largely carried over too but GM has made some clever design changes to give the cabin a significant lift. The centre console is sharper, better sculpted and has angular vents that give it a sportier look. The large, seven-inch screen is functional, especially with the increased proliferation of navigation systems. GM India is likely to offer the new Captiva with a GPS navigation option on the higher-spec version.
The instrument cluster is completely new as well and unlike the previous model, the speedo and tacho sit separately and are much easier to read. The new Captiva gets an electrically operated parking brake which is controlled by a small switch on the base of the centre console. The space vacated by the handbrake lever has been taken up by dual cup holders that slide underneath the central armrest.
Plastic quality is much improved and feels plusher than before but for a Rs 20-lakh vehicle, it’s still not good enough. There are still lots of shiny, hard bits which take a lot away from the cabin ambience. The switchgear though is pretty decent and gear lever and steering feel better to hold too. The quality level is better than the XUV500’s but the Captiva still can’t match European or Japanese standards.
The old Captiva’s seven-seat configuration remains unchanged and that’s a good thing. We have always liked the ease with which the spring-loaded middle seat tumbles forward with the mere pull of a lever. The third row collapses into the floor to make way for a flat, voluminous luggage area, but with all three rows in place, you can’t travel with much more than your toothbrush.
To match its aggressive looks, GM has given the new Captiva a lot more grunt by plonking a new 2.2-litre diesel under the hood. This twin-cam, 16-valve motor gets a high-pressure, 1800-bar fuel-injection system (for more precise control of combustion) and the compression ratio has been lowered to reduce exhaust emissions.
This 2.2 diesel engine comes in two states of tune; the lower output of 163bhp drives only the front wheels while the more powerful 184bhp version powers both two-wheel and four-wheel-drive versions. In addition to the six-speed manual ’box, there’s a six-speed auto option as well. For international markets which prefer petrol, the Captiva gets a new 3.0 V6 developing a lusty 258bhp, but given the trajectory of petrol prices these days, this big petrol motor, which can bankrupt you, certainly won’t make it to Indian showrooms.
It’s not clear which engine options GM will offer in the Indian Captiva, but the 184bhp version is a certainty. The sizeable 36bhp jump in power takes the Captiva crucially past the Fortuner (168bhp) and closer to the Santa Fe (194bhp). The surprising bit about this engine however is its refinement and the impressively low noise levels. This motor is much quieter at idle than the older 2-litre unit and even when you rev it hard, it’s not very obtrusive. A dual-mass flywheel, a stiffer engine block and balance shafts integrated into the oil pump have all played a role in lowering vibrations and noise.
Sadly, the transmission doesn’t feel as refined as we would have liked. The clutch is too heavy and the dual-mass flywheel doesn’t make its engagement particularly smooth. Making things worse is the ponderous gearshift, which demands strong triceps and makes city driving hard work. In fact, this is one of the worst gearshifts I’ve experienced on an SUV. Thankfully, the well chosen ratios of the six-speed ’box and the increased torque levels allow you to get away with minimal use of the gearlever.
Floor the nicely spring-loaded accelerator pedal and you can instantly feel the huge improvement in power. There’s still a bit of turbo lag but once you get past 1800rpm there’s a strong surge that makes overtaking a breeze. The new Captiva is a happy cruiser as well and the tall sixth gear and low noise levels allow you to amble down any highway in a very relaxed manner. The Captiva feels best on long drives and when you make good use of the flexible interiors, it’s the ideal holiday car.
The new Captiva’s chassis has been tweaked to tidy the dynamics, and within a few metres of driving you can tell that the ride and handling is much better now. The suspension feels a lot more settled especially on an uneven surface and bumps are absorbed with ease. The electronically controlled steering is more responsive but it still doesn’t have sufficient feel or weigh up quite as we would like. The Captiva still wallows through corners so it’s best not to push this Chevy hard.
There’s a lot more kit in the new Captiva. You get six airbags, an upgraded music system, hill start assist and an on-demand 4x4 system which sends drive to the rear wheels via an electronic clutch when necessary. We didn’t get a chance to try out the 4x4 system but our sense is that the Captiva, like most soft-roaders, is best for mild off-road excursions.
Despite all the improvements, the new Captiva doesn’t stand head and shoulders above the Santa Fe or even the pricier Nissan X-Trail for that matter. The Captiva is priced at Rs 18.74 lakh for the base variant that comes with a 2.0-litre engine while the 2.2-litre variant is priced at Rs 24.59 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi).
Watch video review here
Price Range (in lakhs)*
Chassis & Body
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Issue: 166 | June 2013
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