Seven seats, compact dimensions and a strong diesel engine gave the Captiva unmatched practicality against its petrol rivals. The only thing missing was an auto ’box but a year on since its launch, the Chevy SUV gets a five-speed automatic transmission to give it an added dose of convenience, especially for city use. Also thrown in is an all-wheel-drive system with Hill Descent Control and ESP, all of which has pushed the weight up by 90kg. The cost too has shot up by Rs 2 lakh, the all-wheel-drive system the main culprit for the hike. It seems quite a waste to pay extra for the additional drive to the rear wheels, especially since most owners won’t venture beyond city limits. The ‘winter’ mode, which limits torque to the wheels to minimise loss of traction on iced roads, is a pointless feature as well.
However, the auto ’box does a good job, especially in traffic. Gearshifts are smooth and the gearbox always seems to select the right gear for the situation. This ’box also overcomes some of this 148bhp, 2.0-litre common-rail diesel’s inherent turbo-lag and smoothens out the power delivery. Upshifts are quick and in manual mode it hangs on to the selected ratio until the redline, at which point it automatically upshifts. If there is one grouse, it’s the sluggish kickdown; the ’box hesitates before shifting down and can make tightly timed overtaking manoeuvres quite tricky.
However, the auto ’box hasn’t seriously blunted the Captiva’s performance. It can still cross 180kph and reaches 100kph in 12 seconds, which is not far adrift of the manual car’s time. Fuel economy though is penalised and the Captiva returned 7.8kpl to the manual’s 9.5kpl in the city cycle.
The rest of the car is almost the same. The interiors are well equipped and the seats get progressively more comfortable as you move from the rear to the front. The tiny third row is best for small kids, the middle row is comfy, albeit a bit short on thigh support, but the front seats are really generous with good height which gives the driver great visibility. However, the D-pillar does limit visibility while reversing. There’s lots of kit too like powered seats, climate control, parking sensors and that nifty compass/air con info/trip computer display.
Four-wheel drive hasn’t changed the Captiva’s dynamics significantly. It still has the same mushy and benign handling, thanks largely to the lifeless steering and a ride quality that feels a bit unsettled at low speeds. It’s not a sloppy car to drive but it’s not sporty either.
Should you buy the Captiva auto? It depends on how important clutchless driving is to you. In this case, you have to pay a lot for features like four-wheel drive that you won’t really care to use. You might want to think about this one before spending the extra cash.