2014 Chevrolet Captiva LTZ review – Playing catch-up, or serious competitor?

Competitive price for spec, tough looks, nice drive, comfortable, decent AWD

Interior finish still below rivals, auto gearbox sluggish

Chevrolet Captiva LTZ at the River Hull Tidal Barrier

Chevrolet Captiva?

There’s stiff competition overall when it comes to SUV’s, and with manufactures like KIA churning out well-built, desirable versions at attractive prices, manufacturers across the board are now having to up their game quickly, or be left behind in sales. This is great for consumers, as it’s physically forcing manufacturers to make their cars better, and at a lower price to us.

America is still playing catch-up with Europe in terms of interior build quality on vehicles, and customers here have high expectations. Chevrolet has leapt into the European SUV fray with their competitively-priced Captiva, but can it cut the mustard amongst strong rivals? We review the Chevrolet Captiva LTZ to find out…

Exterior. Butt ugly or beauty?

In 2011, Chevrolet updated the looks of the Captiva. It was a literal facelift rather than an overhaul, and this new 2013 version definitely benefits from the massive two-section honeycomb front grille, angular fog lamps and muscular bonnet.

It’s actually not a bad-looking vehicle, and on the two-week test we had many positive comments. One thing American’s can do right is give an SUV a muscular design, and it certainly sets the Captiva apart from the competition. Rather than the sleek, angular look that seems to be trending right now, the Captiva is bold, brash and in-your-face. Parked in a lit-up multi-story car park at night, the Chevrolet looks mean, even brutish.

Chevrolet Captiva LTZ with headlights on

It’s not a huge beast, but is a similar size to offerings from Kia and Hyundai, but that big front end fills an average saloon car’s rear-view mirror nicely – enough to make them move over pronto when you’re barrelling up behind them in the outside lane of a motorway.

The 19″ five-spoke alloy wheels on the LTZ look the part too, and are just right for the arches. Around the back, and especially from a 3/4 view, the Captiva continues to strike a decent pose, a ridged swage line slashes from front arch to rear light cluster adding to the beefy design. An oval chrome exhaust tip each side of the car add to the overall brawniness, and finish the rear off nicely.

In the Ice Silver colour our tester came in the Captiva looks expensive, and most people were not surprised by the price. Of everything about the Captiva, I really liked its exterior deign the most, and it’d be the main thing attracting me to it should I be eyeing up the current SUV market in Europe.

Interior. Neat or nothing special?

As I mentioned at the top of the review, as a general rule of thumb Yank cars haven’t exactly been known for good fit ‘n finish interiors. Oh sure, there’s a stack of standard gadgets and goodies thrown in usually, but the build quality lacks… quality. One example; when Infiniti came over to Europe the interior on their EX had to have a redesign, simply to satisfy the high expectations of customers here.

Cockpit view of the Chevrolet Captiva LTZ

With Chevrolet fighting to keep its corner of the SUV market here, they seem to be on the right track with the Captiva though. After first stepping in, I was non-plussed, disappointed even. This  LTZ is the very top of the range, and yet I didn’t feel like it was worth the £33,000 it costs.

The longer I spent in the car though, the more I noticed that they are catching up and trying harder. The dash and door panels are soft-touch and not hard, and stuff looks and feels bolted together decently, save for the drivers armrest which rattled annoyingly for the whole test time, a plastic on plastic rattle that’d only stop if you lifted the lid on it. The controls for the heating, radio, downhill decent and traction control etc push softly into place, and don’t click, and the gear lever on the automatic version we had pulls nicely through ‘P, R, N’ and into ‘D’, rather than clacking its way down.

There are bit and pieces that need improving though, and parts that still feels overly cheap include the gear surround where the Eco button sits (see photo), the steering wheel controls which don’t light up, the plastic front to the digital clock, the controls for the electric wing mirrors and dash illumination adjuster, and the cup holders in the front which slide back to reveal a storage box all just feel dissatisfactory whenever you use them.

Four photos of the three rows of seating in the Chevrolet Captiva LTZ

The entertainment system on the LTZ includes a 7″ touchscreen unit, and you can flick through screens which have information on fuel consumption, heating, music and films and satellite navigation. Although the sat nav did its job and got us where we needed to go pretty well, compared with a TomTom or nav app it definitely felt outdated, a little slow and the some of graphics old.

Six photos of the different screen modes of the Chevrolet Captiva

On longer journeys, the wide leather seats in the front gave excellent comfort and it was easy to relax for both the driver and passenger. After a six-hour round-trip, we concluded the Captiva would be a great cruiser should you want to do good distances. The reclining rear seating was given the thumbs-up from passengers too, and we can’t fault it on that. The Captiva’s party-piece is that there are two more fold-up seats in the boot area.

Four photos of the controls on the Chevrolet Captiva LTZ

They are super-easy to use (one pull on a handle does it), and access is excellent due to the quick-folding middle set of seats. Comfort in the third-row seats will not suit an adult over a long journey though, and they’re not going to be happy after even an hour of travel, as you sit almost bolt upright in them and leg room is an issue too.

With these two seats folded flat, the boot space is large at almost 770 litres and it’ll swallow a few large suitcases with ease. Middle seats down will give you 1,577 litres, which equates to a a small flat in London. Access to the boot area can be got to though the flip-up glass window at the rear, which opens separately to the tailgate. Personally, I can’t see this feature being used much, as it’s as easy to open the tailgate. If you’ve already filled the back with suitcases though, it might be handy if you just want to drop in another small bag.

five photos of the boot / trunk space and storage features

To sum up, the interior on the Captiva LTZ is comfortable and has a decent amount of gadgets, but lacks in the design department and there’s still a cheap feel on too many parts. Although it’s a little less expensive than similarly-specced rivals, the overall interior design and finish on SUV’s such as the Honda CR-V, Hyundai Santa Fe and Kia Sorento just beat the Captiva fair and square.

Engine and gearbox

The Captiva LTZ comes with only one engine (at least here in the U.K.) – a diesel 2.2 litre four cylinder with 184 PS (181 bhp) and 400 Nm (295 lb ft) of torque. The engine is a GM unit, shared with Vauxhall on their Antara and has exactly the same power and torque.

With a kerb weight of just over 1,900 kg (4,189 lbs), this is not a light vehicle. Credit where credit is due though, the Captiva in 184 PS form is no slouch, and you’ll find you can get up to speed at a decent pace. Honda’s CR-V with the 2.2 i-DTEC has 50 bhp and around 35 lbs ft less than the Captiva, while the Hyndai Santa Fe and Kia Sorento (which share the same 2.2 diesel engine) out-power the Chevrolet by 20 lbs ft torque and 15 bhp. It’s around the same time sixty miles-per-hour as the Hyundai and Kia, but thrashes the Honda there by over 2.5 seconds. However, light to light racing in one of these would be as silly as hippopotamus sprint trials, so it’s pretty irrelevant.

Engine by on the Chevrolet Captiva LTZ

We specced the LTZ with the 6-speed auto ‘box, and over the manual the fuel economy does suffer. The auto gets around 9 miles per gallon less than the manual around town and on ‘combined’ routes, and around 5 mpg less on ‘extra urban’ runs, according to Chevrolet’s figures.

Permit me to be boring for a second, but while we’re on the fuel figures we may as well be. Our auto has stats of (mpg): 27 urban, 44 extra urban, 35.7 combined. According to the Captiva’s computer, we averaged 31 mpg over 213 miles at 62 mph average speed, so that’s not far off the ‘combined’ stats. Still, that’s pretty depressing when diesel is currently around £1.44 per litre. If you want to spend less on fuel, option the manual for sure.

The Captiva’s auto gearbox is decent enough, and changes are smooth but it’s not the fastest ‘box, and it’s a little too hesitant when accelerating hard. Even in ‘manual’ mode, the time between gear changes feels just too syrupy and slow. Compared to the almost-instant changes that Volkswagen’s DSG or Subaru’s Lineartronic give, it seems almost leisurely. It’s not a bad automatic system per se, but it’s also not outstanding and definitely won’t excite you either.

Ready to roll? Let’s drive this thing!

A six-hour, 315 mile round-trip lay ahead of us. An invite to the Jaguar Land Rover Experience Day at Gaydon gave us the chance to let the Captiva stretch it legs. The boot swallowed all our gear like we’d chucked a stone into a cave, we filled the many storage places in the car with water bottles and the healthy food choice of drivers (crisps, pies and a Baby Ruth), adjusted the mightily comfortable seats into lounge mode and set off.

After a short stint down town roads, we came to the slip road onto the the motorway. Foot to the floor, we accelerate hard to slip into flow of traffic safely. The Chevrolet rewards a heavy right foot with a strong flow of power, all 400 Nm of torque pushing the Captiva forward, and we’re soon overtaking the dawdlers who appear to believe motorway driving is a time to take in the scenery and eat a cucumber sandwich.

Dramatic night time rig photo of the Chevrolet Captiva LTZ

Up to speed, and the Captiva cruises with ease. Sixth gear is long, and allows the engine to relax at around 2,000 rpm at 70 mph. It’s a quiet ride too. There’s very little noise from the diesel engine, and even tyre noise is kept fairly minimal. The suspension is set up well actually, and the Chevrolet flows over the bumps and joins in the road surface. Our six hour drive on motorways was covered comfortably, and having built-in sat nav, a decent sound system and bluetooth connectivity for my phone and music meant it was a case of sit back, relax and enjoy the drive.

City driving is much the same. The Captiva LTZ is a nice place to be when traffic chaos reigns all around, the weather tries its best to hammer through your windows, and drivers honk and yell behind their steel cages. Yawn. Click your heated seat on, – which gets brilliantly toasty warm in about three seconds flat – choose some chillin’ tunes and let it all pass by, the Captiva’s a slice of calm in rush-hour commotion.

Pushing the ECO button, located next to the gearstick, will mean less hard acceleration. It feels like a giant hand holding the Captiva, keeping you from hooning about constantly. It’s a useful thing actually, and I used it almost all the time in any city driving, or on a long run. It’ll save you fuel, and if you do suddenly need that power back quickly, another push of the button instantly gives you what you need.

3 night time city photos of the Chevrolet Captiva LTZ

Taking that into consideration, the 2.2-litre diesel in the Captiva is very, very quiet – at least with the bonnet down that is. The lack of noise may be something to with the fact that the 2.2 is tucked deep down in the engine bay, twenty miles of sound-deadening between you and it. I think it may be quieter than the Kia Sportage diesel we tested, and there’s no denying it’s a solid positive point of owning one. Another reason is that this newer model has improved insulation on the windscreen, doors and headlining.

Onto winding country roads and the Chevrolet handles pretty well for a big two-ton beastie. Surprisingly so in fact. Okay so it’s no Lotus Elise, but the chassis and suspension allow for some playing about should the mood take you. Instead of leaning heavily on long, fast corners, the Captiva stays unexpectedly stable. The electronic stability control (ESC) and all-wheel-drive keep you in check should things get a little lairy or you get overly cocky too, but don’t go thinking that’ll save you if you go hooning into a sharp bend at 60 mph, they’re safety features not safety saviours.

On the whole, the Captiva is a decent drive. It’s a comfortable, relaxing SUV, and whether you’re on a short hop or a long jaunt on a variety of road surfaces, you’ll find it wholly acceptable to travel in.

AWD and off-road. Stuck or superb?

While the lowest-spec LS model comes in two-wheel-drive (front), the LT and LTZ both have ‘automatic’ 4×4 systems. There’s no button to press to engage the AWD system, and it will drive the front wheels only normally, saving fuel in the process. Should the electronic wizardry detect slip or any need to engage the ITCC (Intelligent Torque Controlled Coupling) AWD, it will send torque – within 100 milliseconds, way faster than we normally physically blink – to the whichever axle it needs to.

The system monitors information like the speed each wheel is rotating, the steering angle and the accelerator position, so it’ll know when to fire off the power to the axles. I’m not really a nuts ‘n bolts chap and most of the tech description flies by me, but the Captiva’s AWD system is very obviously clever, and probably highly reliable as it’s Japanese-built.

Off road with the Chevrolet Captiva LTZ

Let’s face it, how many people are really, truly going to off-road the Captiva SUV properly? Not many. I wouldn’t like to use it for that either, as the ground clearance isn’t huge, and pieces like the front plastic trim or rear twin exhaust back boxes are likely to suffer badly if you push things too far. You’ll be wanting the next stage up, a full-on 4×4 for that, like the Land Rover Discovery, Mitsubishi Shogun etc.

For most, the AWD system will come into full use driving across a boggy field towing a caravan, or traversing snowy passes up to a ski resort. Thank to my co-photographer’s many contacts, we got permission to use acres of hilly grass-covered meadows to play about in with the Captiva. The scale and angle of any slope is always a pain to put into perspective in photography, and especially film. What you see on camera differs by miles as to what you as a driver feel when off-roading.

Off road with the Chevrolet Captiva LTZ

In the Chevrolet’s case, we took it up slopes steep enough so that exiting the Captiva meant a ninja-like dive, tuck and roll away, as the door slammed shut millimetres behind the soft tissue of our legs. Should ninja training not be up to par in situations like this, prepare for bruised legs and ego’s. The Captiva’s AWD system gave a nice surprise, in that as the bonnet rose at an angle steep enough so that only sky could be seen, it just kept going with no slippage.

Stopping on the slopes for photographs meant we had to set off going again, off course. The Hill Start Assist system (HSA), which kicks in automatically on 3%+ gradients, is a great feature and holds the car in place for 1.5 seconds, giving easily enough time to take your foot off the brake and onto the accelerator. Fully expecting the Captiva to sit in place, wheels spinning fruitlessly, I was slightly taken aback when, aside from a couple of wheels scrabbling for grip for a second, it just took off without a problem. To see how effective the AWD really was, I turned off the traction control and accelerated, and went exactly… nowhere. All four wheels span, losing any grip immediately. Clicking the traction back on, the SUV set off without a problem. Point proven.

Off road with the Chevrolet Captiva LTZ

Heading back down the steep incline of the hills, it was a good opportunity to test the Descent Control System (DCS). On a gradient steep enough to have me leaning onto my seatbelt, I took my foot off the brake pedal, trusting (and hoping) the DCS would do its job. It did. As the Captiva rolled forward, you can physically hear the brakes firing on at each wheel, slowing the car down quickly and with no slip. The steeper the section, the more the car slowed, giving me confidence in the system. Impressive stuff, and a feature I like particularly.

Price

The Chevrolet Captiva LTZ 2.2 auto we tested was just over £33,000. At that price, it has a respectable trim level for the sector of the market, but also some rather competitive rivals too. In similar trim spec (give or take a different option or two or any of the models) the New Kia Sorento 7-seat KX-2 Sat Nav 2.2 auto was around £1,500 cheaper, the Hyundai Santa Fe 7-Seat Premium 2.2 auto came out around the same £33k price mark, while the Honda CR-V SR 2.2 auto (5-seat) was approximately £2,200 more expensive. All three rivals produce less CO2 emissions with their respective 2.2 diesel engines.

Chevrolet Captiva LTZ verdict & score

The SUV market is tight, and growing quickly. Buyers now expect good build quality and a stack of gadgets and goodies at a low price. The Captiva offers good looks, a powerful, smooth engine and a refined ride, and in LTZ trim it brings a high interior spec to the table too. The AWD system is good enough, and it has an excellent 5-Star Euro NCAP rating too. However, the interior fit and finish is still not as good as close rivals like the Kia and Hyundai, and Chevrolet certainly needs to improve on this even further if they want a bigger slice of the SUV pie.

 

Exterior  7
Interior (LTZ)  5.5
Engine (2.2 VCDi)  6.5
Gearbox (Auto)  5
Price  7
Drive  7.5
AWD & Off-road ability  7
Overall Score  6.5 / 10

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Stats ‘n stuff

Model (as tested)  2011> Chevrolet Captiva LTZ 2.2 VCDi Auto
Spec includes  All-round power windows, leather upholstery, front heated seats, 8-way electric adjustable driver seat, sat nav/entertainment system with reverse camera, bluetooth connectivity, electric folding wing mirrors, rain-sensitive wipers, air conditioning, climate-control, hill-start assist See spec sheet for more
Options you should spec  Parking sensors (£133.00)
Price (as tested)  £33,040 on the road
Engine  Diesel, 2231cc, in-line 4-cylinder, 16 valves, DOHC, VGT turbo
Power, Torque, CO2  Power: 184 PS (181 bhp) | Torque: 400 Nm (295 lb ft) | CO2 (auto): 203 g/km
Drive, Gears (as tested)  ITCC (Intelligent Torque Controlled Coupling) AWD | Six-speed automatic with Driver Shift Control (DSC)
Top Speed, 0 – 60 mph, EuroNCAP  Max speed: 118 mph | 0 – 60 mph: 9.8 seconds | 5-Star Euro NCAP rating
Fuel economy (mpg)  Urban: 26.9 mpg, Extra Urban: 44.1 mpg, Combined: 35.7 mpg
Weight (kerb)  1,903 kg (4,195 lbs)
Ground clearance  197 mm (7.75″)
Websites  Chevrolet UK | Chevrolet USA | Chevrolet France | Chevrolet Canada | Chevrolet Germany | Chevrolet Worldwide

Check out our Kia Sportage KX-4 SUV review here

Words: Chris Davies | Tested by: Chris Davies | Photography: Jason Fanthorpe, Chris Davies, Matthew Davies

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