We’ve a longstanding dislike of SUVs being used as
everyday passenger cars. Their high centre of gravity, tall tyres and high
unsprung weight makes for a ho-hum ride/handling compromise; the large mass and
high-drag aerodynamics result in poor fuel consumption. But cars like the Ford
Territory, Toyota Kluger and Hyundai Santa Fe have started to change this. The
Santa Fe diesel – with its excellent economy and very good value for money –
makes an especially persuasive case for this class of car.
Late to the field is the Korean-built Holden
Captiva. It may be a recent arrival but in many ways it reminds us of the older
type of SUV rather than the new generation. The fuel consumption on test was a
woeful 14.5 litres/100km – almost incredibly bad considering that most of the
kilometres were at 100 km/h on the highway. (The ADR 81/01 figure is 11.6
litres/100km.) The ride has the lumpy feel of high unsprung weight and the
engine – despite being a 167kW 3.2 litre V6 with a 5-speed automatic - struggles
to keep the car moving, especially up hills. The seats are uncomfortable and
although the MaXX is the most expensive model, switch blanks abound on the
dashboard. There’s not even a trip computer – although Holden provides the
labelled (non-functional) button.
The engine is Holden’s V6, downsized to 3.2 litres
and apparently tuned for the application. It’s a sophisticated and – in this
application – smooth and quiet engine. Peak power of 167kW is developed at 6600
rpm, and peak torque is 297Nm at 3200 rpm. But both are much too high revs for
this type of heavy vehicle. The engine simply doesn’t have enough torque to pull
the weight around with ease.
The Captiva feels powerful only when you cane it
off the line, when it revs quietly to the redline, each gear-change resulting in
good acceleration. But in normal driving, the gearbox needs to drop back a gear
to climb even a slight rise – the sort of gradients that would be easily
negotiated by almost any other car in top gear. Up big open-road hills the
gearbox logic is appalling – it will hold 4th, drop back to
3rd, change back up to 4th, drop back to 3rd
and so on. And all at a constant speed and constant gradient! Up one long hill
we counted the gearbox doing this eight times. Yes, you can move the gearlever
across to the left and use the ‘box manually but in any current car, the gearbox
control logic should make such a move unnecessary.
Like the gearbox, the cruise control doesn’t seem
to have been calibrated to suit the application. Very unusually for a car with
electronic throttle, the system can be jerky when driving on an undulating road.
Then when confronted with a large hill, speed dies away – we switched off the
cruise control when the speed had dropped by 15 km/h... And remember, this car has
an auto transmission!
It’s important to note that the behaviour
described above was with the car quite lightly laden – we can only imagine that
with a heavy load, it would be worse.
If handling is just grip then the Captiva is fine.
But if handling is feedback and precision, the Captiva is terrible – a very long
way behind the Territory. The steering is light and lacks road feel – at
speed all drivers new to the car will swing on too much lock and then have to
unwind it. Familiarity improves matters slightly but the Captiva always feels
large and unwieldy. Lots of body roll is present and the car can move
around noticeably in crosswinds. As you’d then expect, the Captiva MaXX is
tiring to drive long distances.
If this lack of handling precision was present
because an excellent ride had been provided, that might improve matters. But we
didn’t like the ride at all. Especially around town at urban speeds, the MaXX
bobs and bounces – even this writer’s 2 year old son exclaimed of his own volition
that the ride was bumpy, interesting when he’d spent the previous week
traversing the same roads in the very firmly suspended Mitsubishi Colt Ralliart
and had made no comment! Note that the MaXX has a slightly different suspension
tune to the other Captiva models.
The Captiva is a part-time four-wheel drive –
drive is normally to the front with the rear wheels brought in automatically as
required. The brakes – which need a hefty push - use large ventilated discs at
both ends. They have ABS, brake assist and electronic brake force distribution.
Looking around the MaXX it’s easy to reach the
assumption that equipment has been stripped from the car. Lift the rear door and
you’ll see markings that indicate the presence of a first aid kit and a warning
triangle. But look under the indicated panel and nothing will be found – both
items are extra-cost accessories... The absence of a trip computer is even more
puzzling – it’s available on the LX model but not the more expensive MaXX. Tyres
are Dunlop SP Sport on alloys, however the spare is a cheaper Hankook on a steel
rim. But included are stability and hill descent controls, electronic stability
control, auto recirculation switch, in-dash MP3 compatible 6 CD and electric
driver’s seat. Front and curtain airbags are standard.
The dashboard and controls are very similar to the
Astra; we found them confusing but an owner would get used to their
idiosyncrasies. An orange/black LCD is used as the interface for the radio,
semi-auto climate control and main information display. It can be read while
wearing polarising glasses. On the test car the air con wouldn’t stay on but
needed to be switched every time the car was started. In hot weather the air
conditioning was marginal in cooling performance – and no vents are supplied for
rear occupants. The chrome trip rings around the instruments sometimes reflect
confusing highlights onto the dials and the large silver trim panel on the
steering wheel can be distracting.
The front seats are uncomfortable, with a distinct
lack of lower back/rear of bum support. The rear seats are fine and have good
foot- and head-room. However rear knee-room can be marginal if the front seats
are fully back. The rear seats 60/40 fold quickly and easily, giving a flat load
space. Build quality appeared good.
The Captiva MaXX lags well behind its opposition.
At minimum it needs a tweak in equipment or the AUD$42,990 price, and a major
rethink in engine torque development and/or gearing, in auto trans and cruise
control logic, and in the calibration of the suspension.
Captiva MaXX was supplied for this test by Holden Australia.