DRIVING IMPRESSION: Chevrolet Captiva 2.4 LT AT


It was one of the original models to spearhead General Motors’ return to South Africa at the turn of the century, arriving just a few years after the American auto giant had retaken full control of the then Delta Motor Corporation after divesting from the country amidst the political turmoil of the early eighties.

At the time of its launch, the appeal of sports-utility-vehicle (SUV) as opposed to the traditional family sedan was starting to take effect, as more and more buyers were shunning the notion of them being only suitable for the bush.

Now ten years after making its local debut as the bowtie badge’s first SUV since the very American Blazer was sold here in limited number during the late 1990’s, the Chevrolet Captiva has cemented its popularity as a South African favourite despite its age and presence of more modern and fuel efficient models seemingly entering the market on a regular basis.

With recent rumours in the Australian media circulating that the Captiva, which is sold under GM’s Holden brand Down Under, could soon be replaced by a rebadged and slightly fettled version of the Chinese-built Buick Envision, the General has, for now, quelled these allegations by introducing a second mid-life facelift to its venerable seven-seat challenger, five years after its first un-wrinkling.

Parked next to its predecessor, the exterior revisions to the Captiva, tested here in mid-spec LT auto guise, although not radical, are immediately noticeable with the most prominent being the new LED daytime-running lights, bowtie badge moving from the centre bar to the top of the dual-port grille, new body cladding and smart looking twelve-spoke 18-inch alloy wheels.

Changes to the rear have been kept to minimum with the only alterations being subtly revised taillights, dual exhaust and the chromed Chevrolet badge swopping places on the tailgate with the Captiva LT emblem.

Open the front door, the interior has remained largely untouched with the only major difference being the addition of Chevrolet’s new MyLink 2.0 infotainment system controlled via a seven-inch touchscreen display, in place of the previous audio system.

Despite its advancing age, the general layout and feel of the cabin is one of quality with soft touch plastics on most surfaces, satin silver inserts on the steering wheel and gearknob, chrome finishes around the air vents and faux brushed aluminium accents on the facia.

In keeping with the current automotive trends, the upgraded MyLink system, which proved easy to use and intuitive, does away with the pre-facelift Captiva’s CD stacker in place of a USB port, Aux jack and Bluetooth audio streaming facility.

Equipment levels are nonetheless high with the LT boasting a eight-speaker audio system, dual-zone climate control, cruise control, auto on/off lights, auto lock/unlock doors, electric windows all around with one touch up/down function for the driver, rear parking sensors, heated electrically retractable mirrors, traction control, Hill Decent Control, six airbags, ABS with EBD, BAS and ESC, Hill Start Assist and from the options list, leather seats and a sunroof.

A nifty feature seemingly unique to Captiva, the centre console, at the push of a toggle-like button, can be slide forwards to trade cupholders for a deep storage compartment to hide valuables. Further storage is also provided by a slot underneath the USB and Aux inputs, front and rear pockets, glovebox and a central cubby that doubles up as an armrest.

Given its intended use as a family vehicle, the Captiva arguably plays its biggest trump card by offering seating for seven as opposed to five offered by the majority of its rivals. While the third row is mostly reserved for children or small adults, head and leg room comes at a premium in middle with the seats also able to tumble forward for better rear access.

Measuring 4 673 mm in length, Chevrolet claims a total cargo capacity of 477-litres with all seven seats up, which increase to 942-litres with all five down folded completely flat.

Providing forward momentum, the Captiva, in LT guise, again makes use of Chevrolet’s tried and trusted 2.4-litre petrol engine that makes 123 kW and 230 N.m of torque. Still accounting for the biggest percentage of all Captiva local sales, the mill continues to drive the front wheels through a six-speed automatic gearbox.

Whereas most of it rivals have scrapped the use of big displacement normally aspirated petrol engines in favour of smaller forced induction units, the Captiva’s unaided four-pot was by no means found lacking during its short stay, with an effortless supply of instant power each time the loud pedal was depressed.

Rating as the undoubted star of the drivetrain setup however, the 6T40 self-shifter not only provided slick and seamless shifts when going up or down the box, but exhibited virtually no torque converter slip or gear hunting. Clicking the gear lever into Sport turned up similar results with the box also holding on to the selected gear without changing up/down automatically.

Using a combination of MacPherson Struts at the front and an Independent four-link setup at the rear, the Captiva felt planted with little body roll, while the ride, as proven by a quick trip up the N2 towards Jeffreys Bay, was especially comfortable even when tackling the twisty sections of the demanding Van Stadens River Pass on the return run.

Steadily improved over the last ten years, there is little to fault the Chevrolet Captiva when function outweighs form. With its enhanced looks, renewed levels of specification, bullet proof drivetrain combo and all important seven-seat layout, it still makes for a worthwhile contender that has nothing more to prove.



MAX POWER 123 kW @5600 rpm
MAX TORQUE 230 N.m @4600 rpm
DRIVE LAYOUT Front engine; Front-wheel drive
TRANSMISSION Six-speed automatic
ACCELERATION [0-100 KM/H] 11.0 sec
TOP SPEED 181 km/h
EMISSIONS 225 g/km
PRICE R407 300