words - Mike Sinclair
More torque, less fuel -- will Captiva diesel be the choice of the frugal only?

Local Launch
Melbourne, March 2007

What we liked
>> Diesel midrange and economy
>> Minimal price premium
>> Core vehicle's benefits

Not so much
>> No trip computer
>> Diesel clatter at idle
>> Core vehicle's shortcomings

Overall rating: 3.0/5.0
Engine/Drivetrain/Chassis: 3.0/5.0
Price, Packaging and Practicality: 4.0/5.0
Safety: 3.5/5.0
Behind the wheel: 3.5.0/5.0
X-factor: 3.0/5.0

These days the terms SUV and turbodiesel go together like, umm… two things that go together really, really, really well…

Unless you're in the upper reaches of the luxury segment, you can't sell a large SUV with a petrol engine and among the medium-sized all-roaders the uptake of diesel has been strong. Small SUV is still a petrol environment but expect that to change as more manufacturers offer compact distillate alternatives.

Ford's petrol-only Territory still dominates the medium SUV segment, but its maker is pursuing a cost-effective diesel option as a matter of urgency. The writing's on the wall given the uptake of turbodiesel models in the Prado, Pajero, Pathfinder and the more passenger-oriented 4x4 utes.

Thus when Holden launched its medium-sized Captiva SUV with a petrol V6 last year (see our launch review and subsequent road tests here) it was only a matter of time before it would follow up with a turbodiesel. In the end we had to wait just six months.

And the big news is the breadth of the diesel offer and the minimal price premium at which Holden has delivered it. With the exception of the sport-focused Captiva MaXX (which stays petrol-only) diesel will be offered across the Captiva range and, with zero 'de-speccing', the Lion is asking just $1000 extra for the new, more frugal and torquey turbodiesel.

This price strategy can only be described as aggressive -- typically manufacturers demand a significant premium for turbodiesel. This is often accompanied with some 'de-speccing'. Indeed, the reduction of standard equipment on turbodiesel variants is commonplace, in part to make up for the additional ex-factory cost of the new-generation common-rail turbodiesel powerplants.

In the case of the Captiva, Holden says that it has actively avoided this practice. In fact, on the base model five-seater five-speed manual (yes, manual!) SX, Holden has actually added the more expensive self-levelling suspension from the seven-seat models.

The manual SX kicks off the turbodiesel range at $34,990 -- no petrol equivalent is offered.  Next cab off the rank is the SX auto at $36,990 with the CX and range-topping LX priced at $39,990 and $42,990 respectively. All variants are $1000 up on their petrol equivalents and both the CX and LX are seven-seat autos only.

All turbodiesel models' standard equipment lists are carried over from the petrol models with the exception of the above noted addition of self-levelling rear suspension on the SX.

Full details on the Captiva range can be found at our launch review here. Briefly the SX (manual and auto) gets air-conditioning, cruise control, 17-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry with remote opening liftback glass, single CD player with MP3 compatibility and fold-flat second row seats. Standard equipment also includes most safety features except side-curtain airbags (available as an option) and driver aides such as traction and stability control, hill descent control, antilock brakes and a roll mitigation system are also included across the range.

The CX seven-seater adds a different 17-inch alloy wheel style, fold-flat third row, curtain airbags and six-disc CD player, while the top-of-the-range LX diesel features 18-inch alloy wheels, fog lamps, leather seat trim and steering wheel, eight-way adjustable electric driver's seat, electronic climate control and more.

The Captiva diesels feature an all-new 2.0-litre, common rail, 16-valve SOHC inline four-cylinder intercooled turbodiesel engine that produces 110kW at 4000rpm and peak torque of 320Nm at 2000rpm. This compares to 169kW and 297Nm (at 3200rpm) for the non-MaXX petrol models.

The engine was developed by GM-DAT (nee GM-Daewoo) in conjunction with Italian turbodiesel specialist, VM Motori, and is compliant with Euro IV emission standards.

It's a typically modern turbodiesel engine in that it features high-pressure direct fuel-injection (in this case a Bosch system) and a variable geometry turbocharger. The Captiva is its first production application.

An exhaust particulate filter is standard and Holden claims the manual SX returns economy of 7.6lt/100km. The autos are said to return combined economy of 8.7lt/100km -- this compares to 11.5lt/100km for the V6 petrol auto.

Carbon dioxide emissions are also down on the petrol version, says Holden. The manual SX returns 197g/km -- 25 per cent less than the V6. The turbodiesel auto's greenhouse gas emission stat is 233g/km.

The turbodiesel is matched to a five-speed manual transmission in the SX only. While we were unable to drive the manual variant at the launch, on paper at least, it appears to be geared significantly shorter than the auto version. Coupled with a higher maximum braked towing capacity (2000kg versus 1700 for the auto) this may suit those who choose to tow with their Captiva.

The auto diesel carries over the same five-speed box as the petrol V6. It features the same internal ratios but a taller final drive.

Save for what we suspect to be some minor damper and spring rate changes, the rest of the suspension, structure and running gear is pure petrol Captiva. See our launch review here for more.

Captiva has already been praised for its versatile interior and sensible dimensions. In actuality, the car is bigger than its soft-form softroader looks suggest. The seven seats in the non-SX models can all be occupied by adults though it's in the family environment that the vehicle shines.

A couple of words of caution about the third row, however. The fold and tumble function of the second row requires some familiarity to work smoothly -- some owners say they still don't 'get' it first go even after months of ownership. Also the securing 'lugs' of the second row could do quite some damage to little third-row toes if they were in the way as the seat is locked back into place.

Holden indicates where the feet should be but anyone with a combination of littlies and tweens will want to ensure the older kids take care before they 'throw' the seat back into position.

The overall finish and packaging of the Captiva is pretty impressive. Only auto SX and CXs were available at the launch and even the base car wants for little -- except may be a trip computer (see below)

The push to include ESP in the suite of compulsory safety devices is gathering weight with bodies like Victoria's Transport Accident Commission engaging in legislation by stealth by trotting out horror tales of death and destruction should you be foolhardy enough to purchase a car sans stability control.

While you can argue with these tactic and the statistics TAC espouses, it's hard to argue with the safety net systems like ESP deliver to mum and dad drivers.

The Captiva features ESP and traction control standard across the range -- a move by Holden which echoes the VE Commodore. It's a good system too, relatively unobtrusive in most usage.

Other active safety items include the inherent positives of all-wheel drive plus Active Rollover Protection (ARP) and a Descent Control System (DCS). The latter was shown off to good advantage at Holden's Lang Lang Proving Ground during the diesel Captiva's launch.

ABS is also standard with driver, front passenger and side curtain airbags also standard on most models (curtain bags are optional on SX).

Holden has a policy of not commenting on NCAP ratings. European testing of Captiva's Chev-badged equivalent rates it at four-stars for occupant protection, two stars for pedestrian safety and three stars for child occupant (click here for more).

Holden offered some interesting data on the other vehicles early purchasers of the petrol Captivas also considered.

Not surprisingly Territory tops the list with 44 per cent of respondents also looking at the Ford. Toyota's Kluger was the next most populous vehicle (22 per cent) followed by RAV4 (10 per cent) and Mazda CX-7 (8 per cent). Interestingly 26 per cent didn't look at any other vehicle and only 6 per cent shopped the Captiva against the Commodore.

Also interesting is the model take-up across Captiva. More than 70 per cent of Captiva are CX or LX models, with the top-of-the-ranger accounting for almost half of sales.

Holden says most Captiva buyers are either new to SUVs or will be stepping up from a compact all-roader, ie: CRV, X-TRAIL, Outlander, previous-generation RAV4, etc.

With all this in mind, there's little doubt Ford and Toyota will be watching the fortunes of the new car with interest. Territory is bigger but we're not sure end users perceive the difference as great enough to prevent the two vehicles being shopped hard against each other. Toyota meantime has recently stated it won't offer turbodiesel in RAV4 (yet) and that the V6 RAV, perhaps Captiva's other key threat, will not be offered in a seven-seat version for the time being. The new Kluger will have seven pews but will be petrol-only.

Like it or not, the Holden nameplate gives the Captiva great cachet against the likes of the Hyundai Santa Fe CRDi -- a capable, comparable vehicle built in the same country.

The launch involved an extra-urban route that took the Captiva from Holden's HQ near Melbourne's Docklands to the Proving Ground in Gippsland via a variety of highways and byways -- including a portion of good dirt. Holden also provided a brief opportunity to test the descent control on a portion of the Lang Lang facility.

The diesel is, as you'd expect, quiet, torquey and despite its modest capacity, moves the admittedly lightly-loaded (two-up) Captiva with some verve.

It's very clearly a diesel with start-up and idling accompanied by plenty of clatter. The signature is not obtrusive, it's just not going to fool anybody into thinking it's a spark ignition engine.

The other giveaway is the tiny twin exhaust outlets. There are no external diesel TDI or CRD badges on the Captiva but the pipes are about half the diameter of the beefy outlets on the petrol models.

Acceleration from a standstill is not in the league of the petrol-engined model but nor is it too tardy. At 110km/h on the freeway the engine's out of ear shot and a push of the throttle's enough to provide that satisfying diesel midrange surge -- merging and overtaking in this environment is no fuss.

A verdict of how the whole package will perform with a full load will have to wait for our road test cars. We'd also like to check how realistic Holden's 2000kg towing rating is in the real world.

There was no trip computer in the lower spec models we drove (a surprising omission given the level of spec across the Captiva range) so we cannot give you a snapshot on economy either. Do with the information what you will, but Holden's own staff running the cars swear black and blue they are easily bettering the 8.7lt/100km combined figure the company claims for the auto.
On the bitumen the Captiva's a surprisingly wieldy steerer. Body roll is well controlled and there's little if any of the tyre squeal you get from many softroaders when you push it on a little. On the well-formed, well-cambered dirt we drove, the car was confidence inspiring and fun.

Also confidence inspiring was the car's ability on an impromptu offroad course at Lang Lang. While it clearly won't run with the real 4x4s in the very rough stuff, the Captiva's decent approach, departure and ramp-over angles (24.4, 22.2 and 17.8 degrees respectively) and 200mm ground clearance mean that it can cope with light-duty rough stuff.

The Descent Control System (DCS) will keep you out of trouble on the steep stuff -- at least to the limit of the road-oriented rubber.

Holden thinks the diesel Captiva will inevitably lead to some petrol substitution but is far from concerned about the fact. Getting to know the pros and cons of the diesel versus petrol Captiva takes more than a quick drive loop. That said, given the benefits at the pump, the usability of the new package, and the scant $1000 premium over the V6, we'd be (very) surprised if diesel doesn't very quickly become the more popular engine option.

And the lessons learned by Holden could be far reaching… Have we told you about VM's ripper 3.0-litre V6 passenger car turbodiesel?

To comment on this story click here.



Powered By Motoring.com.au
Published : Monday, 12 March 2007
In most cases, motoring.com.au attends new vehicle launches at the invitation and expense of vehicle manufacturers and/or distributors.

Editorial prices shown are a "price guide" only, based on information provided to us by the manufacturer. Pricing current at the time of writing editorial. Pricing prior to editorial dated 25 May 2009 may refer to RRP. Due to Clarity on Pricing legislation, RRP for those editorials now means "price guide". When purchasing a car, always confirm the single figure price with the seller of an actual vehicle.

^ If the price does not contain the notation that it is "Drive Away No More to Pay", the price may not include additional costs, such as stamp duty and other government charges. Please confirm price and features with the seller of the vehicle.

Opinions expressed with motoring.com.au editorial material are those of the writer and not necessarily Carsales.com Ltd. motoring.com.au editorial staff and contributors attend overseas and local events as guests of car manufacturers and importers.

Click here for further information about our Terms & Conditions.