Holden Captiva Series II

words - Joshua Dowling
New engines and safety upgrades broaden Captiva’s appeal, but there’s still room for improvement

Holden Captiva Series II

Local Launch
Melbourne, Victoria

What we liked
>> Holden's new nose job looks better than the Chevrolet version
>> 2.2 diesel and 2.4 petrol engines are pleasant surprises
>> Sharp pricing across the range

Not so much
>> Still doesn't drive as well as most rivals
>> Still has only a four-star ANCAP rating
>> Sluggish 3.0-litre V6 petrol version

Overall rating: 2.5/5.0
Engine and Drivetrain: 3.0/5.0
Price, Value, Practicality: 3.5/5.0
Safety: 3.0/5.0
Behind the wheel: 2.0/5.0
X-factor: 2.0/5.0

About our ratings

>> Five years on, new engines and a new look underpin Captiva Series II

In automotive terms, the Holden Captiva is a bit of a late bloomer. Sales of most vehicles weaken as they get older, but the Captiva has done the opposite.

The Australian-designed but Korean-built softroader originally launched in 2006, in the shadow of the homegrown Ford Territory. The Territory had arrived a couple of years earlier and was hitting its straps when Holden's slightly smaller and less competent rival came along. As a result, Captiva sales were initially weak.

But in the years that followed, Holden gradually got the Captiva formula right; just as the Territory was starting to show its age. The sales figures reveal the shift in the popularity contest. Indeed, in the past two years the Captiva has outsold the Territory.

Holden would argue that 50,000 Captiva customers can't be wrong but, ironically, sales success is not necessarily the measure of a good car. In Holden's case, it's the measure of a well-priced one.

The Captiva found its mojo when Holden did a somersault on the price of what was once the flagship model; making it a five-seater sub-$30,000 entrée to the Captiva range. Holden was also first to bring a decent-sized seven-seat soft-roader into the mid-$30,000 price bracket.

And so, five years after the original Captiva went on sale, we have a midlife update. Most cars are just about due for the knackery after five years, ready to be replaced by all-new or heavily revised models. But the Captiva will need to soldier on for a couple more years in its latest, Series II guise, before an all-new model arrives.

It's a sign of the tough times. A decision on a completely new generation Captiva would have been due at the end of 2008 – right in the grip of the Global Financial Crisis. We suspect at the very least Holden (or, more to the point, its parent company General Motors) delayed the new model.

And so what we have instead is the old car with a new nose, three new engines, an electric park brake and some extra equipment. And some tyre and suspension changes for good measure.

Only time will tell if this will be enough for the Captiva to withstand the onslaught of new rivals due in the next two years, including a heavily-freshened Territory that will finally be armed with a diesel engine from late April.

Our first impressions based on the Holden media preview drive on winding roads on the northern outskirts of Melbourne are that the changes, while significant, may not be significant enough.

But at least the Captiva Series II has one thing on its side: very sharp pricing.

>> Seven of the nine models are below $40,000. This is not a misprint

Holden has fired the first shot in the medium-SUV war by launching its Captiva Series II range at a lower price than the model it replaces, with seven of the nine models below $40,000.

Australia's biggest selling mid-sized softroader in 2010 (when Captiva 5 and 7 models are combined) is trying to claim some early ground before the updated Territory arrives in a couple of months, as well as undercut Korean rivals from Hyundai and Kia.

Despite extra equipment, a choice of all-new engines and a fresh face, the prices of most Captiva models have been trimmed by $2000, although one model has been slashed by $6000.

The starting price of a seven-seater petrol-powered Captiva was previously $38,490, but now the cheapest ticket into this variant is $32,490, making it one of the cheapest medium-sized family SUVs on the market.

There is a slight catch: that particular model now comes with a 2.4 four cylinder petrol engine instead of a V6. But contrary to expectations, the four-cylinder is no slouch and is possibly a better choice than the new V6 (see drive impressions).

The starting price of the whole Captiva range (the five-seater Captiva 5) starts at $27,990 – the same as before – but with this comes more equipment.

And, the Captiva 5 is available with a diesel engine for the first time in two years (the diesel was dropped in early 2009 when Holden switched the Captiva Maxx from a premium-price proposition to a more affordable model).

With the arrival of the Series II range, the Captiva 5 and Captiva 7 base models come with hill-start assist, an electronic park brake, cruise control, leather steering wheel, a new air-conditioning system and controls, 17-inch alloy wheels, and up to 28 cabin storage compartments.

The mid-grade CX Captiva 7 gains 18-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth phone connection, six-CD player, chrome exhaust tips, front fog lamps and rear parking sensors.

The top-line LX Captiva 7 gains 19-inch alloy wheels, 7-inch touch screen with navigation, leather upholstery, chrome-look door handles, illuminated vanity mirrors, and a rear view camera. 

Here's the rundown at a glance (prices don't include registration and dealer charges):

Captiva 5
2.4 petrol six-speed manual 2WD: $27,990 (same price as before)
2.4 petrol six-speed auto 2WD: $29,990 ($1000 less than before)
2.2 turbo diesel six-speed auto 4WD: $33,990 (new model)

Captiva 7
SX: 2.4 petrol six-speed auto 2WD: $32,490 ($6000 less than before)
SX: 2.2 turbo diesel six-speed auto 2WD: $35,490 (same price as before)
CX: 3.0 V6 petrol six-speed auto 4WD: $38,490 ($2000 less than before)
CX: 2.2 turbo diesel six-speed auto 4WD: $39,490 ($2000 less than before)
LX: 3.0 V6 petrol six-speed auto 4WD: $42,490 ($2000 less than before)
LX: 2.2 turbo diesel six-speed auto 4WD: $43,490 ($2000 less than before)

>> The 2.2 diesel and 2.4 petrol are highlights, avoid the 3.0 V6

The Captiva Series II is available with a choice of three new engines: a 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol (made in the USA), a 2.2-litre turbo diesel (made in Korea) and 3.0-litre V6 petrol (made in Australia).

The V6 is the same direct injection unit used in the Holden Commodore Omega but the four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines are making their world debuts in the Captiva Series II.

The petrol four-cylinder engine has 19 per cent more power than before, while the diesel jumps 23 per cent.

The power of the V6 improves by 12 per cent (compared to the older but bigger 3.2 V6) but on-road it doesn't feel as good as its four-cylinder counterparts (see drive impressions).

Six-speed automatic transmissions are standard across the range; only the base model Captiva 5 four-cylinder petrol model is available with a six-speed manual.

Holden may have won the price war with significant cuts across the new Captiva softroader range, but Ford is determined to win the fuel economy battle with its new diesel Territory.

Based on data about to be submitted to the Federal Government a Ford spokesman told the Carsales Network the Territory seven-seater all-wheel-drive "will be lower than 8.3L/100km", the figure for the equivalent seven-seater all-wheel-drive Captiva diesel.

Regardless, Holden predicts the diesel-powered Captiva will quickly become the most popular engine choice among buyers

It's likely there will be a fuel economy battle between the petrol six-cylinder versions of the Territory and Captiva, too.

The current Territory AWD petrol six-cylinder has a fuel rating average of 12.5L/100km, but the just-released Captiva V6 AWD has a fuel rating average of 11.3L/100km, which is even less than the current Territory 2WD petrol model's average of 11.6L/100km.

However, Ford is expected to announce fuel savings when the updated Territory arrives in late April.

Holden Captiva Series II facts and figures at a glance:

2.4 petrol: 123kW, 230Nm, 9.1L/100km (down from 9.7L/100km)
2.2 turbo diesel: 135kW, 400Nm, 8.1, 8.3 and 8.5L/100km (SX 2WD, LX 4WD and Captiva 5 4WD respectively)
3.0 V6 petrol: 190kW, 288Nm, 11.3L/100km (down from 11.7L/100km)

>> Not too big, not too small; it's a "tweener"

The Captiva is not the biggest SUV in the medium-sized class, but it's not the smallest. It sits somewhere in between.

It's definitely a little tighter on kneeroom in the second-row seat compared to the Territory and Toyota Kluger, but it offers similar space to its Korean peers the Kia Sorento and Hyundai Santa Fe.

The biggest difference is in the third row seats. None of these medium-sized softroaders are as spacious as a purpose-built people mover such as a Toyota Tarago, Kia Carnival or Hyundai iMax. If you're planning on carrying growing teenagers, get them to climb in the back of an SUV and a people mover before you sign on the dotted line.

It must be said that even among its likely rivals the Captiva is among the tightest on third-row seat space – OK for little kids, but not so good for lanky or wide frames.

Clearly, however, buyers like the size; the slightly more compact dimensions make it easier to manoeuvre the Captiva into tight spots. Holden calls it a "tweener" because in reality it slots between the compact and medium soft-roader markets.

Expect the next generation Captiva due in a couple of years to be bigger than this one, and then joined by another new compact SUV to slot in underneath it soon after.

>> Six airbags but still only four stars – and no parking sensors on the cheapest seven-seater

Despite its new look, the Captiva can't hide its age under the skin. Originally released in 2006 it's the product of safety norms from the early 2000s, when the design and engineering work on this car began, which is why the Captiva has only a four-star crash safety rating.

Once upon a time, four stars were good (and still regarded as above average) but the game has moved on. Today, a four star rating puts the Captiva in the same company as the Chinese-made SUV from Great Wall Motors.

The Captiva's main rivals, including Territory, Kluger, Santa Fe and Sorento all have five-star safety ratings.

For the most part, Holden has done what it can to equip the latest Captiva with as many safety features as possible. All models come with stability control and six airbags as standard fitment, but there have been no structural changes likely to improve the previous Captiva's four-star Euro NCAP occupant protection rating.

As before, the head-protecting curtain airbags in seven-seater Captiva models do not extend to the third row seats, and the same is true for the updated Territory. But the Kluger's curtain airbags do stretch to the third row.

Driveway safety varies from model to model in the new Captiva range. Three of the four models have rear parking sensors as standard, although this potentially life-saving feature is optional on the one vehicle that will appeal to families on a tight budget: the most affordable seven-seater.

Instead, on that particular model, it's a dealer-fit accessory likely to add about $300 to the cost of the car. In our opinion it should be standard. Why Holden would penny pinch on such a small but important safety feature is a mystery. Be sure to negotiate it as part of the deal.

Ironically, the cheapest model in the range, the Captiva 5, has front and rear parking sensors as standard because it was developed as a premium Opel product for European markets. It also gets auto-up power windows.

Meanwhile, the mid-grade CX Captiva 7 comes with rear parking sensors while the top-line LX Captiva 7 comes with rear sensors and a rear view camera.

As a reference point, every model in the Kluger range has had a rear view camera as standard since it was introduced four years ago. And the updated Territory is expected to have rear sensors as standard on every model, and rear view cameras on the top-line models.

>> With sharp pricing, Captiva Series II takes on all comers

Holden has given the Captiva Series II sharp pricing straight out of the blocks.

Customarily, car makers try to price their new models at a premium in the first six months or so because buyers are usually keen to keep up appearances and/or soak themselves in new-car smell.

But Holden is taking no risks with the Captiva Series II. The company knows the market is fiercely competitive and car buyers are becoming increasingly savvy when it comes to transaction prices.

The only potential downside is that there'll likely be less haggle room when trying to negotiate a deal, but at least the price is sharp to begin with.

With the new model, Holden is trying to fend off competition on both fronts: vehicles priced above the Captiva and below it. For example, the $33,990 Captiva 5 diesel undercuts the Hyundai ix35 diesel softroader by $1500 and the Kia Sportage diesel by $1000.

The $27,990 Captiva 5 petrol manual even undercuts models in the class below it such as the Honda CR-V and Subaru Forester.

The Captiva 7's pricing will also put pressure on Ford; it was hoping to launch the Territory at a premium given the extensive and expensive changes, and new technology.

There's a fair chance that Ford won't be able to limbo down to the Captiva's pricing levels. The company is currently doing runout models at $41,990 drive-away. At least seven of the nine new Captiva models come in below the $40,000 mark.

It will be an interesting Holden versus Ford battle in the SUV class, and clearly Holden is trying to land a few punches early, before the Territory arrives.

Holden sold more than 15,000 Captivas last year, by far its best result on record. Meanwhile Territory – once the segment leader – languished with fewer than 12,000 sales.  At its peak Territory notched up more than 23,000 deliveries in 2005, its first full year on sale, but it has been on a sales slide since.

>> Some much needed improvement, but still not brilliant

No vehicle in the SUV class is supposed to handle like a Ferrari, but car-like road manners are part of the appeal. So it's surprising that Holden hasn't been able to do better in this department.

The Commodore has class leading road-holding among the locally-made sedans, but the same expertise hasn't translated to the Commodore's Korean cousin, despite much of the development work being done here by the same engineers.

There's nothing fundamentally wrong with the Captiva; it steers OK for most people's suburban needs, and is reasonably comfortable. The only problem is that other cars in this class, including Territory, Sorento and Santa Fe, feel better from behind the wheel than the Captiva does.

Holden has tried to address criticism of vague steering and ordinary handling of the original model by giving the entire Captiva range a suspension overhaul, which also includes new tyres.

Most models have stepped up an inch in diameter, and not all the tyres are Korean. We even spotted some other, better known brands on some of the cars on the press preview drive.

Unfortunately, in an attempt to make the Captiva hug the road a little better, it's made the suspension a lot busier. It's not uncomfortably firm, but on uneven surfaces you can feel wobbly bits you never knew you had.

There is, however, some genuinely good news. Both the 2.2 turbo diesel and 2.4 four-cylinder petrol are gems of engines. Both are mated to a six-speed auto and work well together.

It's a cliché, but the diesel is so smooth it almost doesn't feel like a diesel. There's no perceptible lag and it's relatively quiet (the same couldn't be said of the old diesel).

Macho types may turn their noses up at the 2.4 petrol but they would do so at their peril. Agreed, it's not the fastest game in town, but it works well in this application and would be more than acceptable for urban commuting and the occasional highway trip.

The biggest disappointment, sadly, is the homegrown 3.0-litre V6 from the Commodore. Regardless of what the power and torque numbers suggest, it feels plain lethargic and poorly matched to the auto. It falls into a hole where there's no torque and struggles to find its way out.

Prediction: Holden will do very attractive deals on the V6 to clear stock, and possibly not replace them. The 2.2 diesel and 2.4 petrol engines are the pick.

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Published : Monday, 28 February 2011
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