The Holden Captiva 7 offers decent styling and clever seating but is let down by a harsh ride and lack of torque from the six-cylinder petrol engine.
When the Holden Captiva 7 SUV was last upgraded in March 2011 with the Series II update, it was given a fresher look, a new engine and a few more toys.
The seven-seat Captiva 7 range now spans six models, from the entry-level SX 2WD petrol priced at $32,490 before on-road costs, to the range-topping LX AWD diesel model with a $43,490 price tag.
Sitting in the middle of the petrol range is the $38,490 3.0-litre six-cylinder Holden Captiva 7 CX AWD we tested here.
Unfortunately, this Australian-built engine with spark ignition direct injection (SIDI) isn’t the gutsiest six going around, generating 190kW and 288Nm of torque.
While that output level might be fine for a smaller, lighter SUV, it’s less than satisfactory in the 1825kg Holden Captiva 7.
As a comparison, the Captiva 7’s principal rival is the Australian-made Ford Territory, which offers a more powerful 4.0-litre six, developing 195kW and 391Nm of torque across all petrol models.
However, for just $1000 more than its petrol sibling, you can have the 2.2-litre diesel Captiva 7, which generates a considerably more attractive 135kW and 400Nm.
Holden claims a combined cycle fuel consumption of 11.3 litres per 100km for the Captiva 7 CX AWD. We averaged 13.0L/100km over our week-long test period.
After a week behind the wheel of the Holden Captiva 7 petrol, the diesel option is a no-brainer for us.
Twist the key and the 3.0-litre V6 idles smoothly and quietly. It’s not until you need to punch it that the torque-starved powertrain shows its true colours, which aren’t all that bright.
The Captiva 7 likes to rev, and it needs to in order to maintain sufficient power to get going properly. Even with medium throttle input at 60km/h, the Captiva 7’s six-speed transmission will hurriedly kick down a couple of cogs and rev out to between 5000-6000rpm before shifting back up to maintain acceleration.
It’s not what we would call the most pleasant form of motoring, particularly if you frequently drive over hilly terrain. There’s a level of harshness to the engine note once the revs climb too, which can be all too frequent and tiresome when paired with such an indecisive transmission.
Unfortunately, the story doesn’t get much better when it comes to ride comfort on board the Holden SUV. There simply isn’t a lot of compliance from the MacPherson strut/four-link suspension system.
The Holden Captiva 7 seems to seek out every minute bump and imperfection on the road surface, which is felt in the cabin as the suspension fails to properly absorb them. It makes for a thoroughly choppy ride across almost any road surface, but without ever unsettling the chassis, even mid-corner.
Things are decidedly better in the handling department though, with the Captiva 7 cornering flat, even at moderate pace. We pushed it through a series of quick S-bends and got the same bolt upright reaction from the vehicle. It’s quite sporty in this regard.
There’s a sold level of grip and composure too, assisted by the Captiva’s all-wheel drive system, which is essentially a ‘torque on demand’ system that apportions torque between the front and rear axles depending on conditions and traction levels at each corner.
There’s also a comfortable amount of weight to the steering from dead centre and overall it’s relatively quick to respond.
Inside, the Holden Captiva 7 is a mix of good and bad in equal portions.
There’s insufficient seat bolstering to hold the driver and passengers in place and those with slight frames will find the going particularly challenging, as there is only minimal lateral support.
The Captiva 7 scores considerably more points when it comes to interior space and seating configurations.
The second- and third-row seats fold all but dead flat, although there’s no remote lever/button to activate the mechanism from the rear cargo area.
With all three rows in place in the Captiva there’s 85 litres of volume for grocery bags. Fold all seats flat, including the front passenger seat, and cargo space increases to a cavernous 1565 litres.
There’s also heaps of legroom for the second-row passengers in the Holden Captiva 7, while the third row is best described as ‘occasional seating’ for carrying extra kids.
Storage spaces for phones, wallets and water bottles abound, and include the longest centre console bins of any vehicle in the segment. The glove box is also large enough to fit a lot more than just the usual service manual.
There’s a reasonable inventory of standard features on board the Holden Captiva 7 CX, including 18-inch alloy wheels, electric parking brake, rear park assist (with sensors only in the CX grade), six airbags, climate control air conditioning, Bluetooth phone and music streaming, electronic compass and multi-function steering wheel with the added feature of air-con controls.
The six-speaker audio unit is worthy of special mention, putting out exceptionally good sound. Bluetooth pairing is also a quick and easy exercise.
There’s no touchscreen display with satellite-navigation, though. You’ll need to step-up to the pricier Captiva 7 LX to gain those features, along with front and rear parking sensors and rear view camera, as well as a host of other upgrades.
The cockpit itself is a blend of mostly soft-touch materials in dark shades, which are offset with several metallic-look/carbon-look highlights throughout the trim.
The centre stack looks contemporary and the switchgear is relatively intuitive and uncluttered, as are the main instrument dials.
The Holden Captiva 7 has a five-star safety rating from ANCAP and along with six airbags there’s a host of other systems fitted across the Captiva 7 range including electronic stability control with traction control, anti-lock brakes with brake assist, hill-start assist and hill descent control system, and active rollover protection, the latter reducing the risk of rollover when changing lanes and cornering.
There’s also a 16-inch steel wheel space saver spare mounted under the vehicle.
The Holden Captiva 7 offers flexible seating and a spacious interior, but there are more convincing alternatives in the large SUV segment.