Holden Captiva 2011 5 (fwd)

2011 Holden Captiva Review

Rating: 6.0
$6,940 $8,250 Dealer
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The release of the Series II Holden Captiva represents a mid-life makeover for the popular Holden SUV.
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The release of the Series II Holden Captiva represents a mid-life makeover for the popular Holden SUV, which sold more than 15,000 units in 2010. When you look at the sales volumes, the Holden Captiva is about as popular as the Subaru Forester, the Toyota RAV4, and significantly more popular than the Toyota Kluger. It’s a strong-selling SUV – way more popular than the Kia Sorento or Hyundai Santa Fe. Which tells you something about the pulling power of the Holden badge, seeing as the Santa Fe, Sorento and the Captiva are all built in South Korea.

Mid-life makeovers are often cynical affairs headlining nothing more than minor styling changes that boil down to the automotive equivalent of mutton dressed up as lamb. So it’s pleasing to report that Holden’s upgrade to the Series II Captiva is much more than just that. The new Holden Captiva gets the expected new hair and makeup – but it is also the beneficiary of some major engineering and technology upgrades that make it a far better value proposition than previously.

Headlining the Series II Holden Captiva story are the introduction of two new powertrain variants, new generation petrol and diesel engines with more power and better fuel efficiency, a new six-speed auto transmission, six airbags as standard across the range and (perhaps even more importantly) a drop in recommended retail pricing of $2000 across the entire Holden Captiva range – all of which will sit well with everyone … except possibly recent purchasers of the outgoing Series I Holden Captiva.

The Holden Captiva range is split into two basic models – the five-seat Captiva 5 and the seven-seat Captiva 7. Both Holden and the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries are semantically promiscuous on this, sticking the Holden Captiva 5 in the ‘compact SUV’ category, while the 7 is officially labeled a ‘medium SUV’. Go figure – Holden told us there’s less than 100mm in overall length between the pair. (This is a bit like putting the Toyota Camry in ‘medium car’ and the Toyota Aurion in ‘large’ – ridiculous because one is basically a clone of the other, with a disparity of two cylinders. Thankfully, however, real buyers in the real world don’t buy cars according to industry categorisation.) But there are significant differences between the pair if you’re in the market.

Historically the Holden Captiva 7 is w-a-y more popular than the 5. In 2010, of the 15,511 total Holden Captiva sales, 11,175 (or 72 per cent) were Captiva 7s.

Three engines are available – though not all are available on all variants (we’ll get to that). The price-leading base-model four-cylinder petrol is a 2.4-litre inline four-cylinder with variable valve timing, producing 123kW and 230Nm. Other latest-generation 2.4-litre engines from Hyundai-Kia feature direct injection, which gives them a performance edge (148kW, or about 20 per cent more power). It’s an edge the 2.4-litre Captiva could benefit from. Basically, its performance is adequate but not inspiring. It’s absolutely fine if you just want something for running around, and strong levels of performance aren’t high on your shopping list. But if they are…

…then the other two engines will suit you. The second petrol engine in the range is a 3.0-litre SIDI V6, which is essentially the same engine as the Commodore small V6. (SIDI stands for ‘spark ignition direct injection’.) It produces 190kW and 288Nm, and really likes to rev. The same engine in the Commodore has been calibrated to accept ethanol blends up to E85 (85 per cent ethanol in 15 per cent petrol), which GM refers to as ‘flex-fuel capability’. The same engine in the Captiva doesn’t feature this innovation – yet. It is on its way in 2012, however.

The South Korean-built 2.2-litre DOHC diesel four is a real winner – from both performance and price-point perspectives. It’s just $1000 more than the petrol V6, which is a much lower premium than you’ll pay for the diesel on other cars and SUVs. It also delivers 135kW and a massive 400Nm of torque – which makes it extremely satisfying to drive on flowing roads, and easily the superior towing proposition of the three Holden Captiva engines. Not sure about the drivability of the front-wheel drive diesel variant (which we’ve not yet sampled) – 400Nm could easily overwhelm the available traction, provoking all kinds of electronic intervention. The all-wheel drive diesel drives brilliantly, however, and is the pick of the range, being both a willing performer and a frugal one.

The diesel also features variable-geometry turbocharging, balance shafts, a maintenance-free catalysing particulate filter to minimise harmful diesel exhaust particles, and is Euro-4 emissions compliant.

Unlike many Euro-spec diesels, which come to Australia often as manual-only propositions, the diesel Captiva is available with the new 6T45 six-speed auto transmission – and the package works really well. Petrol Captivas get a new 6T40 six-speed auto (optional on the four, which is standard with six-speed manual). The auto is the pick in both cases, with very slick shifts, no disconcerting hunting and a low first gear for fast acceleration (and theoretically crawling over rougher terrain) and a tall sixth ratio for efficient highway cruising.

The improvements to the powertrain are significant in Captiva II: The 2.4-litre petrol four is 19 per cent more powerful and six per cent more fuel efficient than its predecessor, while the 3.0 V6 offers 12 per cent more power and three per cent more efficiency. The power and efficiency gains for the diesel are the most dramatic, however: 23 per cent and six per cent respectively.

Running through the model range, which can be a bit like cracking the code on the Rosetta Stone for the uninitiated, the Captiva 5 kicks off at just under $28k for the front-wheel drive, four-cylinder petrol manual. The new six-speed auto adds $2k, and the new four-cylinder diesel with auto-only transmission and all-wheel drive (a new specification for Captiva 5) is just under $34k.

The Holden Captiva 7 is available in three model grades – SX, CX and LX. You can have a front-wheel drive SX with four-cylinder petrol and auto (new specification) for just under $32.5k, or a diesel auto front-driver for $3k more.

The CX is available with either a 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine or the diesel, both with AWD. The petrol is just under $38.5k and the diesel is just $1000 more. The LX specification is the same deal as CX from a powertrain perspective, but the higher equipment levels add $4k ($42.5k for the petrol and $43.5 for the diesel).

Series II Captiva 5 comes comprehensively equipped. For example, ESC (plus brake assist, traction control and ABS) and six airbags plus hill start and descent assist systems, a 65-litre fuel tank, an (almost) full sized spare, standard 235/65 tyres on 17-inch alloy wheels, climate control air conditioning, wheel-mounted audio controls, etc. iPod integration and GPS are notable exclusions from the spec on Captiva 5.

Captiva 7 is better equipped. SX specification is 2WD petrol four or optional AWD diesel on 17-inch alloys, plus all the safety stuff standard right across the range. Cloth seats are standard, four-speaker audio with no USB input or SD card reader (but you do get Bluetooth connectivity with audio streaming capability and a 3mm input jack), and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls. There is a high level of standard equipment, but plenty of equipment-based inducements to ‘sell you up’ into CX or LX at the dealership.

CX specification adds 18-inch alloys with 235/55 tyres, front fog lamps, climate control, Sportec bolsters on the fabric seats, multi-function driver info display, outside temp display, trip computer, charcoal roofrails, and a six-CD audio system with six speakers and MP3.

LX specification adds 19-inch alloys on 235/50 tyres, chrome door handles, silver decorative skid plates front and rear, stainless steel sill plates, illumination to the vanity mirror, leather seat trim, eight-way power adjustment to the driver’s seat, electrochromatic centre rear view mirror, a rear view camera, a seven-inch touch-screen information display with integrated sat-nav, satin silver roof rails, and USB and SD card audio inputs.

On the road, the Captiva is wonderfully well mannered. It’s also very quiet. A lot of work has gone in behind the scenes to ensure both of those outcomes. The suspension has been re-tuned on Series II (10 per cent greater spring rates, softer isolators, bigger front and rear anti-roll bars, new bushes, etc.) and new noise, vibration and harshness attenuators have been added. They all work very well. The auto shifts really smoothly, and there are no nasty surprises with the manual either. All up it’s quite a refined vehicle to drive.

The cabin ergonomics are also quite well thought out. Everything falls easily to hand, and there aren’t any ‘hate at first sight’ features. In Captiva 7 the third-row seating is billed as a full-sized seat proposition, but I vote not to be the adult riding from Perth to Sydney up the ‘very’ back. It’s a great feature for soccer mums and dads, however, who often need instant extra seating capacity at the drop of a hat – and one of Captiva 7’s neater tricks is the flat-folding third seating row, which gives you instant, uncompromised luggage space.

According to Holden, there are 4386 different permutations of the various seats folded down/up in Captiva 7. (That’s a slight exaggeration: there are actually ‘only’ 32 permutations – provided you leave the driver’s seat up in every case.) Whatever – the point is that the interior space is very versatile from a cargo-people variability point of view. Surfboards and bicycles can be swallowed with aplomb by a Captiva 7, along with a range of unwieldy consumer goods and hardware store items. If push came to shove, and no suite at the Ritz-Carlton was available, you could even sleep in it.

The Holden Captiva Series II is quite versatile. It’ll do everything a car will do, then do double duty as a quasi people mover, and then triple up as your very own de facto domestic delivery van. Think of it as the automotive equivalent of a Leatherman multi-tool.

The rough stuff? We didn’t test that – there was no opportunity to do so at the national media launch, and it’s not really the vehicle’s core intent. It seemed very composed over rough bitumen, and also on the brief unsealed road stint we had access to.

The Series II Holden Captiva is ongoing proof of the rise of the South Koreans as a global force in automotive manufacturing. Interestingly, the Captiva is the only South Korean-built SUV I can think of that you can buy with only a three-year warranty. This is the dark side, perhaps, of the Holden badge going on this product. (Hyundai and Kia, which are flipsides of the one entity, offer a standard five-year warranty.) When you add the Holden badge, however, you get a powerful home-grown marketing message, into which a bunch of customers have already bought, long-term. It’s not quite as powerful as ‘Commodore’, however. Few private buyers shop Commodores against Falcons, but Holden told us plenty of people actively shop Captivas against Territorys. This particular battle should hot up in the coming months as the re-birthed Territory is released.

However, if Dad drives a Holden Commodore and Mum wants an SUV, and there’s a desire to keep it all in the same automotive family, then the new Holden Captiva Series II won’t disappoint.