Holden Captiva 7 - 13

2014 Holden Captiva 7 Review: LT 3.0-litre V6 petrol

Rating: 6.5
$34,990 Mrlp
  • Fuel Economy
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It's one of Australia's most popular SUVs - Matt Campbell reviews the Holden Captiva 7.
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There’s no denying the popularity of the Holden Captiva SUV range, with five- and seven-seat models available and competitive pricing across the line-up.

The Holden Captiva 7 is one of the most affordable seven-seat SUVs in its class, with promotional pricing starting at just $29,990 drive-away for the entry-level LS variant, through to $40,990 for the top-end LTZ diesel. At that price, and with buyers’ appetites clearly skewed towards these high-riding vehicles, it can essentially be considered the new family wagon Holden buyers look at when they would previously have gone for a Commodore station wagon.

The Captiva 7 range is offered with the choice of three drivetrains. The entry-level LS has a 2.4-litre four-cylinder with power sent to the front wheels via a standard six-speed automatic. Its power outputs are modest, at 123kW and 230Nm. It starts at just $29,990.

The LT ($34,990) and LTZ ($39,990) are offered with a 3.0-litre petrol V6 engine with 190kW of power and 288Nm of torque, with a standard six-speed auto and all-wheel drive. All three models come with the option of a 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel, which produces 135kW and 400Nm. The diesel engine attracts a $3000 premium for the LS and a $1000 ask for the LT and LTZ.

We tested the mid-range petrol LT model, which is priced lower than the entry-level Commodore Evoke Sportwagon. With seven seats to boot, it’s no wonder the Captiva is popular with family buyers.

At 4.67 metres long, it’s far shorter than a Commodore wagon (which measures 4.95m) adding further weight to the idea that the Captiva 7 offers a better value equation than the locally-made lugger – particularly on a cost per bum basis. Its sizing also puts it smaller than dearer competitors like the Mazda CX-9 and Nissan Pathfinder, both of which stretch beyond five metres.

For that expenditure, buyers get 18-inch alloy wheels, an electronic park brake, dual-zone climate control, rear parking sensors, automatic headlights, smart key entry, cloth seat trim with “Sportec” bolsters and a leather-lined steering wheel with air-conditioning controls (the only car in its class with this function). For those who like natural light (at the expense of some headroom) there’s a sunroof available at no extra cost, too.

Notable omissions include a reverse-view camera and front parking sensors, both of which are available on the up-spec LTZ. That model also adopts the cleverer 7.0-inch touchscreen media system with satellite navigation, while the LT makes do with an olde worlde analogue unit that - in our test car at least didn’t work very well. On occasion it would not change radio channels, and some buttons simply didn’t garner any response whatsoever. Still, the car’s standard Bluetooth phone and audio streaming meant using the actual stereo interface wasn’t essential.

A low buy-in price is further backed by low scheduled maintenance costs. The Captiva 7 requires visits to the service department every 12 months or 15,000 kilometres, at a cost of $245 per visit. Over three years, it will cost its owner $980, less than half of the amount charged by Mazda for its dearer CX-9. As with all Holden models, the Captiva 7 has a three-year, 100,000 kilometre warranty.

Offering seven seats in a car close in size to the Commodore wagon means things are a bit tight for those in the rearmost chairs, with taller occupants forced to keep their knees up. The fixed middle row does make it harder for bigger people to clamber in to the back chairs – many rivals come with smarter sliding second-row seats that help in this regard.

Second row space is adequate, with enough head- and legroom for six-footers, though the lack of any rear ventilation for either the second or third row seats means things might get uncomfortable quickly.

The boot of the Captiva 7 is claimed to offer 465 litres of space with five seats in place, while that drops to a tiny 85L with the rearmost seats up, garnering the cargo hold worthy of holding only a few bags of shopping in that layout. Rivals like the Toyota Kluger offer significantly more space with all seven seats up (Kluger: 195L). Buyers who need a boot rather than extra seats, then, would be well advised to opt for a Commodore instead – and it’s worth noting that, as with all SUVs in this class, the height of the rear load lip means heavy items can be difficult to stow.

Up front, the Captiva 7 lacks the polish of many of its newer rivals. It feels aged against fresher rivals like the Hyundai Santa Fe and Kia Sorento, which have neater, classier feeling cockpits. The Captiva’s is let down by vinyl-like dash plastics and poor quality knobs and dials.

Under the bonnet lies an Australian-made petrol V6 engine, which has reasonable power outputs, but its peak power (190kW) isn’t reached until 6900rpm, and peak torque (288Nm) is delivered at a high 5800rpm. The result is a less-than-relaxed drive experience, with the engine requiring plenty of right foot application in order to get the most out of it.

The main issue is perhaps not with the engine, but with how much work is expected of it. At 1920 kilograms, the Captiva 7 LT is no lightweight – and the engine feels strained as a result. The six-speed automatic transmission does it no favours, either, struggling to choose the correct gear during urban driving and even feeling unsettled at highway speeds.

As a result, the Captiva is thirsty. Claimed consumption is pegged at 10.1 litres per 100 kilometres, but we saw well above that on our long 350km test loop across multiple disciplines, with a figure of 14.9L/100km.

Many similarly priced models only offer front- or rear-wheel drive layouts, so the Holden may appear to families who like to head off-road, and for ski bunnies chains may not be required in some national parks. That all-wheel drive system is biased towards the front hoops, with 100 per cent of the engine's power typically sent to the front. Power can be split 50:50 if the traction control system detects the need.

For buyers who do get out and about, the Captiva 7 offers braked towing capacity of 1700kg – lower than almost all of its rivals. The class average is 2000kg of capacity.

The Captiva feels surefooted on the open road, with a controlled ride quality that copes commendably with large inconsistencies such as potholes. That control comes at the expense of comfort, though, with the Captiva feeling decidedly firm and somewhat uncomfortable around town. While it is smaller than many of its rivals, the Captiva has heavy steering which can make it feel larger and more cumbersome than it really is, especially when parking.

On paper the Holden Captiva 7 offers buyers a sharply priced and cheap to own SUV with good levels of equipment. But its lower buy-in and budget-friendly servicing is offset by a hefty thirst that needs to be accounted for. There are SUVs out there that do a better job of moving seven people with more space and higher levels of refinement.

Read how the Holden Captiva 7 ranked in our Family SUV Comparison

Photos: Easton Chang