This week has been spent in the Captiva 7 V6 petrol. We drove the diesel some time ago and thought it not a bad package for the money.
We buy cars for many reasons: some make us look better, some make us feel better and some are just transport but they all must be fit for purpose. A week is a long time and for a little while I was disappointed with my shiny new Captiva. We tested the diesel last time so we’ll confine ourselves to the differences. The 3.0L petrol V6 develops a respectable 190KW (13KW more than a 1980 Porsche V8 928) with a smidge under 300NM of torque so why oh why does it feel as though I’ve been driving around Sydney with the handbrake on? Two days before handing it back I noticed that when you start the car it sets “eco” mode which sucks the life out of everything it comes in contact with. Why oh why oh why would anyone do that? Even when aware of the dreaded “ECO” button I still failed, almost every time, to press the button to de-activate the economy-obsessed function. Why would you not make it programmable? I’ve driven many cars that have had an ECO mode and none has been worth using. They are universally dreadful and rarely result in the advertised fuel savings. The button could be a press-and-hold affair to program which way you wanted it to work, always on or always off.
You might think the fuel economy suffered horribly with the ECO turned off, but not so. In fact I noticed very little difference. The 1800 kilo bulk is quite a lot to be hauled about by such a relatively small motor but it manages very well once the anchor is released. Imagine, you’ve been driving around for 5 days thinking the engine felt more like an anaemic 4 pot rather than the decent V6 that it is. On the 6th day you discovered that the ECO mode was always on and that you needed to switch it off each time you turned the key. You give the button a quick stab and lo, it is good. The heavens light up, the clouds part and the sun shines brightly as the angels begin to sing. The effect was so dramatic that at the next set of lights the car felt as if it had been visited by a motoring mystic who performed a laying on of hands.
If it sounds as though I’m getting a trifle carried away, it’s because I can’t stress enough just how much Captiva came to life wretched function was turned off. I then felt more kindly disposed towards Captiva’s little foibles. Some little niggles vanished and others ceased to be a problem such as the lack of a USB port. Sure the audio streaming works well and the sound is quite good, but the streaming interface is fiddly. USB functionality delivers fully searchable music and is usually easier to negotiate. Of course the whole experience might have been a bit easier had there been a user guide on-board but in this instance the Holden Gods assumed an experienced poof such as I would be able to figure it out on my own. How wrong they were.
The trim on this model includes imitation carbon fibre on the dash which we could have done without, but other than that the interior is quite decent. The Captiva easily passed the “4 beefy lads” test and for good measure we included a 5th person in the form of my fitness instructor boyfriend. Granted he is small and fits in a glove box, but “5 adults in comfort” is a claim that is usually somewhat optimistic. Fitting extra people in can be essential especially for short runs. The cabin feels spacious and roomy but there were a few inclusions missing. In a car costing 40k or more I expect my headlights, wipers, dipping rear view mirror to be automated and a rear view camera wouldn’t hurt either. A big car with a high set bum is impossible to see behind. That’s how children are mown down in people’s driveways. No car should be sold without reversing cameras these days.
I had cause to attend a small gathering as the offices of GetuP in Surry Hills the night of a huge storm. When I came out I found that a couple of thoughtless hatchback drivers had left little space to get my car out. In the rain, the dimly lit street made things even more difficult. Because the reverse sensor doesn’t tell me the distance, a 75 point shuffle ensued in order to extricate myself. Front sensors and a rear camera would have been like a second pair of eyes. I did some severe tsk-tsking.
Despite the fact that I fully retracted the lumbar support, I could never get really comfortable in the driver’s seat. Although I could live with it though one wonders if going for the top model might not be a better value for the money. On the subject of price our Captiva was around 43k drive-away but there is a model with even less kit for $32,000 and the top model costs $47,286. For that kind money the top model has to be worth it.
For me the real surprise was on the highway where Captiva was very smooth and very quiet. Rather optimistically it has hill descent but soft roaders aren’t expected to tackle anything more difficult than a broken curb, so what you will really need is something you can go shopping in then head off for a weekend camping. We’ve commented previously on the firmness of the ride. This has also had a positive effect on the handling. I should stress that we didn’t take the Captiva off-piste. The thought of calling roadside assist to the middle of a boggy field is simply too embarrassing. That’s also the reason that most off-roaders never leave paved streets.
The compact exterior does mean that it is easier to park than a full sized SUV but there were times when even an experienced driver is going to need a couple of goes at Coles-sized spaced. The rear hatch includes the separately opening glass section for those small bags. That’s handy when you’ve backed into a supermarket parking spot. It can be unlocked from the key fob. With the ECO mode off makes the Captiva quite nippy in traffic. Of course it’s no sports car but the responsiveness quite surprised me. We didn’t bother with the handling test but rather some soft-roading (in a muddy driveways) and a bit of light highway work. There is reasonable ground clearance too if you are determined to have a go and a spot of light exploring.
The highway work was a short run around the Sydney Ring roads of the Bradfield Highway, Warringa freeway, M2, M7 and M5 starting and finishing at Cleveland Street in Surry Hills. Although only around 100 k’s, it’s a good indicator of what it would be like on a longer trip. Sadly we have some roadworks going on so parts of our trip were slower than usual. The 110kph stretches were a joy but you do have to plan overtaking in advance. There is plenty of power and reasonable torque but if you’ve left ECO mode on you must switch it off. I found Captiva to be a rather unexpectedly comfy cruiser and I would happily have driven on for a bit. It’s on the highway where the USB would have been appreciated. With the iPhone car mount and the car charger you don’t really notice the lack of Satnav.
Would I buy the petrol over the diesel? Probably. Despite a few tiny niggles the Captiva proved to be a decent city runabout, a good highway tourer and a comfy method of mass transport. Check the Holden website for specs and current offers.