First Drive: Chevrolet Captiva

It’s okay to go for the things you really want in life. You’ll get an opinion on such matters whether you want it or not, but should you be considering an SUV as your next car purchase it will only take a matter of seconds before there’s a queue of naysayers suggesting the latest hybridmobile as the correct choice.

Don’t listen to them though. If you have kids, you occasionally need to tow a trailer, live up a steep hill or occasionally need to cross something a little more challenging than a grass verge and an SUV will come into its own – never mind a combination of these challenges.

A capable vehicle like this need not cost the earth either, as Chevrolet went about proving with its Captiva. First introduced in 2006 it sits at the value end of the spectrum yet is no less capable than many machines costing thousands more.

Now there’s a new version, which is easy to spot thanks to the prominent double-decker grille that gives it presence above its price tag. There are several other detail changes on the outside too, such as beefier wheelarches, and smarter lights front and rear, including side-repeaters now housed in the door mirrors – all touches that add a little more class and style.

It’s more than just a cosmetic exercise however, as under the bonnet the Captiva now has a new 2.2-litre diesel engine providing the power. Available in two outputs the Captiva is now all-diesel, and all the better for it. The new unit follows the very recent trend for a lower compression ratio to deliver better emissions for a given output, something which is good news for everyone.

The 161bhp version is more than adequate, but the 182bhp version delivers an impressive selection of stats: with a manual gearbox and standard four-wheel drive it can reach 60mph from rest in only 9.3 seconds, run on to 124mph yet also achieve 42.8mpg on the combined cycle and emit 174g/km of CO2.

Those figures translate well in the real world too. A good SUV needs easy torque at low revs and the Captiva has plenty of it, and when combined with the automatic gearbox it results in hassle-free progress. It’s pleasingly refined too and while it can’t match limousine-levels of refinement there will be no raised voices at speed. Although a fraction less frugal than in manual form the automatic transmission combined with the high output engine shows the Captiva off in its best light.

Comfort is in plentiful supply too, partly due to the supple suspension and decent noise insulation but also the excellent driving position and supportive seats. A good view out thanks to the lofty stance is a feature that many people will pay for, and it all contributes to the Captiva’s relaxing demeanour.

If you’re so inclined that can even include some off-road work too. There is a front-wheel drive version available with the lower output engine, but the real deal has an automatic system that will divert up to 50% of the power to the real wheels if it detects slip. That means no complicated levers to operate, just maximum traction only when you need it. It’s very capable off-road too, and strikes a fine balance between off-road ability and on-road comfort.

There are yet more changes inside too, where the spacious cabin is now more appealing to the eye. It may be small things such as chrome detailing and new seat fabrics but it all helps to sweeten the experience for the occupants. It’s the space that really impresses however, and with seven seats either standard or an option it becomes an immensely capable car.

That it does so at a refreshingly good price is what will entice you away from a similarly-capable but premium product in favour of the Captiva. What was already a capable and versatile machine is now quicker, cleaner, just as versatile and even more attractive to the eye. All that’s left is to give yourself permission to buy one.

Chevrolet Captiva 2.2 VCDi LT, £27,695
Engine: 2.2-litre diesel unit delivering 182bhp and 295lb.ft of torque
Transmission: Six-speed automatic driving all four wheels
Performance: Top speed 124mph, 0-62mph in 9.3 seconds
Economy: 42.8mpg combined
Emissions: 174g/km of CO2

By Matt Joy

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