Chevrolet virtually invented the sports utility vehicle when it launched the Suburban back in 1935. Since then, it's blessed the world with a host of all-purpose, four-wheel-drive vehicles, the latest of which is the Captiva, a seven-seater family SUV geared more towards ferrying your nearest and dearest about their daily lives than pounding around off the beaten track.
Our test model is the high-end LTZ model, which starts from £28,755. The range starts at £19,570.
If the Captiva looks familiar, that's because you've probably seen it before with a Vauxhall Antara badge on the bonnet. It's yet another feat of badge engineering on Chevrolet's part, but that's no bad thing, as the Antara was always a relatively attractive beast, and the same can be said of this new Captiva, which features a mildly tweaked front and rear for 2011.
The car's insides are relatively pleasant, too. The seating position is high, so both driver and front passenger have a good view of the road ahead. There's plenty of space for three behind the driver, and the boot has a pair of seats that fold up from the floor. Sadly, squeezing through the gap between the middle and rear seats requires the flexibility of a well-oiled Russian gymnast, so those forced to use the third-row seats will have drawn some very short straws.
There's an impressive 465 litres of room in the boot, but be warned that this drops to a pretty miniscule 85 litres if the third row of seats is in use. If you're embarking on a long road trip with six of your friends and family, you'll need to ensure everybody packs light.
Through the keyhole
The Captiva's vast cockpit is a pleasant place to put your feet up and engage in some gadget fondling. Our range-topping LTZ model features two information displays -- a 7-inch touchscreen providing access to the navigation and trip settings, and, below that, a smaller LCD strip dedicated to showing you what's going on with the car's audio system.
The former features a set of hard-wired buttons below it, which allow the user to switch quickly between the sat-nav and the trip computer, and to adjust the brightness of the screen. The buttons feel fairly tacky, but their presence is welcome, as they allow you to dart from function to function with ease.
The sat-nav is pretty good, too. Unlike some rival systems, it allows the user to enter full seven-digit UK postcodes, eliminating the need to enter lengthy street names. It also has a decent library of points of interest -- restaurants, parking lots, hotels and so on -- so you can find locations near your intended destination or current location. There's even an option to navigate to specific latitudes and longitudes, should you fancy venturing off the beaten track.
Captiva owners will probably find themselves ferrying plenty of easily bored young passengers, so it's just as well that the car comes with a pretty decent entertainment system. The most impressive part of the set-up is the central touchscreen's ability to play back video via an SD card reader on the dashboard. Sadly, the number of video codecs it accepts is extremely limited -- we didn't manage to get any of our sample AVIs to work. Be prepared to spend hours transcoding your existing files into the appropriate format before you set off on a long road trip.
If you can't get video to work, then fret not, as the Captiva plays audio from a host of sources. It'll happily blare tracks out via USB and SD cards, as well as CD, FM and AM radio. Most impressive of all, perhaps, is the fact it'll also allow you to wirelessly stream music from an MP3 player or mobile phone via Bluetooth A2DP.
It's not all good news, though. The speakers in the Captiva are fairly mediocre, the FM radio reception in our test vehicle was occasionally rather poor -- even in built-up areas -- and there's no option for a DAB radio upgrade, which could prove annoying when the UK migrates from FM to digital audio radio broadcasts.
The Captiva is pretty decent to drive. Its seats -- barring those at the rear -- are comfortable, the driving position is ideal and it's pleasant to pilot it down both suburban roads and the motorway. Its handling is predictable, even if pushed hard, while its brakes are strong and reassuring, even in emergency situations. The 2.2-litre diesel engine paired with the optional automatic transmission in our test car provided plenty of torque and a relatively decent 0-60mph time of 10 seconds.
The Captiva meets the Euro 5 standards for emissions, and it's clean and cheap to run for a vehicle of its size. Our test car spewed CO2 at a rate of 203g per kilometre, and achieved a combined fuel economy figure of 36.6mpg.
Those keen to reduce running costs and emissions will be better off opting for the manual transmission, which reduces CO2 output to 174g/km, boosts combined fuel economy to 42.8mpg and, as a bonus, reduces the 0-60mph time to 9.3 seconds.
The Chevrolet Captiva holds no surprises, but it's a solid all-rounder. It offers decent driving dynamics, plenty of room, and comes with enough tech to keep the kids quiet on long journeys. It faces stiff competition from cheaper and arguably more desirable seven-seaters, such as the Nissan Qashqai, but the Captiva holds its own in most respects.
Edited by Charles Kloet