2016 Holden Captiva Review
by KARL PESKETT
Price: from $26,490 plus options and on-road costs
Engine/Trans: 123kW/230Nm 2.4-litre four-cylinder / 6-speed manual
Fuel Economy claimed: 9.3 l/100km combined
Suspension: Independent front and rear
Towing: 1500kg braked / 750kg unbraked
Is Holden’s Captiva LS an SUV or merely an upright wagon – a crossover at best? In fact, when is an SUV not an SUV?
That depends on which definition you go by. A quick search on Google – the “all-knowing” – would define a sport utility vehicle as using a sturdier platform than a crossover (i.e. perhaps a ladder frame) and has either four-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive.
Which leaves a “crossover” as a tall wagon or hatch that uses a car-like platform, a higher ride-height, and with all- or two-wheel-drive. Clearly, the point can be argued that anything jacked up with all-wheel-drive is an SUV, but the boundaries are so blurred that it’s impossible to categorise. The only common thread perhaps is higher ride height and drive to four wheels.
But when an SUV loses the drive from two of its wheels, is it still an SUV?
Holden is convinced it is, marketing the Captiva LS as one, but there’s not an ounce of off-road ability. It’s simply a front-wheel-drive wagon that happens to have a higher ride height than a normal station wagon. But, as a laugh, it has a hill-descent button included as standard.
Think about it: If it can’t climb steep hills to begin with, why would anyone try to get down them?
That aside, what’s the rest of the car like, and is it worth spending $26,490 on?
Let’s start inside, and let’s be honest – it’s not great. A cursory glance is all you need to realise that this isn’t the highest quality machine on sale. The appearance of the plastics gives the game away, especially the silver highlights. They’re a matte finish that doesn’t feel particularly hardy, compared with the models higher up in the range, which receive a gloss finish.
Some of the cut-lines are a bit crude and the action of the cupholder slider could be a bit smoother, but at least the infotainment functionality is quite good. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are included as standard as well as a reversing camera, and keyless start. Well, it’s not a push button, but rather a paddle you turn to start.
Push some of the dash buttons and the creaky feeling isn’t reassuring, neither is the flimsy action on the rotation of some of the dials. Overall, the presentation and quality is below par for a medium SUV and its price reflects this.
Let’s focus, though, on one of the Captiva’s strengths – space. While the front seats are quite flat, the material feels quite hardwearing and there’s miles of headroom and elbow room. Even the back seat has heaps of legroom and headroom, and three abreast is easy, even with adults.
The boot space is 465 litres which can be increased to 930 litres when the back seats are folded down, and they fold completely flat, too. It’s quite a practical car, with big door bins, a large glovebox and plenty of storage spaces. If it’s room you want, at this price level there’s not a lot that can touch it.
So, we can see some appeal, but how does it drive?
Well, our tester was a manual, so that in itself is unusual for an SUV this size. Under the bonnet is a 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol, but there’s no turbocharging around here. As such, it only makes 123kW and 230Nm, which isn’t exactly going to set the world on fire. It takes around 10 seconds to get to 100kmh, and the gearing feels quite tall, but it must be said that the engine is smooth and sounds quite relaxed when accelerating.
Interestingly, the gearbox isn’t rubbish either. The clutch take-up is progressive and the change action is smooth and positive.
The steering is weighted reasonably well, if on the heavier side, which is probably why there’s a huge steering wheel, but feedback is definitely lacking. And don’t get any notions of Cayenne-like handling. The ride is firm, almost to the point of feeling solid, and it’s reasonably sure-footed given its chassis is almost ten years old, there’s only so much a few spring and damper changes can accomplish.
You can see that Holden has tried its best to keep the Captiva updated enough to seem fresh; adding DRLs, infotainment functionality and chassis improvements have helped, but the overall basics now feel quite dated. Indeed the interior is so far behind current standards that it’s been priced accordingly.
So, it’s cheap, but is that all there is to it? Well, the space is good and its drivetrain isn’t as bad as you may expect. But there are few buyers opting for manual transmission, and the six-speed auto is nothing to write home about.
Which means it’s the combination of space and price that is tempting buyers. But if that’s the case, then you may as well stump up an extra $1000 and take a good look at the Honda CR-V VTi which offers a massive leap in quality and similar room.
Or take a look at the Kia Sportage Si for an extra $2500, which is also Korean, but is finished a whole lot nicer, despite being a fraction smaller. Or go Japanese with a Toyota RAV4 for a fraction over $2K more.
All three options offer a better build and better resale. Which means the Captiva is a hard sell. If you have your heart set on one, bargain hard. If not, there are plenty of other fish in the sea.