HOLDEN’S segment-straddling Captiva has been re-loaded with three new engines, a fresh face, sharper performance and matching sharp pricing as GM Holden sets out to consolidate its only SUV model on top of the hottest automotive battleground in the country.
Second in the 2010 sales race to Toyota’s long-time leader, the Prado, the doubled-barreled Captiva range – embracing the compact five-seat Euro-styled Captiva 5 and slightly longer seven-seat Captiva 7 that is classed as a medium SUV – went one better in January to take market leadership.
From next month, a major makeover to smooth off the rough edges of the current generation that was launched here in 2006, will give Holden a chance to put the leadership question beyond doubt this year.
If it does, it will be the first time in history that a Holden SUV has pinched the mantle from Toyota, which wrote every chapter in the book and still, by dint of its vast SUV range, controls the broader SUV market.
From a standing start five years ago, Holden last year sold 15,511 Captivas – 4336 Captiva 5s and 11,175 Captiva 7s – to trail king Prado (16,745) by 1234 units.
According to Holden’s marketing manager for large cars and SUVs, Kristian Aquilina, the Captiva has managed to hit “the sweet spot” in the SUV market, attracting buyers at the top end of the compact segment, as well as customers looking for a medium all-wheel-drive vehicle.
Both of the new Series II Captiva models – which share GM’s Theta platform but have no exterior panels in common – get new noses and other design tweaks that not only give the pair a fresh look for 2011 but also more differentiation between the ‘5’ and ‘7’.
The expanded range is also better value, with a $2000 price cut on all but one of the Captiva 7 models, combining with more equipment and stronger performance to take the fight up to hot new competitors in the compact SUV sector, such as the Kia Sportage, and traditional mid-sized rivals such as the Ford Territory and Toyota Kluger.
The Captiva now also gets a pair of six-speed transmissions – manual on the base SX 2WD petrol specification and automatic on everything else – which along with the new engines help to drive down fuel consumption by between three and six per cent, depending on the engine.
While the facelifted Captiva has been given a good spit and polish from stem to stern, the standout advance – and one well overdue – is the new 2.2-litre 135kW/400Nm diesel engine that is now available across the range.
Developed in conjunction with Italy’s VM Motori, the sweet new Euro 4 twin-cam turbo diesel four-cylinder engine delivers 23 per cent more power and 25 per cent more torque than the previous 2.0-litre diesel.
The Captiva is the first vehicle in the GM world to get the new engine, which employs a variable geometry turbocharger and 1800-bar common-rail fuel injection to push up performance while cutting fuel consumption by six per cent over the previous diesel, to 8.3 litres per 100km, from 8.5L/100km. Carbon dioxide emissions are also down, from 224 grams per kilometre to 213g/km.
Best of all, the more refined engine is much quieter, a situation that is further enhanced by greater levels of noise insulation around the engine bay. Overall, engine racket has been cut by 3dB.
Diesel is now available in the Captiva 5 as well as the Captiva 7, in all three specifications – SX, CX and LX – but only with all-wheel drive and automatic transmission.
The base engine is a new American-made, Holden-calibrated 2.4-litre petrol four-cylinder producing 123kW of power and 230Nm of torque.
This engine, replacing the previous 103kW 2.4-litre engine that was available only in the Captiva 5, is now available in both ‘5’ and for the first time, ‘7’.
Its fuel economy also has been sharpened by six per cent, to 9.1L/100km, and CO2 is down from 231 to 217g/km.
At the top of the range and available only in the ‘7’ family fun bus is Holden’s 3.0-litre SIDI (spark ignition, direct injection) V6 transplanted directly from the Commodore and made at Holden’s Port Melbourne plant.
Although this engine is 200cc smaller than the previous 3.2-litre port-injection Holden V6 in the current Captiva, it generates 12 per cent more power, up from 167kW to 190kW, and cuts fuel use by three per cent, from 11.7L/100k to 11.3L/100km. CO2 emissions are down from 279g/km to 268g/km.
From 2012, the V6 Captiva will be adapted to drink E85 ethanol-petrol flex fuel, once the required modifications are made to cope with the more corrosive fuel. For now, both the V6 and Yankee four-cylinder petrol engine can use unleaded petrol only.
Styling changes are the most dramatic on the seven-seat ‘7’, which gets a new bonnet with a distinctive crease running from A-pillar to A-pillar via the leading edge, and an all new front fascia incorporating a twin-port grille and driving lights.
This new nose was to have been shared with Daewoo’s version of the Captiva in South Korea, but when GM decided to junk the Daewoo brand – and its baggage – in that country and replace it with Chevrolet’s bow tie and styling, the Holden/Daewoo Captiva design suddenly became Holden’s exclusive domain.
The Holden Design input mainly focused on ‘Holdenising’ the more rounded, chrome-edged grille with its Holden badge. The new bonnet and other sheet metal changes are shared with the global Chevrolet version whose prime market is Europe.
New, slim-line light clusters with projector-style headlamps are the other most significant styling change to the ‘7’, and help to set it apart from the European-styled ‘5’ that retains more of the previous design, including the larger headlamps.
While the Captiva retains the same basic suspension layout as before, GM engineers have given it a renovation to improve cornering. The rear suspension in particular has been beefed up, along with the front anti-roll bar, mainly to reduce body roll.
A lot of the prep work for this suspension tuning was done at Holden’s Lang Lang proving ground, although it was an international project.
Like its major competitors, the Captiva’s wheels step up in size with each specification, starting with 17-inch alloys on the base SX, 18s on the CX, and 19 inch on the flagship LX.
Holden says a lot of the work on the Series II Captiva revolved around refining the vehicle, with improved mounts for the engine and AWD system and even a softer-blowing air-conditioning system.
Safety has also been ramped up, with six airbags – including side and curtain airbags – now standard across the range.
The Captiva 5 gets parking sensors front and rear, while the ‘7’ gets only rears on CX and LX. A rear-view camera is standard only on the top of the range Captiva 7 LX.
Hill start assist is now standard, along with an electric parking brake that frees up room on the centre console.
A leather-wrapped steering wheel is standard across the range.
As before, the Captiva 7 gets a seven-seat folding seat arrangement that not only can be folded flat – even including the front passenger seat – but configured in numerous ways for load flexibility.
Audio connectivity has been stepped up, with Bluetooth streaming now standard on the ‘7’.
The Captiva 5, which Holden says will mainly appeal to young couples, kicks of the range at $27,990 for the 2.4-litre 2WD SX with manual transmission – the same entry price as the previous range. Auto adds $2000.
This entry price is $1000 cheaper than Japanese 2WD rivals such as Toyota’s RAV4 and Mitsubishi Outlander, but about $1000 dearer than Hyundai’s ix35 2WD and Kia’s Sportage 2.0-litre 2WD models.
But now, buyers can tick the box for a diesel Captiva 5, which hikes the price to $33,900, but that includes AWD and auto transmission.
While the ‘5’ is available only at base SX level, the family-oriented ‘7’ comes in 2WD SX, and AWD CX and LX specifications, all with automatic transmission.
These start at $32,490 for the 2.4-litre petrol SX – a first in Captiva 7 – and $35,490 for the diesel SX.
The CX, which gains climate control, driver information display, rear-park assist, six-disc CD player and 18-inch wheels, comes in V6 or diesel variants, at $38,490 and $39,490 respectively.
The LX – gaining 19 inch alloys, leather trim, rear view camera, USB port and seven-inch touch screen with sat-nav – is also available in V6 or diesel, at $42,490 and $43,490 respectively.
Available in nine exterior colours, the Captiva goes on sale in mid March.