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Car reviews - Holden - Captiva - 5-dr wagon range

Launch Story

11 Oct 2006

BY ITS own admission, and not before time, Holden has got its hands on a "legitimate SUV" with which to compete seriously against Ford Australia’s market-leading Territory and a brace of Asian- and American-built 4WDs.

Launched in the ACT last week and priced from $35,990, the Captiva represents a $600 million gamble.

Its market performance will provide a fascinating insight into how well Australians will accept another Korean-built Holden, how much impact – if any – it will have on sales of its all-important VE Commodore and how much enthusiasm consumers still have for medium-large SUVs.

"Finally, we have a legitimate SUV," Holden chairman Denny Mooney said at the vehicle’s introduction last week. "Captiva hits a sweet spot for us.

"It’s no secret we’ve been anxiously awaiting an entry in this segment, because it has been a significant part of this market."

Last year 180,000 new SUVs were sold in Australia out of a total passenger/SUV market of 789,000 vehicles. But given the current climate, in which medium SUV sales are down 16 per cent YTD (and large SUVs are down 23 per cent), it is perhaps not surprising that Holden has refused to divulge sales forecasts for its crucial new vehicle.

Management would suggest only that 80 per cent of Captiva buyers were expected to choose the GM Daewoo-designed five- and seven-seater SX, CX and LX model variants, with 20 per cent drawn towards the range-topping Maxx which is based on the European-designed Opel Antara.

On sale from next month, the smaller, sports-biased Antara-based Maxx uses the same platform as the lower-series vehicles and both are built on the same production line in South Korea.

GoAuto can now confirm that the VZ Commodore-based Adventra will be withdrawn from the market in December. We have also learned that, in the short-term at least, Holden does not expect to conquer Ford’s Territory.

"Am I happy to be second? No," Mr Mooney said. "Do I expect to be segment leader? No. I wouldn’t figure on segment leadership, because I know we’ll be capacity constrained for a while."

Mr Mooney was less clear on whether he believed the Captiva would cannibalise Commodore sales.

"I was worried about that, but in general I think there will be a net plus for Holden and net plus for our business," he said. "Let’s face it, people want larger vehicles like Commodore because they want the roominess and safety ... (but) the larger car market has declined in recent years because of SUVs, so clearly we need this vehicle in our line-up.

"There is no question in my mind that this will be net plus business for us."

On the subject of Holden’s Korean manufacturing source, which has come under criticism after poor independent crash-test ratings with its Daewoo Kalos-based Barina small car, Mr Mooney said: "If you look at the GMDAT (GM Daewoo Auto & Technology) operation, Daewoo is the brand in Korea and the reality is the engineering operations and manufacturing operations in Korea are really General Motors operations. So you wouldn’t see ‘Daewoo’ anywhere on this product."

Significantly, Holden claims to have been heavily involved in the Captiva’s development for at least two years.

It has honed the vehicle’s chassis dynamics – ride, handling and steering – and calibrated its traction and stability control systems specifically for the Australian market.

Independent crash tests under the Australian or European NCAP regime are still to be conducted, however in the United States the Chevrolet Equinox and Saturn Vue – both of which share the Captiva’s platform architecture – have scored five stars in National Highway Traffic Safety Administration testing.

Holden also argues that because the vehicle was an internationally developed General Motors venture, the Captiva has a rigid, high-strength body drawing on many of the advances that came with the VE Commodore.

All Captiva models use a 3.2-litre version of Holden’s Alloytec V6 combined with a five-speed automatic gearbox (with sequential-manual shift mode). In the SX, CX and LX the engine develops 169kW at 6600rpm and 297Nm at 3200rpm. The Maxx is 3kW down on power because it uses a different exhaust system.

According to the official government fuel consumption standard, the SX, CX and LX models return 11.5L/100km average and the Maxx 11.6L/100km.

In addition to the petrol engine, Holden will launch another model variant early next year with a 110kW/320Nm 1.9-litre turbo-diesel engine – as seen on the Astra CDTi small car.

Although it has made no commitment to other future Captiva variants, Holden has the scope to upgrade the Captiva’s performance with the VE Commodore 3.6-litre, or even a turbo-petrol, although it has said no other engines, apart from the CDTi, are planned at present.

Holden has taken an interesting marketing position in offering three Captiva models and then a distinct fourth model, the Antara-based Maxx, which Holden describes as having a "sports" bias. Slightly smaller in size than the other Captivas, the Antara-based model has different grille and rear-end treatments, as well as an Astra-inspired interior.

Australia is the only country to sell the different models under the one brand but Holden executives believe the strength of the SUV market means there is room for both vehicles.

The Antara-based model has different front and rear-end styling, includes alloy side vents and has an interior that is similar to other Opel-sourced vehicles such as the Astra.

All Captiva models share the same 2707mm wheelbase and 1562mm front and 1572mm rear track, as well as interior legroom.

The SX, CX and LX are 4637mm long, 1849mm wide (excluding mirrors), 1720mm high and have a ground clearance of 200mm.By comparison the Maxx is 4570mm long, 1700mm high and 1850mm wide (excluding mirrors), making it 67mm shorter with 20mm less height but 1mm wider than its siblings.

All have a four-link independent rear suspension with MacPherson struts up front. The CX and LX come with automatic ride height adjustment. The Maxx has unique damper tuning and rebound springs in the front struts for extra bodyroll control.

It also has a 12.4m turning circle compared to the SX, CX and LX, which has 11.5m.

Like many of the Japanese soft-roaders, the Captiva is a front-drive with a twin clutch system that delivers AWD when the system identifies the need for extra traction.

Standard equipment across the range includes electronic stability control, ABS, brake assist, descent control, active rollover protection, an in-dash CD stereo (six-disc in all models bar the SX), tinted electric windows/mirrors, cruise control and air-conditioning with a particle filter.

The SX is a five-seater while the CX and LX offer seven seats with a fold-flat third row and lift-up rear glass. The Maxx is a five-seater only with a fixed rear glass window.

The SX and CX have 17-inch alloy wheels while the LX and Maxx have 18-inch alloys. A space-saver spare is housed under the rear luggage floor in a wind-down cradle.

The Maxx has leather-faced sports seats, leather-clad three-spoke steering wheel, eight-way adjustable driver’s seat, driver information centre display, dual front, side and curtain airbags, seatback pockets and under-seat storage tray, and climate-control air-con.

Curtain airbags are a $900 option on the SX but standard on CX, LX and Maxx.

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