Chevrolet has a rich history in our country (anyone older than 40 might remember the 70’s ad slogan, “braaivleis, rugby, sunny skies and Chevrolet”), indeed as it has world-wide. However, the brand disappeared from our shores for a while and only really returned after Daewoos were branded and sold as Chevrolets in South Africa.
As such, many people did not really take the marque seriously – I know I didn’t. I kept looking at the little Spark, wondering how they thought the country would accept the well-known Daewoo Matiz now that it had a bowtie on its nose, a symbol that represents the heritage that is so uniquely Chevrolet.
Luckily for Chevrolet, the Spark kept on selling. Their slightly bigger Aveo did absolutely nothing for me (until the latest models arrived), while it was only the Australian Holden-sourced Lumina that really sparked a flame of excitement on the local market (and with the scorching Ute, in my own heart).
This year however sees Chevrolet enter the highly-contested SUV market in South Africa with its brand new Captiva, and while I’ve always had a childish crush on the Lumina SS Ute, for the first time that I can remember, there is a Chevrolet that speaks to the logical part of my brain.
Not that being logical necessarily equates to being emotionless or rational; for the Captiva is definitely not a straightforward car that wins only on the basis of a paper comparison to its rivals. There is a sophisticated yet rugged and sporty air to it which also appeals to my emotional perception of a car.
In that sense, the Captiva’s design is a roaring success. Initially it looks slightly familiar, like something you may have seen on the road, yet remains fresh and funky; peaking your interest and ensuring you pay closer attention.
In fact, of all the cars I’ve driven recently (aside from Jaguar’s XKR Convertible), it was the Captiva that drew the most attention from passers-by. Whether I was driving around or parked at restaurants and shopping centres, the Captiva was thoroughly admired.
The Captiva has all the right proportions for an SUV that attempts to be modern and agile. The front is dominated by its silver-effect grille with the bowtie, complemented by the jewelled headlamps and bumper-mounted fog lights. At the rear, large tail lamps and a silver-effect diffuser-type design cue dominates.
Its window-line creates the appearance of a coupe, cleverly making the Captiva appear lower than it really is. Viewed from the side there is also a styling crease that runs from the tail lamps to the front wheel arch which, combined with the black body mouldings, again makes it look more like a coupe than an SUV.
Oddly, if view certain parts of the Captiva in isolation, it is actually quite a bland vehicle. However, as a whole, the design works without being over the top or downright weird – it’s a very neat, very attractive package that’s perfectly rounded off with a sporty set of alloy wheels.
But it doesn’t only look good. The Captiva has what General Motors calls an advanced chassis design which is at the heart of a group of active and passive safety features designed to protect passengers in the event of a collision. The Captiva has achieved a 4-star Euro NCAP safety rating, at the top end of certifications for an SUV type vehicle.
Aside from its seven-seater practicality, the Captiva is packed with electronic driver aids such as ABS brakes, ESP, Hydraulic Brake Assist, Hill Descent Control (when going off-road), Active Roll-over Protection (believe me, you can’t roll this car!) and Level Ride Suspension (when towing).
This is all on top of speed-sensitive power steering, electric remote mirrors with heating and turn signal, electric windows, a rake and reach adjustable steering wheel, climate control aircon, eight-way power adjustable driver’s seat, cruise control, MP3 compatible radio/cassette player with in-dash six CD changer and remote keyless entry with power locks for all doors, fuel filler, and flip up tailgate glass.
The top-spec LTZ I drove is powered by a 3.2-litre, lightweight, all-aluminium V6 that produces 169kW of power at 6600rpm and 297Nm at 3200rpm. This is mated to a super-smooth 5-speed automatic gearbox and On Demand All Wheel Drive. General Motors claims a top speed of 202 km/h.
On Demand AWD delivers power to the front wheels only under normal driving circumstances. When the systems senses that the front wheels are providing less than optimised traction, it automatically and instantaneously switches to AWD by means of an electronic clutch.
The system relies on a number of inputs to determine the best ratio for power distribution between the front and rear wheels and the Captiva is one of just two vehicles available on the market in South Africa with this type of AWD system.
The Captiva is an absolute pleasure to drive and is in my opinion one of the best all-round SUV packages currently available. The range starts with the front-wheel drive only 2.4-litre petrol in LT spec (R244 300) followed by the 2.4 AWD LT (R272 300), the 2.0-litre Diesel in LTZ spec (R319 900) and the range-topping 3.2 V6 LTZ at a relatively reasonable R329 900.
Prices include three year/100 000km Warranty and Service Plan, which includes Roadside Assistance for the warranty period, while three year and five year Maintenance Plans are available as an option. Service intervals are 15 000 km or one year.
The Captiva is great to look at, great to drive and offers an immensely practical package with a value for money proposition on the local market. Considering how many are already on our roads, it certainly would seem as if I’m not the only one who is completely captivated.