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First drive: Chevrolet Captiva – on sale first quarter 2007

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Review

When Captiva arrives in the UK in the first quarter of 2007, it will create a halo for the whole Chevrolet brand.

The SUV soft-roader is aimed squarely at the Santa Fe from Hyundai and the Kia Sorento, with a side-swipe at Toyota’s RAV4.

Pricing will continue to emphasize that Chevrolet is still a value brand, though the average transaction price will probably take Chevy through the £20,000 barrier for the first time. Starting price is not expected to be much below £17,000.

The car is handsomely styled with contemporary dashboard materials that provide a step away from the Korean design idiom and a step towards Audi.

Chuck Russell, the Seoul-based product line director who coordinated the international production programme, says that this is the first completely new vehicle that Daewoo and GM have done together. There was engineering and design competence in Daewoo long before GM bought it but it is only now that the skill has been integrated within GM.

Rory Harvey, the new Chevrolet chief executive in the UK says: “This car is so important for us. It gives us both diesel and SUV for the first time.”

Chassis control and adaptive 4WD come from North America, 2.4- and 3.2-litre petrol engines are from Holden in Australia (3.2 is not available in the UK). Ride and handling is from Opel/Vauxhall in Europe and tested mainly at Millbrook.

Captiva will be sold in Korea as Daewoo Winstorm, as Chevrolet Captiva in Europe, the Middle East and Latin America, and as Holden Captiva in Australia. From 2008, Captiva will also be built in Russia. Global volume is expected to be 350,000, with the UK likely to take up to 4,000.

There will also be a re-skinned version for Opel/Vauxhall in Europe and Holden in Australia. The clone will be named Vauxhall Antara in the UK and arrive after the Chevrolet.

Speculation is still rife as to how the differentiation will be made but the fact that the 3.2-litre engine will not be specified for Chevy in the UK suggests the sporty proposition will be reserved for Vauxhall.

Daewoo has done such a good job on the fit and finish that it is now GM’s Global Architectural Development team for small cars.

Captiva in UK will have front or 4WD, five or seven seats and the 2.4-litre petrol or 2.0-litre diesel. There are skid panels in front and rear bumpers and contrasting dark sills and wheel arch mouldings. Twin exhausts appear on all models.

The really innovative work has been on the seat-fold design. All seats can be laid flat to give a load space the length of the cabin and there will be a moulded liner accessory to create a van-size load shifter. The back two seats fold into the floor which can be done with one hand in one movement.

In 4WD, the rear drive engages when sensors read a requirement for better traction. There is electronic stability assistance and hill descent control.

Behind the wheel

The Captiva looks and feels good on the road. The dashboard design is Audi-esque and the trim is high quality in appearance.

On the motorway the ride is car-like and feels supple, while through the bends of a mountain road the suspension is very progressive and reassuring.

It proved a competent mud-plugger when taken on flooded forest tracks with hub-high mire and always outperformed expectations on difficult undulating and slippery terrain without any sign of stress.

The 2.4-litre petrol engine is slightly sharper than the 2.0-litre turbo diesel though not by much. The diesel has a pronounced flat-spot at pull-away in second and both start to fade at 87mph.

Price: £17,000 to £23,000 (estimate)
Engine: 2.4-litre petrol 136bhp; 2.0-litre turbo diesel 150bhp
Performance: 0-62mph 14.0secs (diesel, estimated); top speed 105mph
Transmission: Five speed manual; five speed Tiptronic automatic
Efficiency: 31mpg combined petrol; 38mpg combined diesel
Rivals: Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento
Strengths: Styling, seating flexibility, finish, price
Weaknesses: Ugly badging, diesel flat-spot, no ‘one-hit’ window lifts
Opportunities: Player in the sector that takes share from decaying Mondeo/Vectra class
Threats: Small dealer network; no performance version
USP: Best-looking SUV soft-roader in the value sector

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