Holden Captiva 7 Series II 2011 Review

In the tough economic climate of 2011 carmakers need a full and strong repertoire of models to succeed. Holden knows this fact and has spent the last five years establishing itself as a brand with more to offer than just its Commodore flagship. The Captiva crossover has been key in helping Holden broaden its appeal since its debut in 2006. For 2011, it’s been updated with an extensive facelift and a new engine range, but will these changes tempt buyers away from competition like the Toyota Highlander and the Ford Territory? Recently, Car and SUV was surprised by the improvements and advancements Holden has made to its Series II Cruze small sedan, and was keen to see if it could repeat that success with the Captiva. After a week driving the new 2011 Captiva 7 LX we found the answers.

The 2011 Captiva is again built in two models (five-seat and seven-seat), with the larger Captiva 7 available in three trim levels – SX, CX and LX. Our test subject was the top dog of the pack, a Captiva 7 in highest-spec LX grade.

Visually the new Captiva has been worked over with some major cosmetic changes, particularly at the front. The LX model has a modern and aggressive appeal lead out by a new front grille, projector-style headlamps, wide blackened-out lower air dam and a more sculptured bonnet. The rear end changes are subtler and include new clear taillights and chrome trim with a low silver diffuser and twin tail pipes adding a sporty touch. Completing the top-spec look on the LX are chunky 5-spoke 19-inch alloys, plenty of chrome work and recessed front fog lamps. Overall, the styling updates are very effective in giving the Captiva a purposeful, contemporary look and offering buyers visual reasons to opt for the 2011 model.

The Captiva’s exterior changes may catch the eye but the real hard work has gone into the cabin with its improved ergonomics and visual appeal. The dashboard has a command centre-feel with a long central control stack full of buttons and dials. Soft touch black plastics are dissected by silver trim with cool blue illumination shining bright at night. Switchgear is logically laid out but the stereo control screen can be hard to read on the fly. The steering wheel is leather wrapped and while very large does house many buttons for the stereo, cruise settings and even climate controls. The mechanical handbrake on the older Captiva has been traded in for a small electrical lever mounted near the gearshift. This has opened up room for cupholders and a massive centre storage bin/armrest. The LX Captiva is fitted with a 7-inch touch-screen LCD display that can play DVDs, and has full colour satellite navigation. It also displays the climate settings, reversing camera and parking functions. It’s an impressive unit that’s big, bright and simple to use.

Other treats on the Captiva LX include a pumping 8-speaker 6-Disc stereo with USB input, Bluetooth, climate air-conditioning, rear parking sensors, trip computer, automatic lights, an electronic compass and 8-way electric adjustable driver’s seat.

All three rows of seats are trimmed in soft leather and there’s good width on the front chairs but not a lot of lateral support. There’s plenty of head and legroom in the front and second rows and entry is very easy despite the added ride height. The third row is best suited to kids, but is far from the smallest third row around and could accommodate adults on shorter trips. Getting into the third row isn’t a problem with the second row seat folding forward to make things easy. The third row is also easily erected and stows flat into the floor to create a generous 465-litre loading area. Generally, the Captiva cabin is a very practical family space with its various split-fold seating layouts, cupholders and small storage throughout, it even has three 12-volt power outlets. Additionally, the tailgate features a clever dual-opening system that gives the option of opening just the glass section or the entire hatch.

The new Captiva LX is available with either a 2.2-litre 4-cylinder diesel motor or the 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine shared with some versions of the Commodore sedan. Our tested model was fitted with the petrol V6 that uses direct injection to produce 190kW of power – a 21kW increase over the 3.2-litre mill in the old model. It’s a modern engine that boasts 288Nm of torque and has proved successful when used in the Commodore. In the heavier Captiva the V6 has to work a lot harder and can sound stressed during hard acceleration and when pushed high in the rev range. That said, the petrol-powered Captiva moves off the mark with gusto and is particularly capable on the open road where it shows strong mid-range pull for overtaking and cruising. It’s also competent in the suburbs where its low-speed manoeuvrability is accurate and the raised driving position allows for excellent visibility.

The V6 engine comes exclusively mated to a new six-speed automatic transmission.  It isn’t the most refined offering in the segment but will chop down a couple of gears when asked and is fairly low fuss. Fuel economy is officially rated at 11.3l/100km but we could only achieve 12.8l/100km during our testing, which is quite thirsty by today’s lean standards.

Dynamically the Captiva LX handles very well thanks to the re-calibration of springs and dampers for the Series II. Front and rear sway bars have also been stiffened to reduce body roll and the results are impressive. The Captiva stays very flat through the corners, remaining poised and predictable even when pushed. It has the driving-feel of a large sedan and the new variable-assist steering rack is nicely communicative.

All-wheel-drive is standard on the LX Captiva and gives the crossover a reassuring level of grip regardless of conditions. But the flipside of the Captiva’s dynamic ability is the effect the suspension has on ride comfort. It’s not going to herniate a disc in your back, but the Captiva does ride quite hard for a crossover vehicle. Not all dips and bumps in the road are transferred through to the cabin, but the Captiva can feel unsettled on coarse surfaces and gravel roads.

As with any family-focused vehicle, safety is treated with importance in the Captiva. Front, side and curtain airbags are included, as are front seatbelt pre-tensioners and load limiters. Keeping the Captiva on the road are traction and stability control systems, ABS braking with brakeforce assist and distribution. There’s also a descent control system to help with getting down steep slippery hills.

So is the Series II Captiva much improved? Definitely, its new petrol engine is stronger and it has handling ability far beyond its predecessor. The cosmetic updates have modernised the Captiva shape, especially in LX form where it’s sharply dressed with chrome trim and 19-inch alloys. The interior is a practical and comfortable space with impressive features and ergonomics. Drawbacks are that the petrol-powered Captiva drinks heavily on the gas and its ride isn’t as comfortable as some competitors. But it still has definite appeal, not just to Holden fans but also for anyone seeking a modern family hauler.

Price: $55,890

What we like:

  • Modern looks
  • Practical Interior
  • Safety features
  • Handling ability

What we don’t like:

  • High fuel consumption
  • Ride is too firm
  • Cabin switchgear can be tricky

Who will buy this car? It’s best suited to families who need three rows of seats. For those families the Captiva will prove a very valuable and competent tool.

Cool Factor: Fairly low, the updates look great and the LX is the sexiest in the range, but this is still a people mover built for function not form.

Words and Photos: Adam Mamo

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