100 years of Chevrolet, 40 years of American Pie

The Chevrolet brand incorporated models from GM’s purchase of Daewoo a decade ago and since then, GM Daewoo has built many of the cars which now carry the famous Chevy badge such as the New Captiva, Chevrolet’s five- or seven-seater 4×4 – which has just undergone a facelift.

This slightly odd cultural mix of parentage seems to explain some of the Captiva’s characteristics. It’s hard not to think of the evocative branding and any number of songs which make reference to the marque. Externally, looks and sheer size place it happily on an American driveway yet elsewhere, there are some mixed levels of refinement.

Sensible pricing and utilitarianism are the Captiva’s trump cards. Even Chevrolet declares it ‘a true do-it-all vehicle, as happy catering to sporty lifestyles as it is performing daily family duties’ – highlighting its lack of sophistication as much as its capabilities.

A brief run out soon revealed some of the short-comings. The suspension copes fairly well with larger potholes but seems constantly unsettled over better surfaces. Some of the interior plastics are cheap looking, notably the central section of cubby holes, and mould lines are visible on individual plastic items such as the interior door locks. The central armrest rattles like a mad thing, too.

The six speed torque converter auto ‘box is smooth but its lazy approach to changing is rather like that of a Chevrolet Impala I drove almost a decade ago – relaxing but possibly not the most efficient. Even with a very light touch on the accelerator (and irrespective of whether Eco is selected) it is happily revving away at over 2,000 rpm instead of using the diesel unit’s low end torque. Quoted combined mpg of 36.6 is optimistic; it is high 20s in the real world – fair for a relatively small engine displacement and 1.9 tonnes of vehicle.

Hustle the New Captiva along though and it provides competent handling and the performance from the 2.2 diesel (the only engine option) is fine. Completing the picture is the steering – best described as numb.

The basic layout is roomy, practical and very intuitive. The driving position is good and it’s packed with storage space (including a hole large enough for a small child just behind the electronic parking brake). The radio display is a little low resolution but otherwise the instrumentation is very clear – and the dials look smart when illuminated on these dark November evenings. Working backwards, there is plenty of space for row two passengers and the rear-most pop-up seats are very easy to operate. They all fold flat, speedily turning your Captiva into a van.

My demo vehicle is grey: why are press fleets always in these dour colours? It’s a shame really, because the New Captiva is otherwise quite handsome in a macho, capable-looking sort of way. The imposing grill now shares the corporate theme from the Captiva’s smaller siblings and while its deep chin limits the angle of approach for any off-roading ideas, it adds to the purposeful look. The seven-seater is also 4½” longer than the five seat version which makes the profile just that little bit better proportioned.

Even without the current offers, list price of this particular New Captiva sits about six grand below a similarly specified Volvo XC90 yet still delivers on all the capability. A lower trim level would make even more financial sense.

So, what would Don Mclean have sung, had he driven a New Captiva in a wet British Autumn 40 years ago? I suspect he might have walked the last bit of bumpy track and the levee would almost certainly be full.

The New Captiva range starts at £21,995 for a 2WD 5-seater LS. The AWD 2.2 VCDI LT with auto ‘box in Thunder Grey (tested) costs £29,655.

0-62 mph 10.1 secs; 184 PS; 400Nm torque; 203 g/km CO2 (band K)

Motor Writer rating: ●●●○○

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