Chevrolet, General Motors largest global brand, claims to be the inventor of the SUV, (sports utility vehicle) because they launched their Suburban family carrier cum workhorse 4x4 model in 1935 in the US.
The brand celebrated its centenary in 2011 and now has global annual sales of over four million vehicles in more than 130 countries. The brand was re-launched in Europe 2005 after taking possession of Daewoo and now has around 2,500 sales and service centres with annual sales of around half a million cars.
In the UK Chevrolet is not so large with annual sales last year of 13,476 cars, an increase of 7.6 per cent over 2011. But there was a mighty drop in UK registrations in January this year of 66 per cent compared to very high sales in January 2012 so their new sponsorship association with Manchester United FC will hopefully raise their profile and grow their sales.
Chevrolet might be considered GM’s ‘budget’ brand in the UK with the Spark city car, Aveo five door family hatchbacks, Cruze mid-sized saloons, hatchbacks and estates, Orlando MPV, Volt electric range extender hatchback and Captiva SUV ranges but it has some iconic models such as the Camaro and Corvette muscle cars.
Chevrolet surprised the motoring and football worlds by becoming Manchester United’s official automotive partner supplying cars now to officials and players and they will grow that relationship by becoming the club’s shirt sponsor from the 2014 season onwards.
Now if the Manchester United’s ego conscious players thought their company car was going to be a Camaro or Corvette muscle car, manager Sir Alex Ferguson, as you might expect for obvious reasons, put a block on some youthful players getting the glamour models so many are in Cruze and Captivas. Fergie drives a Volt, footballing legend Sir Bobby Charlton has a seven seat Captiva and Mr Rooney has a Camaro muscle car – what else!. One unnamed but long serving player recently lost his Captiva as he left it with the keys in it warming up to clear the screen of ice, easy come – easy go I guess.
So my ‘Drive it like Sir Bobby’ experience was with the top of the range Captiva 2.2 VCDi 184 LTZ turbodiesel 4WD seven-seater SUV carrying a very hefty price tag of £31,355. A lesser powered 2.2-litre 163 LS five seat version with five seats costs a more realistic price of £22,905. Around 1,500 Captivas were sold in the UK last year, just over half of them to fleet and business users.
The Captiva is big in size and specification and it doesn’t look too bad for kerb-appeal either. The main reason to buy will be the very comprehensive level of specification, the seven seats in three rows and the huge interior space for carrying goods, sports and leisure equipment with the seats folded in various combinations. In seven seat configuration the boot is only 97-litres, with five seats in use this goes up to 465-litres but with the two rows folded down this increases to a spacious 1,577-litres.
The all wheel drive version I tried performed well in the ice and snow for grip with the electronically controlled system distributing power to the front and rear wheels as needed. This is no tough off-roader but it will cope with muddy tracks, field car parks or football training ground parking. On the road the driving dynamics are not the sharpest around and loose out to more modern competitors such as the Honda CR-V, new Mitsubishi Outlander, Toyota RAV4 and the Hyundai Santa Fe, just to name a few. The handling is slack and the ride on the soft and bouncy side even with the 19-inch wheels. The steering is vague and lacks feel and preciseness during cornering. Hill start assist is now fitted as standard and chassis tweaks in conjunction with the electronic stability control, traction control and brake assist make it an easy if not involving vehicle to drive.
The 2.2-litre four cylinder turbodiesel engine with 184PS (182bhp) feels strong with its 400Nm (295lb ft) of torque from 2,00rpm. Being tall geared for fuel saving this still isn’t enough ‘grunt’ at 2,000rpm to provide adequate response to overtake slower traffic without changing down the gears. Officially this manual transmission version, an auto gearbox is available for an extra £1,550, should return 44.1mpg in the Combined Cycle and my test version came well under that at 34.4mpg. The CO2 emissions are relatively high at 170g/km so VED road tax is a costly £275 for the First Year rate and then £195 a year after that. Company car will be clobbered for 28% Benefit-in-Kind tax. Insurance costs are high as well with a group 32E rating.
So the Captiva scores well for space and family use versatility but not so well for driveability and running costs. Back to the good points, the specification is very high and that is a good feature, but for the price it should be good. Leather upholstery, leather trim for the gear knob and steering wheel, Bluetooth, climate control, 8-way power adjustable driver’s seat, heated front seats, cruise control, electric front and rear windows, self levelling rear suspension a good sound system with eight speakers, automatic lights and wipers, sat-nav and a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating are all included on this LTZ version. If space and spec are high on your requirements from an SUV the Captiva fits the bill but it is a big bill money wise. The near identical Vauxhall Antara SUV versions cost a fair bit less.
MILESTONES. Chevrolet Captiva 2.2 VCDi LTZ manual 7-Seat SUV. Price: £31,355. Engine/transmission: 2.2-litre, 4-cylinder turbodiesel, 182bhp, 295lb ft of torque from 2,000rpm, 6-speed manual, on-demand 4x4 drive. Performance:124mph, 0-60mph 9.3 seconds, 44.1mpg Combined Cycle, (34.4mpg on test), CO2 170g/km, VED road tax £275 First Year rate then £195 a year after that, BIK company car tax 28%. Insurance group: 32E. Dimensions/capacities: L 4,635mm, W 1,850-litres, H 1,775-litres, boot/load space 97 to 1,577-litres, braked towing weight 2000kg. For: Stylish, seating for seven or lots of load space, well equipped. Against: Too expensive to buy and run as competitor models are cheaper, engine needs to be more flexible, some interior trim could be classier. Miles Better News Agency