The new Chevrolet Captiva brings a new dimension to the SUV market in the UK. From the manufacturers of the very first SUV back in 1935, Captiva is the latest in a long line of authentic sport utility vehicles offering great value for money in a stylish and practical package. Designed specifically for the European market, it will be available with front or all-wheel drive, five or seven seats and with a 2.4 litre petrol or leading-edge 2.0 litre diesel engine and will appeal to a wide range of customers. Captiva will be on sale in the UK from September 2006.

The new Captiva underpins Chevrolet’s driving force – value for money. From the entry level 2.4 litre petrol-engined front wheel drive LS to the fully equipped 2.0 litre 150PS diesel automatic LT, Captiva leaves nothing to be desired at any level. It will also appeal to a wide range of customers, from established families looking for a more stylish alternative to a seven-seat MPV to those with an outdoor lifestyle desiring a practical load carrier with good road manners and soft-road capability for those weekends in the country.

Coming in close behind value is striking design and Captiva excels here too. It heralds the introduction of a new-style generation of Chevrolet products for Europe and, both inside and out, features design cues that will become familiar on future models. Examples include the strong ‘face’ of the brand incorporating a prominent Chevrolet logo; the facia design with integrated in-car entertainment and unambiguous controls, clear and informative instrumentation and details on the door cases, seats and console. Add the use of new high quality materials and even closer attention to fit and finish and you have a high quality product that belies its great value pricing.

On the outside, Captiva also adds the durable and rugged look of integrated ‘skid’ panels in front and rear bumpers and contrasting dark sill and wheel arch mouldings. Twin exhaust tailpipes on all models also add a sporty touch.

For all customer groups, the ‘fold flat’ facility for all seats will be a boon when carrying long or bulky loads. When seven seats are specified, the third row folds completely flat into the floor. Third row seat folding is also carried out with ease in a one handed operation that the slimmest member of the fairer sex will really appreciate. This is achieved through a spring assisted fold-up/down mechanism where the headrests also pop up or fold away automatically with seat operation.

Safety and security are a given in the 21st century and Captiva leaves no stone unturned even at this price. On the entry LS model, twin front and curtain airbags are standard, head restraints and full three-point belts are fitted on all seats (including the third row), front seat belts feature pre-tensioners and a smart seat belt reminder and there are ISOFIX fittings for child seats in the rear. Side airbags are specified on the LT models. All models are equipped with deadlocking and a Thatcham Category 1 alarm system.

Specification levels will also impress, even in the entry LS model. Careful thought has been applied to what is a real need in an SUV as opposed to specification to impress. As examples, the power steering system is further aided by a rake adjustable steering column (also telescopic on the LT). There is air conditioning for comfort, power and heated door mirrors, speed sensitive windscreen wipers, electric windows all-round, vanity mirrors for both driver and passenger, a fully retracting loadspace cover and a tailgate glass that can be opened separately from the tailgate itself by the key fob remote control; they’re all there for convenience. Even the fully integrated in-car entertainment system has an MP3 function so that you can listen to your own choice in music. Front and side window tinting also helps to keep the large glass area under control in summer. The LS is only available with the 2.4 litre petrol engine and front wheel drive.

The entry model may be well equipped but there’s a lot more to come as we move up the range. LT models come with just the 150PS diesel engine and are fitted as standard with 17” alloy wheels, levelling suspension, half leather trim, heated windscreen and ESP, the electronic stability control programme. Practicality is not overlooked on the LT either with a load restraining net, front passenger underseat stowage and a facia deposit box for coins or maps – there’s even a cooled glove box to stop your chocolate bars melting in summer. LT models come with side airbags as standard.

Level ride rear suspension ensures that the vehicle maintains good road manners even with a full load and automatic transmission is available as an option with the diesel engine (seven seat models only), not always the norm in this sector.

The LT is available as a specific derivative with either five or seven seats. With the seven-seat model comes a cargo net (in lieu of the five-seat load restraining net) and rear park sensors.

At the top of the range comes the flagship Captiva LT ‘Special Model’. This really is the ‘has it all’ Captiva and here are some examples: 18” alloy wheels, full leather trim, 8-way power driver’s seat, 6 CD autochanger, air quality system with full climate control, cruise control and a trip computer. The full specification for all Captiva models is listed later.

SUVs have a practical job to do for the family but also offer a feeling of greater security when driving that is particularly appreciated by women. The ‘command’ driving position ensures a great all-round view and controls are light and convenient. There is plenty of space inside Captiva for five adults in great comfort. The third row of seats (available in the LT model) will accommodate two teenagers in comfort and even adults for shorter journeys. The easy-fold feature on the third row and fold-flat capability for both second and third rows is impressive and the large hydraulically assisted tailgate with wide aperture makes the big boot area easy to load (for light shopping, the remote control operated tailgate glass is a real boon, opening without the need to unlock the rest of the vehicle).

Chevrolet has focussed a great deal of attention on driveability with Captiva. ‘Just like a car’ has been the key phrase with light steering and brake controls, stable road manners and good traction in all driving conditions. Add great visibility from the raised driving position and Captiva is a joy to handle. In summary, the front-wheel drive LS entry model displays all the characteristics of a family car.

Add the electronically-controlled all-wheel drive system that comes as standard on LT models and you bring in the further dimension of much improved on-road traction in difficult road conditions and ‘soft-road’ capability.

But it’s on the road where the intelligent all-wheel drive system matters most for the vast majority of owners. The system combines front-wheel drive progressively with rear-wheel drive when conditions demand. In heavy rain, snow or on greasy roads, all-wheel drive gives optimum traction for greater peace of mind, engaging when it senses the onset of wheelspin. Captiva is not an ‘off-roader’ in the vein of the more traditional (and much more expensive) vehicles that have additional and locking centre differentials and heavy low range transfer gearboxes, but it is still very capable when the going gets tough.

Captiva’s electronically controlled all-wheel drive can cope admirably with that muddy track to your holiday cottage in Wales, the escape from a sticky field at the British Grand Prix after a summer downpour or those rare winter snowfalls. Importantly, this capability is combined with minimal weight gain so that fuel economy is not compromised, as a figure of over 37mpg on the EC combined cycle will testify.< br/>
Another feature that ensures driving security is ESP (Electronic Stability Programme). This sophisticated, intelligent system comprises a number of traction and stability aids and is fitted as standard with the all-wheel drive package. All-wheel drive acts seamlessly with ESP and engages when you’re driving perhaps a little more assertively through the bends or when the conditions become slippery and more challenging. It monitors information from the steering wheel, tyres, brakes and accelerator and automatically makes any adjustments necessary to make sure you’re always being monitored, and reacts to your inputs. It provides a safer, smoother and more controlled drive, controlling traction particularly when conditions are less than ideal – ice and snow or heavy rain for example. Importantly, ESP has been found to reduce accidents with personal injuries by automatically cutting the throttle or balancing the brakes to avoid a skid. ESP functions also include Hydraulic Brake Assist (HBA) and Active Rollover Protection (ARP), detecting emergency situations and ensuring that braking is more balanced, faster or more powerful depending on conditions, making it one of the safest driving technologies available today.

ESP also provides a hill descent function or HDC (Hill Descent Control) so that control and traction of the vehicle in downgrade slippery conditions is managed by the electronics as a major aid to the driver. ESP also provides greater stability when towing a trailer or caravan.

Driving ‘just like a car’ also applies in the engine department. Captiva is powered by either petrol or diesel engines although with greater fuel economy (and therefore lower CO2 emissions), the diesel engine is predominant in the derivative line up. Importantly, and not ‘the norm’ in this sector, the diesel is also available with automatic transmission. The entry LS model is only petrol driven with a 2.4 litre 16 valve four cylinder unit delivering 142PS at 5,200rpm and a maximum torque of 220Nm at 4,000rpm. The Captiva 2.4 petrol engine combined fuel consumption (EC) is 28.5mpg.

The 2.0 litre four cylinder 150PS diesel is the first of an all-new family of diesel engines that have been developed jointly by GM Powertrain and GMDAT with VM Motori. With aluminium cylinder heads and sophisticated injection systems, the diesel engines are refined, clean and efficient. In Captiva the engine has a variable geometry turbocharger which provides the power and torque requirements that match the character of Captiva.

In this application, the 16-valve unit offers 150PS at 4,000rpm and maximum torque of 310Nm at 2000rpm. In the EC combined cycle, fuel consumption is a very creditable 37.1mpg. All diesel derivatives will be equipped with a particulate filter.

Like the manual gearbox, the automatic is also a five-speed unit. It has electronic control and a ‘tiptronic’ function so that the vehicle can be driven as a clutchless manual should it be desired. The automatic is available only with seven seat variants.

The suspension settings on Captiva were developed for Europe at GM’s Millbrook Proving ground in Bedfordshire. It was here that the vehicle also undertook a considerable amount of durability testing along with other development programmes and tests specific to Europe. The suspension is fully independent for excellent on-road performance but the ground clearance and wheel travel ensure that Captiva is more than capable off-road. It consists of a MacPherson strut configuration at the front and an independent four link set up at the rear. Ventilated disc brakes are standard on all four wheels. The entry LS model is fitted with 215/70R 16 tyres on 6.5J x 16 inch wheels, while the LT versions feature 235/60R 17 tyres on 7.0J x 17 inch wheels. The flagship LT ‘Special Model’ has 18 inch wheels with 235/55R18 tyres.