Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Captivated within the city

"It's a city dweller! Don't be too hard on it!" yelled one of the employees of Chevrolet as I walked out of the Chevrolet office with the keys of the Captiva 2.4-litre petrol version.

Published on December 19, 2007

Captivated within the city

The macho looks are one of the best aspects of the Captiva in a rather bland-looking sport-utility-vehicle market.

Perfection is subjective, and my idea of the perfect genuine sport-utility vehicle (SUV) - there are non-genuine contenders like the Toyota Fortuner - is the Chevrolet Captiva 2-litre diesel.

Now Chevrolet knows this and made a point at its grand launch of ensuring that the best driving characteristics of the vehicle shone through. It cornered like an SUV on rail tracks, and acceleration was impressive till 130kph. It was something like a Swiss army knife, a little bit of everything in the formula, but not necessarily the best at anything except maybe the cool looks.

I therefore feared that the petrol version I drove a few days later would be a disappointment. Fortunately for Chevrolet, it was not. The petrol Captiva looses out on a whole lot of goodies that made the Captiva a perfect contender in the rather dull SUV market in Thailand. It had hill-descent control, an electronic-stability programme, a traction-control system and active rollover protection. You get what I'm trying to tell you?

Even without all this gadgetry the Captiva would be such an attractive city prowler. I couldn't help but make the assumption that the 2.4-petrol version was for the city and the 2-diesel model for those who travel upcountry. That damn Chevrolet employee put that in my head. Not that you could say the Captiva 2.4 can race the next guy off from the lights, but it rumbles along without much complaint. Acceleration isn't its strongest point. After 120kph the smile on my mother's face gets wider because the Captiva just looses steam. Getting it past 150kph is like waiting for a goldfish to complete a memory game.

Still, you might be willing to forgive the Captiva because of its perfect interior, well-supported seats and good steering, and don't forget that the Captiva can seat seven people - well, five adults and two children to be more realistic.

Then comes that digital display that gives you information like climate control, outside temperature, mileage, range and a compass that you're most probably never going to use, but hey - it looks so cool. To top it all off is the good looks of the Captiva. While the CR-V can look confusing, the Captiva sends out a message of pure male dominance.

Driving is impressive, and road-holding is even more impressive with body roll almost non-existent. You really have to push the Captiva hard into a corner before it reacts with understeer, but that's a lot more pushing that the average housewife will do. What you could be disappointed by is the high fuel consumption I managed to get with city and highway driving, and that's with holding back the temptation to race that Toyota Fortuner that cut me off on the expressway. Spirited driving could give you worse figures.

With all this "extra'' equipment you might expect the Captiva to cost a little more than a run-of-the-mill SUV like the Honda CR-V, but the fact is the Captiva is about Bt10,000 cheaper at Bt1.46 million. That seems to explain why Captivas are becoming a common sight on Thai roads.

It's a sensible choice which could get even more sensible if you invest another Bt100,000 in the Captiva diesel - but then again, are you a city prowler or an upcountry man?

Vijo Varghese

The Nation

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