ROAD TEST - Chevrolet Captiva 2.2D LTZ AWD
After testing the 3-litre petrol V6 Captiva last year, we basically told you not to take this large softroader too seriously until they saw fit to place a diesel model on showroom floors.
The V6 engine simply made a lot of noise and drank a lot of juice but didn't really want to go anywhere in a hurry.
Thankfully a 2.2-litre turbodiesel engine was always part of the plan and it promptly made its way onto our market earlier this year.
Worth the wait? You bet. It's quite a sophisticated oil burner, being a latest generation common rail unit with 135kW on tap at 3800rpm and 400Nm of twist from 2000rpm. Power is sent to all four wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission, although the lack of a transfer case means it's more suited to tar roads and mild-to-medium off-road trails than bundu bashing of the more challenging variety.
Not to worry, as this Chevrolet has the urban jungle taped with its four-link rear suspension providing a supple ride quality. While hardly exciting to steer - the steering feels rather numb - it delivers the kind of feather-light ease of operation that its target market will appreciate.
The new diesel engine is also a pleasant experience in almost every respect and it's quiet and devoid of too much clatter. Given that it's a big and heavy automatic turbodiesel, there's not too much lag from pull-off - its variable-geometry turbocharger helping in this respect. You won't notice it in most driving situations although you might feel like cracking the mental whip when pulling into a busy street.
Once the turbo's on stream it gathers momentum with surprising ease and with well-spaced gear ratios it's a pleasant experience all round whether you're hurtling along an avenue or tackling country roads.
Chevrolet claims a combined fuel consumption figure of 8.0 litres per 100km, but in realistic driving conditions you can expect it to creep past the 10 l/100km mark.
Inside, the Captiva is not the classiest of wagons but it is well put together and incredibly practical. This seven-seater's middle row offers acres of legroom and the seatback reclines while even the third row seats can accommodate a normal-sized adult in reasonable comfort - a cross-country trip would be a different story though.
My only real gripes with the interior are front seats that feel like they're made from cardboard and the fact that it has an electric handbrake.
There's good and bad news on the specification front. The diesel model can only be had with LTZ specification, which knocks the price tag up to a whopping R427 500.
The good news for those that like pampering is that there is a lot of standard kit, including leather trim, power adjustment for the driver's seat, climate control, cruise control, foldaway mirrors, sunroof and an eight-speaker MP3/Bluetooth/Aux audio system.
It's a desirable package, but one can't help but wonder if a front-wheel drive model with slightly less spec would be a better bet in today's economic climate.
Chevrolet Captiva 2.2D LTZ AWD (135kW) - R427 500
Dodge Journey 3.6 R/T (petrol, 206kW) - R360 990
Honda CR-V 2.2i-DTEC Exec (110kW) - R445 800
Hyundai Santa Fe 2.2 CRDi 4WD (145kW) - R419 900
Kia Sorento 2.2 CRDi 4WD AT (147kW) - R386 995
Nissan X-Trail 2.0 dCi 4x4-i LE (110kW) - R449 925