This is the cheapest model in what you might call the "real" Chevrolet Captiva SUV range. You can, if the mood takes you, spend a relatively modest £21,995 on the entry-level LS, but that's a different thing altogether. It's less powerful and less well-equipped than the others, it has five seats rather than the more usual seven, and it comes in front-wheel drive only while all the others have part-time four-wheel drive.
That sentence explains why the LS is something of a price freak among Captivas. The LT test car is only one model higher up, yet it costs nearly £6000 more. And a higher-spec LTZ with automatic transmission will set you back no less than £31,845, making it the most expensive Chevrolet you can currently buy.
(The most expensive Korean Chevrolet, anyway. The very American Camaro costs a fair bit more. So will the Volt, which at the time of writing has yet to enter the market, but the £5000 Government subsidy will make it cheaper.)
Even at £27,695 - the current price of the LT manual - the Captiva in some ways feels cheaper than it actually is. This is mostly because the steering, gearchange and pedal controls all feel rubbery. It took some time, for example, for me to convince myself of where the clutch biting point was. Obviously, the Captiva is no sports car, but it wouldn't hurt the driving experience to sharpen all this up.
Mind you, for an SUV it's very good on the road. Experience of some recent Chevrolets didn't lead me to expect this, but the Captiva not only doesn't mind being chucked around on twisty lanes (if that sort of thing appeals to you), it almost seems to ask for more. And the ride quality, again somewhat to my surprise, is excellent. I won't say it's the best in class, but I can't bring to mind any rival which is significantly better.
The first time I heard a Captiva being started up from cold, I was standing alongside it, and the amount of noise it made was startling. The 2.2-litre diesel engine quietens down as it warms up, though, and noise suppression in the cabin is very good. Both this and the impressive 184bhp output make the Captiva a relaxed cruiser, and it also pulls well from under 1500rpm, reducing the need for you to remind yourself how substandard the gearchange is.
In-town driving would be easier if there was enough rear visibility, but huge rear pillars ensure that there isn't. My colleague John Fife, who shared the test car with me, is scornful of this opinion. I return the scorn with interest. He is, among other things, a van specialist, and can reverse anything. I prefer to be able to see where I'm going.
John and I are both tall, but we had plenty of room in front of the Captiva. We would also fit in at least the outer two of the three seats in the middle row. As for the back row, forget it. Children only. But I'd be wary about putting children in there (as I would with many seven-seaters on the market) because their heads would be very close to the back window, and I don't want to spend much time considering the effects of a rear-end shunt.
In other respects the Captiva does well for safety. Euro NCAP awarded it five stars last year, though this would not happen now because the pedestrian protection score was 48% and Euro NCAP will no longer give five stars to anything that achieves less than 60% in that category.
As for practicality, the Captiva offers only 85 litres of luggage space when all the seats are up. With the ones in the rear folded this rises to a more useful 465 litres, and with only the front two still standing the total is 1565 litres. The towing limit, which was a bit disappointing until Chevrolet successfully appealed that it should be higher, has been revised to 2000kg with a braked trailer for manual versions, while the equivalent figure for automatics is 1700kg.
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