Styling, a keen price and seven seats - is this the ultimate family vehicle?
There's one question I keep getting asked and, wouldn't you know it, just this morning someone once again enquired what the best car was that I drove recently.
Quite ironically, I mentioned the Chevrolet Captiva, which caused a fair amount of consternation as it's certainly not a superb automobile. So why did I mention a mediocre car?
To deal with the mediocrity of it first, the Captiva is an elderly model from the General Motors stable which can trace some of its roots to the defunct Daewoo Motor division.
This Korean brand built sensible, ordinary cars and that ethos is still quite tangible in some rebadged Chevrolets of the present; Captiva included.
Although the body shows modern proportions for a mid-size SUV, the ageing design has been tinkered with regularly to keep it fresh. Its most recent injection of youth includes new light clusters all around, various trim items and luxuries inside and out. Touchscreen infotainment with Carplay and Bluetooth; it's all here.
The Captiva cabin design is plain and sober; you won't find crazy shapes or daring contours among the sensible switchgear, soft-touch material and hard plastics.
The fit and finish is below par by today's standards and as another sign of its age, I found the trip computer buttons oddly placed... near my right knee.
Your initial movements and first driving experiences in a Captiva won't be too encouraging either.
The doors don't thud closed like an Audi, there are no crisp German displays and you'll search in vain for any sort of extravagance or opulence in here. Oh yes, and the driver's seat rocks backwards and forwards as you drive.
Shoddy quality then? Besides a few random infotainment system resets, I don't think so. Below- average quality would be more fitting because nothing fell off, rattled or expired in my week with this Captiva 2.2D LT; and everyone commented on how vastly spacious and comfortable its big, seven-seater cabin was.
Even the big and handsome 18inch alloys with 235 rubber fitted to this model couldn't detract from its relaxing and unstressed driving experience.
The Captiva, perhaps as a result of its age, still rides like most family vehicles used to; before everyone decided that they needed 30-inch rims and Formula 1 suspension on the school run.
Equipped with a 2,231cc in-line four-cylinder Turbo-diesel engine, this 2.2D version can call upon maximum power of 135kw or torque of 400Nm.
Although it is a tad noisy ( and smelly) at idle, I'm happy to report that this engine's power delivery and everyday response is excellent – certainly back on par with rivals. Chevrolet claims average Diesel use of 7.8L/100km from the 65L tank and while our weekly average was around 9.5, a bit of effort should certainly reward you with eight or thereabouts.
Put your foot down and, besides wet traction issues, a Captiva 2.2D should hit 100km/h in 9.8 seconds (we got 9.46 at sea level) and run out of puff at 192km/h. Not bad…
Fans of those snappy dual-clutch gearboxes look away now.
This car carries an old-fashioned but oh-so-smooth six-speed slusho-matic. It lacks paddle shifts but offers a tip-shift function; which I ignored.
Yet again, like most good family cars once had, this Captiva relies on a wonderfully stretchy torque converter and slow, butter-smooth gear changes.
If, like me, you're suddenly feeling a warm appreciation for the old Chevy's family friendliness, just wait for the best bit. This sizable and simple SUV, which doesn't have costly optional extras to choose from, can be yours for a mere N$431,300.
Pardon the rather strong language but that's a HELL of a lot of car for the money!
Included in that very keen price is a 5-year/120,000km warranty, 3year/60,000km service plan and all modern amenities like ABS brakes with EBD and BAS, full stability control with hill assist, power windows and mirrors, six airbags, child locks and ISOFIX anchors, eight speakers and LED daytime running lights; among others.
So what if the cabin lacks quality and the driver's seat is wonky. So what if the gearbox is relaxed and the badge has little street cred. If you want an Audi, buy an Audi.
If you want a cheap and cheerful, big and comfortable, brawny and economical vehicle which the kids can mess in, say hello to your new car.