Af­ter 11 years, the Cap­tiva is mak­ing its swan­song as Holden’s seven-seat SUV: it’s time to test how it tows.


WHEN WE TESTED THE HOLDEN CAP­TIVA LTZ in the last is­sue or LCV Magazine, we were im­pressed by its over­all com­pe­tence. It’s not the fastest, it isn’t the best-equipped, and it’s not the cheap­est seven-seat SUV, but it is very good in all those ar­eas.

And it’s a great all-rounder, of­fer­ing lots of mod-cons, sup­ple ride, com­fort, per­for­mance and econ­omy at a com­pet­i­tive price.

In the twi­light of its long ca­reer, the Cap­tiva will soon be dis­placed in Holden’s range by the slightly longer five-seat Equinox in late 2017.

So with run-out deals and end-of-life of­fers loom­ing, the Cap­tiva has al­ready proven it­self to us in most ar­eas – ex­cept tow­ing.

We chose to an­swer that ques­tion with some tow bal­last from Ohaupo Car­a­vans, in the form of a brand new Leisure Line Ze­phyr 560 self-con­tained car­a­van, re­tail­ing at $62,990.

With four berths, dou­ble bed, kitchen, toi­let and shower, it was also fit­ted with a cou­ple of ex­tras in­clud­ing a re­tractable satel­lite dish

and so­lar panel with ex­tra bat­tery, bring­ing the to­tal up to $65,590. That brought the price to $8600 more than the test LTZ Cap­tiva.

Im­por­tantly for this test, the 5.6-me­tre sin­gle-axle Ze­phyr tips the scales around 1800kg.

It’s an im­por­tant num­ber be­cause of the Cap­tiva’s braked trailer tow ca­pac­ity of 2000kg, a limit that ap­plies to the 2.2-litre diesel and V6 petrol mod­els.

The 2.4-litre petrol-en­gined model has a 1500kg tow­ing limit. All have a 750kg limit for un­braked trail­ers.

So we knew the Holden was up for a huge chal­lenge, pulling 90 per­cent of its tow­ing ca­pac­ity.

The Cap­tiva’s re­vers­ing cam­era makes lin­ing up the draw­bar very easy, but the cam­era is no­tice­ably off­set to the right side. So it’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that the cen­tre of the cam­era screen im­age doesn’t rep­re­sent where the tow ball is lo­cated. The park­ing guide­lines can also be switched off.

We re-set the trip com­puter and headed to­wards our tow test loop to Raglan on the Waikato’s west coast via Hamilton.

Two things were im­me­di­ately ap­par­ent: the engine is strong, and full of torque, and is pow­er­ful enough and eas­ily ca­pa­ble of mov­ing the load.

But just five kilo­me­tres into the trip, the av­er­age fuel con­sump­tion jumped con­sid­er­ably. Time would tell.

As we got into the open speed limit roads, the Cap­tiva reached and held 90km/h with ease.

There was cer­tainly no lack of per­for­mance from the com­bi­na­tion of the 2.2-litre tur­bod­iesel four-cylin­der, and the Cap­tiva’s 1800kg kerb weight. But the engine was no­tice­ably work­ing harder, with a con­stant whis­tle of turbo boost.

With 0-60km/h and 0-90km/h tests run for our test last is­sue, we vis­ited the same stretch of flat road and did the same run with car­a­van in tow.

To 60km/h, the in­crease was rea­son­able, ris­ing from four sec­onds un­laden out to 7.2 sec­onds when tow­ing.

The 0-90km/h test time went from 9.6 sec­onds to 19 sec­onds, which sounds slower than it is. For even when loaded, the Cap­tiva isn’t slow, and around the sub­urbs, run­ning at 50-60km/h, throt­tle re­sponse was sharp and the ve­hi­cle was never lack­ing in speed.

Rarely is the throt­tle pedal more than half to three-quar­ters down, so ex­tract­ing more urge is sim­ply a mat­ter of dig­ging a lit­tle deeper

into the pedal and hear­ing the turbo spool a lit­tle harder. We only had to bury the pedal into the floor on one oc­ca­sion.

So we set­tled on to the mo­tor­way, and hit cruise con­trol at 90km/h, and the Cap­tiva was sta­ble, helped by the self-lev­el­ling sus­pen­sion.

But as we ven­tured off the smooth mo­tor­way and on to the coun­try roads, the story changed a lit­tle.

At 90km/h on an un­du­lat­ing coun­try road, a few road rip­ples and some cross­winds com­bined to un­set­tle the sin­gle-axle trailer to the point where it started to sway.

On its sec­ond cy­cle, the Cap­tiva’s ESP smoothly but con­fi­dently in­ter­vened, the car­a­van sta­bilised in­stantly, and nor­mal play was re­sumed. It would have re­cov­ered, but not as quickly as the ESP man­aged.

The au­to­matic six-speed gear­box did a great job, and sliced seam­lessly through the ra­tios whether am­bling on the flat at 90km/h, or climb­ing a steep, con­stant grade.

The com­bi­na­tion of well-spaced gears and turbo torque meant it did what a good auto should, and you never had to re­ally think about it.

For its size, the 2.2-litre four-cylin­der diesel works won­ders: Isuzu’s D-max ute, for ex­am­ple, pro­duces 130kw of max­i­mum power and 430Nm of peak torque from a 3.0-litre four-cylin­der.

The Cap­tiva’s engine is ba­si­cally three-quar­ters the Isuzu’s size, with more power and 93 per­cent of its torque.

The an­swer to its ef­fi­ciency is found by scan­ning the OBD port, which re­veals the Cap­tiva’s 2.2 is boost­ing at 255kpa, or a rather high 22psi of turbo boost pres­sure.

But few things come for free, and the trade-off is fuel con­sump­tion. Nor­mally the Cap­tiva runs around nine to 10 litres/100km in a mix of mo­tor­way and sub­ur­ban driv­ing.

Our tow­ing chal­lenge bumped that up to 18 litres/100km on our 200km test loop. That’s hardly sur­pris­ing given the Holden’s mod­est engine ca­pac­ity and the weight we put be­hind it, but it’s some­thing to con­sider for longer trips as it’ll con­sume a tank­ful in a lit­tle over 300km.

Other lit­tle as­pects can also up­set the Cap­tiva dur­ing tow­ing: like the blind spot warn­ing lights in the ex­te­rior mir­rors that con­stantly get fooled by the trailer and flash on and off.

Then there are the re­verse sen­sors that aren’t smart enough to de­ac­ti­vate when the trailer’s light plug is in­serted, so any­time re­verse is se­lected while tow­ing, the sen­sors al­most melt down in panic. Thank­fully a but­ton near the shifter si­lences the re­dun­dant drama.

Con­versely, we also must re­mem­ber that this 2.2-litre diesel is the pick of the three Cap­tiva en­gines when it comes to torque and tow­ing, and with our car­a­van, it more than likely rep­re­sents a near worst-case sce­nario with a best-case engine.

Com­bine lighter tow­ing weights with this or the other en­gines, and

we’d see more rea­son­able re­sults.

But for its torque, its ef­fort­less urge and the way it ate up this chal­lenge, the Cap­tiva both sur­prised us – and didn’t – at the same time.

It’s not the best tow­ing ve­hi­cle, it’s not the fastest or most fru­gal, but for a 2.2-litre four-cylin­der, the Cap­tiva’s tow­ing ef­forts add to its all-rounder abil­i­ties. With just a few caveats.

Watch our tow­ing video, and Like LCV Magazine, at:

Lounge area of the $62,990 car­a­van is well-lit with front and side win­dows. Cap­tiva and Ze­phyr combo had a com­bined price of $136,580.

Cap­tiva’s 2.2-litre tur­bod­iesel mo­tor was work­ing quite hard in wind­ing go­ing on coun­try roads.

Plate clearly shows Cap­tiva’s 2000kg tow­ing max­i­mum with braked trailer or car­a­van.

Above: Cap­tiva pauses above the west Waikato coast – test car­a­van was close to the SUV’S two-tonne tow­ing max­i­mum.

Cap­tiva LTZ made a good fist of tow­ing a car­a­van that weighed 200kg shy of its braked tow­ing max­i­mum. Fuel con­sump­tion read-out on the Cap­tiva’s on-board com­puter. Tow­ing 1800kg took a toll on the SUV’S fuel econ­omy.

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