CAPTIVA TAKES ON A TOWING CHALLENGE
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.