As famous Chevrolets go there are quite a few. Do Bel-Air, Camaro or Corvette ring any bells? However the most famous Chevrolet this side of the pond is the not very exciting.. the Lacetti, thanks to its starring role as the reasonably priced car on Top Gear. Chevrolet’s lack of fame here is predominantly due to them selling rebranded Daewoos that in truth are not very good. As a result Chevvy have not really solidified their brand image in Britain. But it might not be long until they do, as 2012’s new range of cars looks rather good, in particular the new Captiva, an unashamedly American SUV.
Let’s start with something that Chevrolet have always got right, as hinted at by Top Gear, their cars are most certainly reasonably priced. The new Captiva starts at £21,995 which for a hulking great SUV is astonishing, especially compared to its rivals. Land Rovers Freelander 2 starts at over 22k, Audi’s Q5 at 28k and BMW’s X3 at an eye watering 31k. Many people will argue of course that the Chevvy is cheap because, well, it is cheap. This might have been true in the past but Chevrolet has pulled out all the stops to try and build the Captiva out of better quality and more durable materials than before. Engine wise the Captiva’s moved up in the world too. It features an all-new 2.2 litre turbo diesel unit which is both more powerful and more efficient than the ones in the last generation. The new engine comes in 2 states of tune; the base FWD Captiva LS getting a 163bhp version while the 4WD models get 184bhp. Both engines get almighty slugs of torque 350 and 400Nm respectively (perfect for towing) and will return more than 40mpg in the process. Every model also gets the choice of either a 6 speed manual or automatic transmission, perfect for motorway cruising. So far the new car is shaping up to be rather good and I haven’t even got to the best bits yet.
For your not very costly outlay, the Captiva comes packed with extras, so many in fact that it’s almost pointless ticking anything on the options list. The base LS model comes with 17” alloys, air-con, 6 speaker stereo system with steering wheel controls, MP3 jack, a whole bunch of airbags and countless storage bins for all your families accumulated junk. Although as previously mentioned it is only FWD. However, if its versatility and practicality you’re after, the best model to go for is the (still excellent value) LT at £27,695. For that price you get all the LS’s equipment plus, a rather handy 4WD system, 7 incredibly versatile seats, climate control, trip computer and part leather interior. A rather good feature of this aforementioned seven seat car is that 6 of them can be folded flat in order to create an absolutely humongous load capacity, brilliant if you have a penchant for buying second hand surfboards.
Previous UK Chevrolets lacked any visual impact whatsoever; the same cannot be said for the new Captiva. It is big and quite definitely American in every single way. Now usually being American is not always a good thing but I think it works to the Captiva’s advantage. The big imposing grill, chiselled muscular edges and forward leaning stance all give the car real presence. The Captiva is the car equivalent of what happens if an American footballer was to walk into your local and order a Budweiser. His charm and bravado will repel some but undoubtedly attract many more, because underneath the good looks and athletic ability is actually a rather charming, friendly person. The new Captiva captures this aspect of America and Americans that previous Chevvy’s failed to and it is likely to win it a few fans. Sure its European competition might be beautifully engineered, designed and built but in the process they have all become a bit clinical, dull and in truth not very fun. The Captiva has avoided this, it’s big, versatile, charming and ready to take on the world, just like an American should be.
It might be clichéd to say but there is no denying that transporting your family in a high riding 4WD makes you feel at ease. And what better way to transport them, than in a car which has room for the grandparents, a bunch of bikes, enough torque to tow your house and good enough mpg to mean you don’t get to know the person at the petrol station by name. Not to mention leave you enough money in the first place to actually go on holiday to America. You could do a lot worse than get a new Captiva, especially with the chance of another artic winter on the way. Go and have a look, you might just be surprised.