Family car up there with the rest of ‘em

2011-08-01 09:32

Ever since I hoisted myself into the driver’s seat of the new Chevrolet Captiva a couple of weeks ago, I’ve started seeing Chevvies everywhere – on the road, in magazines, on TV and even in the movies.

In just a week, I watched Russell Crowe evade police during a manhunt in a Chevrolet SUV; admired the new fleet in the latest season of NCSI; and watched Nick Stokes of CIS tackle the Nevada desert in his black four-wheeler.

In real life, I’ve noticed the gold cross emblem more often and between the tiny Spark and the big Orlando, the Captiva seems
to be in good company on South African roads.

This just goes to show that General Motors SA is on a mission to make the brand as popular and competitive on our shores as it is in the US.

I find this interesting, considering that the only person I ever knew who adored the Chevy brand was my late uncle back in the 1980s.

So when the keys of the new Captiva landed on my lap, I decided to take it on to the open road seeing as the family and I were on our way from Joburg to Mpumalanga anyway.

The first thing that came to mind was that SUVs with four-wheel capabilities need to come standard with an integrated navigation system.

Struggling with GPS suction cups and wires getting in the way of the gearbox should be a thing of the past.

That aside, the Captiva has to be one of the most comfortable cars I’ve ever had the pleasure of driving long distance.

The seats are big and snug, leg-room is enough and the boot is spacious.

With all that space, you’d expect something that resembles a monster truck and is heavy on fuel. ­

But this baby proved to be a snug fit even in the tightest of carports and a tank of petrol lasted a good five hours, or just more than 500km.

Although the second row of seats fold down to a flatbed, the children weren’t so keen to try that and instead preferred to stretch their legs on the seats once they had folded the cup-holder middle partition.

The high-grade seat material, soft-touch plastics, an integrated sound system – especially the Bluetooth cellphone pairing – and air-conditioning had the youngsters nodding to show their approval.

Standard equipment on all models includes an advanced ESP (electronic stability programme) to help the driver regain control in the event of a skid.

The hydraulic brake assist, which increases the braking pressure to bring the car to a stop in a shorter distance, proved to be useful when it came to the roadworks and potholes of a little town called Carolina, somewhere in Mpumalanga.

Other nifty tricks include the hill descent control system, which is activated by the push of a button.

This system keeps the car to a maximum speed of 7km/h on steep downward slopes, while active rollover protection automatically detects heavy steering inputs and applies the brake to the front wheel.

New on all models of the latest Captiva is an electronic park-brake which frees up space around the centre console and makes the front feel less cluttered.

I liked the fact that the Captiva could hold its own among the other SUVs and sedans on the road; even putting up a brave fight against the Beemers, Mercs and Land Rovers.

But frustration kicked in during ascents, when it felt like it needed some sort of fuel injection to kick off the power.

Then again, this is a comfortable family car with good capabilities.

It’s not quite the CEO’s wife’s car, but will do it for the general manager’s spouse.

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