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Click to view road test review picture gallery“Chevrolet plans to
  give its customers
  ‘much more’. So how
  much more do you
  actually get with their
  new 7-seat Captiva
  Sports Utility?”

MORE NEW MODELS, more new engines, plus more UK dealers equals more sales. That's the plan for Chevrolet UK, accord-ing to Managing Director Rory Harvey, outlining the projected growth of the Chevrolet brand under the GM banner at the media launch of their new Captiva SUV.

The new sports utility vehicle is available with petrol and diesel and five- and seven-seat model options. The range goes on sale in the UK from 24 June, with prices from 16,995 to 24,920.

"Chevrolet sees the UK as having the most significant growth oppor-tunity," says Rory Harvey, "although sales overall throughout Eastern and Western Europe are increasing rapidly. Last year, Chevrolet sold 300,000 vehicles in Europe. This year, this should grow to 400,000 units."

Although Chevrolet's UK sales dropped by 6.75 per cent in 2006 to 14,381 units, 2007 has already seen growth month-on-month. Rory Harvey says that "year to date, our sales are up by 17 per cent.
We had a record April and May, and a best ever March performance.
I expect our sales this year to be around 35 per cent up on last year and I am forecasting a total of 19,500 units — but I'm pushing for 20,000 sales.

"We compete in what we call the 'value sector' of the UK market against such brands as Hyundai, Kia and Suzuki, and this sector has been hit hard by rising interest rates reducing sales to private buyers by 16 per cent year-on-year.

"Our customers are principally married family buyers between 35 and
44 years of age. They make up 60 per cent of our customers. The Captiva, which we will be advertising on television, gives us a big opportunity to increase the public awareness of the Chevrolet brand because our research currently shows that 72 per cent of UK buyers do not know about us."

Rory added that "the Captiva range is the first of a new generation of Chevrolet vehicles. By 2010 we will have six all-new models and we
will see the next one early in 2008. Currently, our model line-up only covers 20 per cent of the total market, but with the new and addit-ional models and engine options we can compete for sales in 50 per cent of the market. We are also in the process of increasing our UK dealer network from 93 to 115 outlets by 2008."

All current models, the best-selling Matiz, the Kalos, Lacetti and Tacuma ranges, were inherited from Daewoo — or GM Daewoo as it became known in 2003 before changing to Chevrolet in 2005. Daewoo imports from Korea to the UK started in 1994 and their best year of sales in the UK was in 1996 when they registered 29,741 vehicles. Chevrolet models are still produced in Korea, but their design has input from many of GM's global facilities.

The external design of the Captiva was carried out at the GM Korea Design Centre at Incheon, where the Captiva is built. The design was further refined at GM centres in Germany, Brazil and Australia for its role as a world car.

Rory Harvey stated: "In the remaining months of this year we expect to sell around 2,000 Captiva vehicles in the UK and 1,700 of them
will be retail sales with 300 being fleet or rental business. In a full year we have targeted 4,000 Captiva sales in the UK.

"It was unfortunate that our planned launch for the Captiva last Sep-tember was delayed until June this year due to demand for the new vehicle from world left-hand drive markets, and that in turn caused engineering delays in designing the conversion needed to produce our right-hand drive models. However, we already have 287 advance sales even before the vehicle is advertised but of course the SUV market is now more crowded with other new competitors. Models such as the new Hyundai Santa Fe and the longer-established Kia Sorento we see as our principal competitors.

"We anticipate that 95 per cent of Captiva sales will be four-wheel drive diesel models with an equal split between manual and automatic transmission variants. Around a third of sales will be for the 2.0LT diesel seven-seat versions priced at 21,140 for the manual or 22,320 with an automatic transmission."

Whether the UK market needs another four-wheel drive SUV range, given the current anti-4x4 campaign and higher gas guzzling and con-gestion taxations levels, is a debatable issue. What is clear is that a volume manufacturer cannot afford not to have such vehicles in their range. Customers, hopefully, will buy what they want despite moral
and social blackmail pressures.

At 4,635mm, the Captiva is no longer in length than an average-sized estate car or MPV. The 2.4-litre, 134bhp petrol model is only available with two-wheel drive and five seats and will be a minority seller. It is in the line-up as a headline range price leader — 16,995 — and will be bought by low mileage users.

The GM-developed 148bhp 2.0-litre common-rail direct-injection turbo-diesel unit — with 236lb ft of torque from 2,000rpm — is the one to have. This model is available with five seats and a manual transmission for 19,995. Seven-seat models with the 2.0-litre diesel engine have manual and automatic gearbox options and LT and LTX trim and equip-ment levels. Prices run from 21,140 to 24,920.

Pick of the bunch is the 2.0 LT seven-seat auto, priced at 22,320.
All diesel models have 'on-demand' four-wheel drive; they use front-wheel drive for the majority of the time, automatically engaging the rear wheels via an electronic clutch when maximum traction is required. The system interacts with the anti-lock braking and electronic stability programme when needed, and descent control is available at the touch of a button.

Whilst it is no 'bargain price' SUV, it does offer seven seats (albeit with little luggage space) but with the rear row folded it has five seats
with a large flat load carrying floor. The split/fold middle row of seats
is easily folded away, increasing the load area to a very useable 1,565 litres of space, again with a flat floor.

Versatility and high equipment levels — plus the three years' free ser-vicing launch offer — are the reasons to buy this vehicle. LT models have 17-inch alloy wheels, front fog lights, air conditioning, electric windows, a leather-covered steering wheel and gearknob, cooled glovebox, an 8-speaker stereo radio/CD system, front and front side airbags and a rear parking sensor. LTX models have, in addition, 18-inch alloys, full leather seat trim, heated front seats, power folding and heated door mirrors, cruise control, automatic lighting and rain sensit-ive wipers, electronic climate control, an enhanced CD unit and multi-function on-board computer.

Put through some challenging test driving conditions last week on win-ding road and tracks in Southern Ireland, the Captiva performed well
in real life use. It does not set new standards in its class, but it coped with everything we could throw at it — safely, and with a certain amount of passenger comfort and predictability with its handling.
The diesel engine was relatively responsive and was much more user friendly.

Coupled with the five-speed automatic transmission, in this form around 32.5mpg can be expected in mixed driving conditions. The five-speed manual gearbox is not so precise or slick to use, but for people who tow caravans, boats and trailers it does have a higher towing weight: 2,000kg. The auto version is 1,700kg and the petrol model just 1,500kg. The manual transmission diesel model also has considerably lower CO2 emission levels and, if this is really important to you, nearly 5mpg better fuel consumption.

Working against it is the not especially competitive price and potent-ially high real-world running costs. More than balancing the scales in its favour, though, is the fact that for a seven-seater SUV the Captiva is no larger than a family estate car. It also has an easy-to-use and functional interior, high specification levels and smart styling. All-in-all, worth checking out! — David Miles

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Chevrolet Captiva 2.0 LT Automatic 7-seat | 22,320
Maximum speed: 112mph | 0-60mph: 12.2 seconds
Overall test MPG: 30mpg | Power: 148bhp | Torque: 236lb ft

CO2 233g/km | VED Band G 300 | Insurance group 12
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