If you’re shopping for a compact American crossover, Chevy’s Equinox is likely on your list. If however you’re looking to rent a small crossover, the Chevrolet Captiva Sport is probably what you’ll get for $29.95 a day from Hertz. While you’re bound to see them on the streets, you can’t buy them new unless you’re a fleet customer. That’s because the Captiva is designed to do two things: keep fleet sales of GM’s other CUVs low and continue to amortize the cost of Americanizing the Opel Antara. Yep, that’s right, under the bow tie, the Captiva Sport is none-other than the 2008-2010 Saturn VUE, aka the Opel Antata, Holden Captiva and Dawewoo Winstorm MaXX. We spent a week in a Hertz rental to find out if Chevy’s rental soft-roader should be on your used CUV shopping list.
The exterior of the Captiva is simple, clean, and completely unremarkable. Saturn called the design theme “Opel look share” which roughly translates to “Americanized Opel built-in Mexico.” Because the Captiva was “created” for fleet duty the plain-Jane looks are completely appropriate (and the slab-sides make covering the CUV with vinyl wraps or magnetic signs an easy process.) On the downside, the Captiva looks nothing like the rest of the Chevrolet product lineup. Of course, this probably isn’t a bad idea since fleet use tends to create high depreciation. Despite the rental-fleet target demographic, alloy wheels and side curtain airbags are standard on all Captiva models. If only Ford could have figure this out and kept the Panther afloat for fleet duty (and Sajeev.)
The Captiva’s interior is a study in grey plastic, but the look is both simple and tasteful. Cabin materials are higher than you might expect with plenty of soft touch plastics. Durability is always an issue with rentals. Our tester has over 18,000 miles on it and looked like a herd of feral animals had migrated in one window and out the other, however a pre-photo shoot wipe-down revealed that the interior plastics took the beating in stride, showing little wear, but questionable fit and finish. Most Captivas for rent (and therefore available on the used market) have the “2LS” package which includes a power driver’s seat, lumbar support, leather-wrapped steering wheel, single-zone climate control, fog lights and Bluetooth phone integration. The standard cloth seats are firm and supportive up front, but fairly hard and low to the ground in the rear. Luggage space in the Captiva rings in at 29 cubic feet behind the rear seats, and 54 cubes with the rear seats folded. This is higher than the $19.95-a-day Malibu, but about 30% less than the CR-V and RAV4.
Unlike most GM fleet vehicles, the Captiva can’t be stripped to the bone for volume buyers. This means you can expect all rental and off-rental Captivas out there to have side-curtain airbags, air conditioning, cruise control and a silver-tone version of GM’s corporate AM/FM/CD/MP3/iPod/USB head unit. While GM does offer the option to remove OnStar and XM Satellite Radio from the Captiva, doing so is an “option” that only reduces the sticker by $85 so it doesn’t seem common. GM has had a long history of phone integration since OnStar came on the scene in 1995 and this translates into excellent Bluetooth phone call quality. The head unit’s iDevice and USB integration worked well with my iPod nano, iPhone 4S and iPad 3 as well as a variety of USB flash drives but navigating a large collection of songs is tedious on the small display.
Under the short hood of the Captiva lurks “some engine.” As a fleet or rental car, this section is fairly unimportant and could understandably skipped if GM hadn’t made some important improvements. Back in 2008 the VUE had less-than-refined engine and transmission choices. Rather than maintaining the status quo, GM dropped in a new 2.4L direct-injection four-cylinder engine good for 182HP and 172lb-ft of torque and bolted it to a 6-speed automatic. The power boost over the old four is welcome, but the transmission is the bigger change. The GM/Ford developed 6-speed delivers smooth shifts with surprisingly little hunting and most importantly: improved fuel economy. There is still a V6 option, but the old 3.6L engine has been ditched in favor of a more powerful 3.0L direct injection V6 putting out 264HP and 222lb-ft. As with the old Saturn VUE, AWD can only be added with the V6.
The Captiva’s Opel roots are obvious out on the road and I’m not talking about the odd-looking steering wheel stalks. The Captiva handles twisty roads acceptably with a well controlled chassis, average steering feedback and a surprisingly quiet ride. Stabbing the throttle in the four-cylinder model produced very little torque steer despite the respectable 182HP on tap.
Unlike many of GM’s four-cylinder engines, the 2.4L direct injection engine is surprisingly quiet, smooth and thankfully free of the diesel-like clatter from BMW and Ford’s turbo fours. This level of engine refinement is important, because 182HP pitted against 3,900lbs means the engine spends plenty of time at higher RPMs.
The EPA rates the four-cylinder Captiva at 20/28MPG (city/highway), an improvement of 1/6MPG over the Saturn VUE thanks to the extra gears and the DI treatment. The FWD V6 Captiva matches the V6 FWD VUE at 17/24MPG despite the increase in power while the AWD Captiva takes a 1MPG hit on the highway. The 6-speed automatic manages to make the 400lb heavier Captiva competitive with the 4-speed RAV4 and only 3MPG behind the 5-speed CR-V.
GM’s fleet website prices the Captiva Sport between $23,435 and $32,860 depending on your trim and options. Given that GM fleet purchases typically see rebates from $500 to $3,000 depending on the number of vehicles purchased, the true starting cost is lower. A quick used car search revealed nearly a hundred used 2012 Captivas within 500 miles of my location compared with four 2012 RAV4s, and 15 2012 CR-Vs. This comparative plenty helps translate to the advertised $18,000 prices for low mileage (under 12,000 miles) base models and $26,000 for fully loaded AWD Captivas with leather. Adjusting for content, a used RAV4 has a resale value some $2,000-$3,000 higher and a quick conversation with the Hertz sales guy proved there was plenty of room to negotiate on the Chevy. Since late-model used car purchases are all about the bang-for-the-buck, if you’re shopping for a bargain used crossover, the 2012 Chevrolet Captiva Sport should be on your short list.
Neither Chevrolet nor Hertz provided anything for this review. Our total bill was $360 after tax and insurance for a 5-day rental.
Specifications as tested
0-60: 9.5 Seconds (2.4L FWD)
Average Fuel Economy: 20.1 MPG over 623 miles