Rental Car Review: 2012 Chevrolet Captiva Sport

Alex L. Dykes
by Alex L. Dykes
rental car review 2012 chevrolet captiva sport

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

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3 of 52 comments
  • Belga Belga on Jan 02, 2013

    Well I rented one at Santa Ana Airport 2 weeks ago. Rented it for 8 days and put an average of 300 miles a day on the beast. Interior Big sheets of Grey plastic make up for the 1990's looking dashboard. The controls are weird to say the least, the rear windshield wiper controls are not on the column but are switches below the temperature controls. Well dashboard is a big word, I honestly think that it was an afterthought. More than likely Daewoo realized that the day before the launch, they forgot to design a dash. They gathered all cleaning personnel in the building and gave them the opportunity to each put a control or switch "somewhere". The seats look impressive but looks are deceiving. After about 150 miles it is time to stop for a while (either to fill up the tank or to see a chiropractor) Safety: This Chevy clone, might have side curtains but there is a reason for it. The view is poor, very poor. To make matters worse, the mirrors were adapted either from a moped or Yugo. The drive: My 1990 F-350 feels more stable and nimble on the road than this thing. Overtaking on the California freeways wasn't even without a challenge. As I mentioned before, the view is very limited and when you change lanes it feels like you are controlling a drunk camel. We took a trip to Big Bear Lake and the winding roads took us up to 10000 ft. The power wasn't too bad for a small engine but the road handling and lack of feel was scary to say the least. So if you rent one of these don't forget to stop at the first pharmacy and by some depends. Rental fees: The rental fees were "cheap" but don't be fooled as your profit quickly drops after the first fill-up. If your goal is to deliver some cattle to the Mexican border go for it! but in any other case look for something else.

  • Jjf Jjf on Apr 26, 2013

    I think I just rented the same exact blue Captiva on a trip to the bay area from Hertz. It had 33,000 miles when I rented it, but felt like 70,000. I'm guessing it will be rotated out of service soon. The engine had a rough idle, and it almost stalled out a couple times on me. It accelerated very slooow. The plastics and interior seemed abused but held up well as you mentioned. Handling felt numb and old school GM like - thoroughly unenjoyable All and all the car felt abused so it is hard to know how durable they really are, but based on my experience I would never buy or even rent one again if I can avoid it.

    • Scotty39 Scotty39 on May 11, 2013

      Hi' I'm up here on the north shore of Lake Erie in Canada, I've just came in from checking out a 2010 Equinox with 27,328 kms on it, asking for CAN.$22,999 2.4L AWD and my wife saw a 2012 Captiva with 32,700 kms asking for CAN.$20,999, 2.4L 4cyl. FWD and although I like the more spacious Equinox?? my wife's yapping for the Captiva so I'll have to get her to read your comments fellas. Would you rather have an Equinox over a Rav4 etc.? or a KIa Sportage?

  • SPPPP This rings oh so very hollow. To me, it sounds like the powers that be at Ford don't know which end is up, and therefore had to invent a new corporate position to serve as "bad guy" for layoffs and eventual scapegoat if (when) the quality problems continue.
  • Art Vandelay Tasos eats $#!t and puffs peters
  • Kwik_Shift Imagine having trying to prove that the temporary loss of steering contributed to your plunging off a cliff or careening through a schoolyard?
  • Inside Looking Out How much costs 25 y.o. Mercedes S class with 200K miles?
  • VoGhost Matthew, It's transformation, not transition. This is a common title in corporate America.