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2012 Chevrolet Captiva Sport

2012 Chevrolet Captiva Sport Reviews
Overall rating:  Product Rating: 4.0

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2012 Chevrolet Captiva Sport: the Ghost of the Saturn VUE


by scmrak:      Mar 14, 2012


Product Rating: 4.0 Recommended: Yes 

Pros: moderately attractive, roomy, cushy ride
Cons: large blind spots, wanders on highway, build quality
The Bottom Line: The 2012 Chevrolet Captiva Sport is an attractive if not scintillating vehicle that seems average in economy and handling and perhaps a bit below average in build quality. 


The reservation at the Indianapolis Airport Enterprise said "Midsize SUV," but given the "size inflation" at rental outlets (a Fusion is a midsize car? gimme a break..) I assumed that meant a Ford Escape or (please, no) Dodge Journey; maybe even a RAV-4. Instead I ended up driving a 2012 Chevrolet Captiva Sport.

"A what?!" you ask.

A 2012 Chevrolet Captiva Sport: with that doofus little HHR discontinued after 2011, General Motors opted to import this Mexican-built Korean-influenced version of the second-generation Saturn VUE, whose entire brand was discontinued after the 2010 model year. They're importing the Captiva Sport solely to fulfill fleet orders for a five-passenger crossover, a vehicle that's smaller and less expensive than the company's Equinox SUV. In other words, you won't see one of these on the dealer's lots, or even find one used until the fleets turn them in to their used-car resellers. The model isn't new, however, having long been sold under the Captiva lable in Mexico, Central-South America, Australia, and much of Europe and Asia.

Here in the States, fleet buyers may choose their Captiva from among three trim levels: LS and LT plus the more plush version, the LTZ. The high-end version includes as standard a sunroof, leather seats (heated in front), a sound-system upgrade, and a rearview camera. All-wheel drive is optional on the LTZ. All Captivas run on a six-speed automatic transmission and are equipped with electronic stability control and traction control as standard. Naturally, they have A/C, power windows and locks, remote-operated mirrors, XM Satellite Radio, and all the rest of the goodies. For a powerplant, the LS comes with GM's 172-hp 2.4-liter in-line four EcoTEC engine standard, while the LT and LTZ trims are equipped with a 264-hp 3.0-liter V6.

The walkaround: the Captiva has the same slightly rakish appearance adopted by similar bodies (Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV-4) caused by the rearward narrowing of the side windows. A grill-like vertical trim detail at the leading edge of the front doors adds some flair while including side-mounted turn signals. The standard 17-inch wheels are six-spoke alloy offerings. Waist-high rear turn signals flank a somewhat narrow rear hatch that opens onto a flat cargo compartment. The front grille has the typical Chevy horizontal element with logo; color-keyed in the LTZ and chrome in the other trims; the big "scoop" on the VUE is considerably more subdued in the Captiva model. B and C pillars are black cladding on all trims; the A- and D pillars are integrated with the roof sheet metal.

A reasonably good-looking vehicle, if not particularly easy to distinguish from all those Lexuses and CR-Vs that have a remarkably similar roofline. The hood sits higher on the Captiva, though, for a slightly bulkier feel. The little side trim adds visual interest.

The interior: A reasonably roomy interior for four full-size adults; a little tight in the rear middle location. Good headroom and rear legroom. The LS trim includes a two-level center console between the front seats, an oversized glove box, and a couple of smaller cubbies on the dash and door pockets. The lower level of the console is reached by sliding the top (which includes the cupholders) backward. In our "Arctic Ice" (I call it "white") rental, gray cloth seats combine with black plastic for the interior.

The instrument panel includes fuel gauge, tach and speedo, and an assortment of icons and indicator lights. Like most cars these days there's a "report console" with mileage, instantaneous fuel economy, etc., to accompany the digital odometer with its twin trip odometers. You also get steering-wheel mounted audio controls and cruise control. A row of buttons on the lower left edge of the dash controls the displays - you'll need to learn where they are by feel, though, since they're quite low and hidden by the steering wheel. Climate-control (including automatic temperature control) knobs are mounted low on the center stack, above the tranny shifter. The parking brake is electronic; controlled by a small knob on the shifter housing - a second rather subtle control toggles "eco" mode (what we used to call "overdrive") on and off.

The rear seats fold flat 60:40 (or so) to expand the cargo area, which is not really all that large: a pair of molded plastic pockets riding on the wheel wells narrow the space. The floor raises to reveal a six-inch-thick hunk of styrofoam with a few molded pockets (one holds the standard cargo net) that sits on the spare tire. Rather a waste of space, but then it does keep the floor flat.

Build quality: The exterior of the Captiva showed better-than-average build quality, with no odd trim mismatches or uneven panels. I wish I could say the same of the interior. The black plastic trim on the interior was very cheap-looking, for starters. The glove-box door kept falling open (this vehicle had less than 4000 miles on the odometer) and the sliding cover on the console was sticky and fit poorly. Not impressive.

Driving: The driving position is much the same as any other CUV, including the 2002 CR-V we used to own and the 2011 Element we have now. The driver's seat (eight-way adjustable, BTW) is American-butt wide, rather flat, and doesn't offer particularly good lumbar support. A three-hour drive was reasonably comfy. Controls are well within reach, though several of the toggles and buttons must be found by feel, and are rather small. I was particularly unimpressed by the steering-wheel mounted controls, which feature little knurled disks that are about ¼ x ½ inch; rather unfriendly for large hands and simply ridiculous if you're wearing gloves.

Sight lines out the front are fair to good, though the A pillars are larger than I prefer. The side-view mirrors are small for a vehicle of this class, and the D pillars are huge; leading to vast acreages of rear blind spot. This is one vehicle that definitely needs a rearview camera.

Road noise is moderate to pronounced depending on the surface; it's quite obtrusive on the striated concrete surfaces. Wind noise is minor to absent, appearing only under certain crosswind combinations. Engine noise is generally only audible under heavy acceleration.

Handling: The little four-banger shifts smoothly without any hunting, though in the ECO mode the tranny will typically drop a couple of gears on your average freeway overpass to maintain cruise speed. It accelerates reasonably well; nothing like a Miata but better than a V6-equipped Explorer. Braking feels average to slightly better, without any surprises (and few scares). I sensed a slight tendency to understeer, though that may be because I primarily drive smaller and more utilitarian vehicles with Asian sensibilities instead of Detroit's. Out on the highway, the Captiva had a tendency to wander around in its lane - not as bad as a 1980s Jeep Cherokee, but more than I would prefer.

We drove on dry and wet pavement and briefly on gravelled road, though the warm winter precluded any snow (just as well...). The Captiva held the roads in all conditions we encountered. Overall ride quality felt comfortable to slightly over-cushioned, as one might expect from a car-based utility vehicle. Note that even though there's a "skid plate" on the front end, I wouldn't think of taking this vehicle off-road!

Economy: Over four hundred miles of mainly freeway driving I averaged pretty close to 22.5 MPG; though I got better mileage after finding the ECO button (In my defense, Enterprise doesn't leave owner's manuals in their vehicles). I got 30-plus in a short run one time, but suspect the 22.5 combined mileage is more realistic. EPA-estimated numbers for the four-banger are 20 City, 28 highway, and 23 combined. This is comparable to similarly-equipped (4-cylinder engine, automatic transmission) competitors such as the Ford Escape, Toyota RAV-4, Kia Sorrento, Nissan Rogue or Honda CR-V.

Considerations: The Chevrolet Captiva Sport is not available to consumers, but fleet models will probably begins showing up in the reseller lots in 2012 and 2013 (many rental agencies sell off their vehicles at 25-30K miles). Should you buy a Captiva as a used car? Well, fleet and rental cars generally receive cosmetic abuse from drivers who aren't invested in the car, but they also receive regular maintenance and mechanical care; better than many consumer vehicles.

Repair records for the second-generation VUE are sparse and for the Captiva all but nonexistent. Pricing information for the Captiva Sport is likewise sparse. Forecasting from the reliability of the 2008 and earlier models of the VUE, one would guess that the reliability will be better than average.
Amount Paid (US$): 278
Condition: New
Model and Options: LS 2.4-l in-line 4, 6-spd automatic
Product Rating: 4.0
Recommended: Yes 
Reliability:  
Roominess:  
Build Quality  
Seat Comfort:  

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