Chevy ups a gear
Between the wars, Henry Ford and Louis Chevrolet created America’s two biggest car companies.
When these giants of the industry turned their attention to Europe, Ford built his own factories and launched that famous blue lozenge trademark over here while Chevrolet bought and expanded the already established Vauxhall and Opel brands.
It was not until General Motors – now Chevy’s parent – bought ailing Korean maker Daewoo in 2001 that the Chevrolet brand finally made it into showrooms on this side of the Atlantic.
That was merely a re-badging exercise but now Chevrolet is marketing a whole new range of cars specifically designed and developed with European drivers in mind.
Big hopes are pinned on the recently launched new rendition of the Captiva, a brash, bold compact SUV. It’s got an assertive new face and a lavishly upgraded interior.
Newly developed engines – including two variants of a potent 2.2-litre turbo diesel – are mated to a slick six-speed gearbox. The base model is two-wheel drive but on the two dearer versions electronically controlled all-wheel drive system enhances stability as well as off-road work on slippery surfaces.
Launched in 2006, the original Captiva brought people to the brand whose only previous knowledge of Chevrolet was from American TV shows and hook lines in popular songs.
My own experience of Chevrolet was largely restricted to those massive barge-like Impalas that dominated America’s yellow cab market for so many years and gave me my only experience of car sickness.
The Captiva proved a whole different experience. It has impeccable road manners and is as roomy as the Impala is cramped. The three rows of seats carry seven people in comfort.
Out on the road it had little of the usual American tendency to roll, wallow and lurch – thankfully, the suspension has been tailored to European tastes and driving conditions.
Unlike some SUVs, the Captiva is no laggard, hitting 62-mph in nine seconds and capable of close on 125-mph. Expect combined cycle fuel-consumption figures of between 36 and 44-mpg, dependent on model.
Across Europe, the Captiva – which is priced between £22,905 and £32,764 – has grabbed an impressive 10 per cent of its fast-growing market sector.
Presently, Chevrolet is the world’s fourth best-selling brand, with annual sales of four million vehicles in more than 130 countries.
At present it’s a minor player here but the Captiva is set to help change that.