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On paper Holden's new medium size SUV, the Captiva MaXX, is a prime example of today's global auto industry. Designed to compete on a world stage, it's a cross-pollination of European styling cues, Korean manufacturing and Australian engineering nous. Sharing the same 3.2 Alloytec V6 and AWD chassis with the rest of the Captiva range, the MaXX's slightly shorter and narrower dimensions give it a more overtly sporty appearance.
At $42,990 the MaXX is at the top of the Captiva range but is only available as a 5 seater.
Scan the features list and there is the usual equipment: climate control, cruise control, power windows, 18" alloy wheels, leather trim, MP3 compatible 6 disc CD player and an 8-way power adjustable driver's seat. But items such as a trip computer, height adjustable headlights and a rear cargo blind, standard on even the Astra wagon, are missing from the larger, more expensive SUV.
Also missing are a first aid kit and safety triangle although symbols in the boot trim indicate where they are stored if you buy them.
Metallic paint is a $360 option.
Whether you are travelling up front or in back the Captiva's interior space is excellent. All models share the same wheelbase, so the MaXX doesn't skimp on passenger room. All doors have storage pockets, and there's a handy double deck compartment with sliding armrest between the front seats. A vent in the glovebox can keep your drinks cool and there's a slide out tray under the front passenger seat. There are extra hidey holes under the boot floor and the 60:40 split rear seats folds flat for longer items. The boot area is accommodating, but isn't very high.
If there's one area that compromises the MaXX's appeal, it's the seats. They take the idea of firm to a new level. Covered in heavy duty leather, the front seats look the part, but are far from cosseting. From the driver's perspective long trips can feel like you've been sitting on someone's knee for three hundred kilometres. The odd shaping and inflexible padding did not win any friends. And the same goes for the rear. Even with an adjustable backrest it was as unwelcoming as those in front, with less shape and no centre armrest.
Dominated by large circular air vents, the dashboard looks less barren than the standard Captiva. Instrumentation is straightforward, but the airconditioning controls are set low on the centre console and their small graphics can make them difficult to read. No doubt showing a bit of Holden influence, the indicator switch, which also houses the superbly simple cruise control, is mounted on the "right" side of the column, with the main headlight switch on the dashboard. The sports steering wheel, with thumbwheel audio switches, is adjustable for height and reach.
Rear vision is partially obstructed by the small rear windscreen and thick pillars, and parking sensors are not fitted as standard.
For the moment there are no ANCAP safety scores for the MaXX, however EuroNCAP rate the Captiva at four stars. Dual front and curtain airbags are standard along with ABS brakes with Brake Assist, ESP and traction control. Also standard is an Active Rollover Protection feature which works in conjunction with the ESP to reduce the risk of tipping, and a Descent Control System to maintain a safe speed on steep hills, allowing the driver to concentrate on steering. All seats are fitted with lap sash belts.
Fit and finish on our Silverstone Grey test car was first rate. Outside the metallic paint was blemish free while inside the dark charcoal grey interior was offset by a mix of alloy and chrome finishes giving it a more luxurious feel. But the plastic woodtrim lowered the tone, looking more tacky than teak.
NRMA Insurance scores the Maxx at 57.5/120, topping the Captiva range. Remote boot locking and a higher spec audio system boosted its score which equals the Ford Territory TS, but below the Hyundai Santa Fe's 62/120.
Just as with most medium size SUV's, the MaXX has some weight to shift, and it's using a V6 to do it. If peak hour traffic is your natural habitat then the MaXX can be thirsty, as our figure of 16.1l/100km shows. At least highway running brings a substantial improvement to a best of 11.6l/100km, matching the ADR average figure.
Under the bonnet is Holden's locally produced 3.2 litre Alloytec V6 with variable valve timing. A variation on the 3.6 litre engine powering the Commodore, the MaXX engine develops 167kW, (down slightly on the rest of the range thanks to a different exhaust), and is Euro 4 compliant. The slushy throttle feel matches the V6's less than enthusiastic performance. This isn't to say the MaXX is anaemic, it's just happier if no demands are placed on it. When you need more acceleration the five speed auto has to drop back a gear because there just isn't much torque to take advantage of.
As the sports chassis of the range the suspension is firm and as a result there is a lot of bump-thump transmitted into the cabin whether on tarmac or dirt.
Holden's engineers played a key part in the Captiva's chassis development but even with its firmer shock absorber and spring settings the MaXX isn't particularly agile. It's certainly not ponderous, and the overall balance is quite good, but you expect more from the top of the range and it lacks the precision you expect. Part of the problem is the steering's diluted character. Its numb feel masking any feedback from the tyres.
Off-road the active all-wheel-drive system distributes drive as required to a maximum of 50:50 front to rear torque split. Combined with the standard traction control and ESP it provides a major benefit for buyers who might get too adventurous.
With four wheel vented discs the stopping distances during our tests are more than acceptable, but on the road you always seem to need a bit more braking pressure than you're expecting when coming to a stop.
One advantage of the Alloytec engine is its ability to raise no more than a murmur in normal driving. Sure under hard acceleration there's obvious engine noise, and a gruff note that sounds coarser than it really is. Otherwise the engine never intrudes into the cabin. The five speed transmission may be infuriating with its ability to override your commands in manual mode, but it slips between gears with a slurring action that goes almost unnoticed.
All of the key ingredients are there, but somewhere along the line the MaXX hasn't mixed them properly.
You could excuse some of the missing features if the chassis and engine were more involving, and especially if the seats were less obstinate. A case of nearly, but not quite.
Test vehicle supplied by Holden Ltd.
|Country of manufacture||Korea|
CX - petrol & diesel
|Number of cylinders||6|
|Engine size||3.195 L|
|Claimed max power (kW)||167 kW @ 6600 rpm|
|Claimed max torque (Nm)||297 Nm @ 3200 rpm|
|Wheel size||18 x 7 "|
|Type||Dunlop SP Sport|
|Dimensions||235/55 R18 100H|
|Spare tyre type||Temporary 215/70R16 100T|
|Type||Power assisted rack & pinion|
|Turns to lock||2.7 m|
|Turning circle (measured)||12.4 m|
|Width (including mirrors)||2085 mm|
|Fuel capacity||65 litres|
|Max towed mass (trailer plus load)||2000 kg|
NRMA Theft Rating
|Points on scale 0 - 120 (high score is best)||57.5|
Acceleration - Test results
|50 - 80km/h||4.9 secs|
|60 - 100km/h||6.8 secs|
|0 - 80km/h||7.2 secs|
|0 - 100km/h||10.3 secs|
|Best recorded during testing||11.6 L/100km|
|Worst recorded during testing||16.1 L/100km|
|Average on test||13.1 L/100km|
|Average based on ADR||278 g/km|
|Distance to stop (from 80km/h)||25.7 metres|
|Interior noise at constant 80km/h||64.5 dB(A)|