Holden has fired the first shot in the medium SUV war by launching its Captiva Series II range at a lower price than the model it replaces -- with seven of the nine models below $40,000.
Australia's biggest selling mid-sized softroader (when Captiva 5 and 7 models are combined) is trying to claim some early ground before the updated Ford Territory arrives in showrooms in April -- as well as undercut Korean rivals from Hyundai and Kia.
Despite extra equipment, a choice of all-new engines and a fresh face, the prices of most Captiva models have been trimmed by $2000 -- but one model has been slashed by $6000.
Large families struggling to make ends meet are potentially the big winners. The starting price of a seven-seater petrol-powered Captiva was previously $38,490 -- but now the cheapest ticket into a seven-seater petrol-powered Captiva is $32,490, making it one of the cheapest medium-sized family SUVs on the market.
There is a slight catch: that particular model now comes with a 2.4 four cylinder petrol engine instead of a V6. But contrary to expectations, the four-cylinder is no slouch and is possibly a better choice than the new V6.
The starting price of the whole Captiva range (the five-seater Captiva 5) starts at $27,990 -- the same as before -- but comes with more equipment.
And, the Captiva 5 is available with a diesel engine for the first time in two years (the diesel was dropped in early 2009 when Holden switched the Captiva Maxx from a premium-price proposition to a more affordable model).
At $33,990 the Captiva 5 diesel undercuts the Hyundai ix35 diesel softroader by $1500 and the Kia Sportage diesel by $1000.
Favourable exchange rates have helped Holden to source the Korean-made Captiva Series II at a sharper price.
"The Captiva was one of the biggest sellers in the segment last year and we don't want to give that up easily," said Holden boss Mike Devereux. "We think we have found the sweet spot in terms of what the customer wants and how much they're prepared to pay. We know this is a tough segment, so we really wanted to drive value."
The Captiva Series II pricing will also put pressure on Ford -- it was hoping to launch the Territory at a premium given the extensive and expensive changes, and new technology.
Holden sold more than 15,000 Captivas last year, by far its best result on record. Meanwhile the Ford Territory -- once the segment leader -- languished with fewer than 12,000 sales. At its peak the Ford Territory notched up more than 23,000 deliveries in 2005, its first full year on sale, but it has been on a sales slide since.
The Captiva Series II is available with a choice of three new engines: a 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol, a 2.2-litre turbodiesel and 3.0-litre V6 petrol.
The V6 is the same direct injection unit used in the Holden Commodore Omega but the four cylinder petrol and diesel engines are making their world debuts in the Captiva Series II.
The result is a slight improvement in fuel economy (trimmed by between three and six per cent, compared with the engines they replace) and a big boost in performance.
The petrol four-cylinder engine has 19 per cent more power than before, while the diesel jumps 23 per cent. The power of the V6 improves by 12 per cent, but on-road it doesn't feel as good as its four-cylinder counterparts.
Six-speed automatic transmissions are standard across the range; only the base model Captiva 5 four cylinder petrol model is available with a six-speed manual.
All Captiva Series II models come with stability control and six airbags, but there have been no structural changes likely to improve the previous Captiva's four-star Euro NCAP crash safety rating.
As before, the head-protecting curtain airbags in seven-seater Captiva models do not extend to the third row seats. The same can be said for the updated Ford Territory. But the Toyota Kluger's curtain airbags do stretch to the third row.
Driveway safety features vary from model to model in the new Captiva range. The cheapest version, the Captiva 5, has front and rear parking sensors as standard, because it was developed as a premium Opel product for European markets.
But, oddly, the base model SX Captiva 7 -- whose different body style is shared with Chevrolet in Europe and Asia -- does not get parking sensors at all, even though it is dearer than the Captiva 5.
Only the mid-grade CX Captiva 7 comes with rear parking sensors while the top-line LX Captiva 7 comes with rear sensors and a rear view camera.
Every model in the Toyota Kluger range has had a rear view camera as standard since it was introduced four years ago. And the updated Ford Territory is expected to have rear sensors as standard on every model, and rear view cameras on the top-line models.
With the arrival of the Series II range, the Captiva 5 and Captiva 7 base models come with hill-start assist, an electronic park brake, cruise control, leather steering wheel, a new air-conditioning system and controls, 17-inch alloy wheels -- and up to 28 cabin storage compartments.
The mid-grade CX Captiva 7 gains 18-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth phone connection, six-CD player, chrome exhaust tips, front fog lamps and rear parking sensors.
The top-line LX Captiva 7 gains 19-inch alloy wheels, seven-inch touch screen with navigation, leather upholstery, chrome door handles, illuminated vanity mirrors, and a rear view camera.
The Captiva Series II range is expected to arrive in Holden dealerships later this month.
Holden Captiva Series II prices at a glance
2.4 petrol six-speed manual 2WD: $27,990 (same price as before)
2.4 petrol six-speed auto 2WD: $29,990 ($1000 less than before)
2.2 turbodiesel six-speed auto 4WD: $33,990 (new model)
SX: 2.4 petrol six-speed auto 2WD: $32,490 ($6000 less than before)
SX: 2.2 turbodiesel six-speed auto 2WD: $35,490 (same price as before)
CX: 3.0 V6 petrol six-speed auto 4WD: $38,490 ($2000 less than before)
CX: 2.2 turbodiesel six-speed auto 4WD: $39,490 ($2000 less than before)
LX: 3.0 V6 petrol six-speed auto 4WD: $42,490 ($2000 less than before)
LX: 2.2 turbodiesel six-speed auto 4WD: $43,490 ($2000 less than before)
Prices do not include registration and dealer charges.
Holden Captiva Series II facts and figures
2.4 petrol: 123kW, 230Nm, 9.1L/100km (down from 9.7L/100km)
2.2 turbodiesel: 135kW, 400Nm, 8.1, 8.3 and 8.5L/100km (SX 2WD, LX 4WD and Captiva 5 4WD respectively)
3.0 V6 petrol: 190kW, 288Nm, 11.3L/100km (down from 11.7L/100km)
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