The enhanced Chevrolet Captiva has been launched in South Africa on the 26th of February and the very next day I drove the 2,2-diesel from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town. It was a long nine hours, but it gave me more than enough time to get acquainted with the flagship of the 2016 Captiva range.

On the launch day, driving back to the airport, this very same Captiva was given to me and my driving partner. Shockingly, just before we drove off, we realised that the fuel gauge was half empty. What made it alarmingly scary was that the distance between the airport and the nature reserve we drove to was only 150 km. And although the journalists who drove the car to the reserve took it to hell and back, half a tank over 150 km can’t be justified. (Maybe the tank wasn’t full when they set off, but who knows…)

I then made a conscious decision to make the trip an economical one; to find out whether this 2,5 ton SUV can actually be fuel efficient.

I left Port Elizabeth at 10:30am on the Saturday morning at an extremely leisurely pace. It was at the back of my mind that this vehicle could actually run out of fuel after 300 km and I had to cover 715 of them. Chevrolet claims that the diesel Captiva will return 7,8 L/100 km and on a full 65L fuel tank it should – theoretically – manage 833 km. Game on, then, as I set about proving this claim and crossing my fingers that I don’t run out of fuel between somewhere and nowhere.

Urban driving is the main killer of fuel. Through Port Elizabeth and the towns on the Garden Route slow speeds are at the order of the day. A back-and-forth with stop and go’s raised the fuel consumption and the kilometres on the trip computer decreased with every pull-away. The six-speed automatic gearbox is more than able to select the right gear at the right time and it makes city driving more bearable.

Out on the open road the diesel Chevrolet Captiva came into its own. Fuel consumption goes down and the accurate on-board computer gives a to-the-point indication of what the range on the tank is. I opted not to use cruise control, simply because you have greater control over fuel consumption when you’re doing it by foot.

When plodding along on the N2 I rarely exceeded 100 km/h. Reason being, if you drive 120 km/h, your vehicle can use as much as 40% more fuel as opposed to driving 100 km/h. I needed to reach Cape Town and had to save fuel wherever I can. Plus, I still had that monkey on the brain of what happened the previous day… But despite the fuel-saving measures I tried to implement, I could not resist the temptations of mountain passes and overtaking using the full torque to my disposal.

This SUV, with its 132 kW/400 N.m engine, eats the road in front of it. Two driving modes are available: Normal and Eco. The majority of the trip was done in Eco-mode, because it makes throttle-inputs less sensitive and lowers fuel consumption. It is ideal for when you want to get the most out of your diesel Captiva. To overtake a simple step on the gas pedal is enough to propel the vehicle forward whilst using as little fuel as possible.

Normal-mode is much more responsive than Eco. To feel the effectiveness of each driving mode, I drove at a constant speed in Eco and then deactivated it. With my foot not moving an inch, the revs climbs and the vehicle surges forward as if someone rubbed it with turpentine. To get the most out of the Chevrolet Captiva I would have preferred to stay in this mode for the entire trip, but I would most certainly have not made it to Cape Town had I done so.

This Captiva is big, high, and heavy and it does have a profound effect on the abilities of the vehicle. Pushing through a mountain pass with even a little zest will reveal the aerodynamic shortcomings of this SUV. The steering wheel provides a decent amount of feedback and feels meaty and solid. The leather seats offer enough comfort over long distances (provided you find the correct seating position), but there is some slide if you enter a corner a bit too hot.

When I reached my destination (home, in this case), a quick mathematical equation put this Chevrolet Captiva’s economic abilities in perspective. Theoretically, a range of 833 km is possible on a single tank, but practically, driving at 120 km/h, an expected range of between 650 and 700 km is on the cards. However, driving at 100 km/h, I managed 715,6 km. And if that gets added to the on-board computer’s remaining range of 296 km, a total range of more than 1000 km would be possible on a single fill-up. And on a vehicle weighing 2,5 tons that uses a 2,2-litre diesel engine, my averages were 6,8 L/100 km and 74 km/h.

Counting grains of sand would more fun than driving a seven-seat SUV alone at a leisurely pace, but it was pretty rewarding to prove that the Chevrolet Captiva can reach its theoretical range whilst having some left in reserve. Would I do such an exercise again? Definitely! But only if I don’t have to worry about fuel.