Holden's flirtation with things Korean has taken another step with the arrival of the Captiva, but this time it could be the real thing.
"We've been waiting a long time to get the right SUV for the Australian market and Captiva fits the bill perfectly," Holden chairman and managing director Denny Mooney said at the launch this week.
"It looks fantastic and offers the kind of flexibility customers demand from these types of vehicles."
Explore the 2006 Holden Captiva range
More importantly, the compact Captiva is much more Holden than the sadly inadequate Barina, which opened the batting for the General's Korean business plans.
This time around, Holden's engineers and designers got to the project table in time for the first course, when the Captiva was little more than a borrowed platform and a vision for a global car.
Nobody at Holden need blush over this vehicle nor fall back on the "value" argument to justify its origins.
Priced from $35,990 for the five-seat SX model through to $38,990 and $41,990 for the seven-seat CX and LX models, the Captiva will top out with the five-seater Euro-luxury styled MaXX at $42,990.
From the outset, key Holden personnel were invited to the Captiva party and in the end they virtually took over the catering.
The styling of the car fell to Mike Simcoe (of Monaro and VE fame and now a design director for General Motors in North America) and young Turk Max Wolff (SSX concept and the Chevrolet WTCC Ultra Concept).
Working out of the GM DAT design centre in South Korea, the Aussie designers gave the Captiva its compelling lines and set the standard for its quality interior packaging.
The engineering story was similarly important, if not more so. Holden chassis development engineer John Taylor and his team got hold of a donor platform from a Saturn Vue early in the program and set to work.
"When we first saw what we had to work from it was, to be honest, disheartening," says team engineer Mark Andre. "It was down to JT's determination to get things exactly right that the final product is what it is."
Taylor was more circumspect. "We had to get the balance and dampers just right ... the rebound just right," he says. "I really wanted that to be spot on before there was any ESP or anything involved."
The final tuning of the Captiva suspension — developed and validated over 450 prototype, pilot and test vehicles and five million kilometres — so impressed GM that the Holden calibrations will be used on the cars in Europe and Korea.
Built at General Motors' Bupyeong plant in South Korea, the Captiva is powered by the Australian-built 3.2-litre Alloytec V6 with 169kW of power and 297Nm of torque.
Drive is through a five-speed automatic to an electronically-controlled active AWD system delivering 100 per cent of torque to the front wheels as a default setting but capable of up to a 50:50 split.
Holden has announced a commonrail turbo diesel will join the model mix sometime next year.
European models are available with a 2.0-litre 110kW diesel but Holden would not confirm if that was the engine for Australia.
The VE safety strategy has been continued in Captiva, making electronic stability control standard along with a descent control system to automatically brake during steep downhill driving and an active roll-over system to guard against one of the banes of 4WD safety.
A notable and unfortunate omission from the standard safety fare is any form of reverse sensor; an almost moral obligation on any vehicle, but particularly on one whose main duties are likely to be as a mum's taxi.
While one Holden source insists that the company is developing a reversing camera for the Captiva, in the interim it has made the sensors available as a $429 option.
On the road the Captiva is something of a revelation — something of a Ford Territory-tester. Dynamically, the Captiva behaves with the aplomb of a large sedan.
Ride is subtle without being soggy and the car has the ability to soak up some seriously broken surfaces without rattling the occupants' teeth.
Body roll is kept to a minimum which is a benefit to both the control of the car and the comfort of passengers.
The steering is not particularly sharp or communicative but it has a decent weighting on centre and is positive under load.
Comfortable seating with reasonable adjustment, coupled to a reach and rake adjustable steering wheel, also makes for relaxed driving.
If there is a disappointment in the Captiva it is the 3.2-litre Alloytec engine.
With around 1800kg to shift, the engine needs to be kept in the 3000-4500rpm range to utilise peak torque of 297Nm.
The five-speed automatic deals well with those needs on open roads and moderate hills. On more twisty sections and when the uphill grind becomes serious, however, a great deal more driver input is necessary through the manual shift mode to keep the drive flowing.
One of the highlights of the Captiva is in its interior styling and packaging; an area that has not been a strong point for some Korean products.
The surface materials are soft-touch plastics or cloth (leather in the LX and MaXX) with subtle tonings and stylish lines.
There are numerous sensible storage bins and open pockets spread around the interior and the seating in the seven-seat models is particularly flexible.
Six of the seven seats will fold flat to allow for a considerable long-load capability or a wide mix of passengers and cargo.
The standard third row of seats in the CX and LX models is surprisingly roomy with good leg space and sensible packaging which allows them to fold flat into the floor without removing the headrests.
Particularly clever, and practical, is the one-touch seatback release for access to the third row.
Flip the easily reachable release and the 60:40 split second row of seats not only drops the back forward but without effort then rolls the entire seat to the front.
This leaves an unusually practical opening for access to the third-row seats.
Holden's marketing team will not put a number on Captiva sales but expect a model split strongly in favour of the seven-seater.
"With nothing to benchmark it on we really do not have any true indication of numbers," says Holden marketing boss John Elsworth. "That aside, it is nice to finally have an SUV that we can offer."