Mahindra XUV500 VS Holden Captiva
- Cheap way into seven seats
- Petrol/auto combination a winner
- Hugely spacious third row
- Underwhelming safety
- Steering that requires plenty of guesswork
- Cheap-feeling interior
- It's cheap
- It's big
- Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
- It's old
- It's a bit noisy
- Lacks the finesse of the competition
Just in case attacking Australia's crowded SUV market with a virtually unheard of Indian brand wasn't a high enough hurdle to leap over, Mahindra had made its task even harder - think a Bollywood version of Mission Impossible - by launching its XUV500 SUV here with a diesel engine (which nobody wanted) and a manual gearbox (which few could even remember how to use).
Fortunately, it fixed one of those issues late in 2016, finally adding an automatic transmission to the line-up. And now, at long last, it's fixed the other.
For one, it's a ferociously cheap way into a new seven-seat SUV. For another, it's pretty well equipped, even from the base level. There's a long warranty, an equally long roadside assistance offering, and there's capped-price servicing, too.
So, should the mainstream SUV players be looking over their shoulders?
Spoiler alert: no.
|Engine Type||2.2L turbo|
Holden wasn't the first manufacturer to find itself bereft of a big SUV when the fuse was lit by BMW and Mercedes as the last millennium came to a close. Ford responded with the Territory while Holden jacked-up a V8 Commodore and slapped the Adventra badge on it. Sadly, it didn't work, and so the Captiva was the next best option, procured from what was then called Daewoo.
As a result of that that little blip on the economic radar, the GFC, and an on-going re-organisation of General Motors, the Korean-built Captiva has lasted rather longer than anyone expected.
It first launched with two bodystyles, but is now down to one, the bigger and more practical seven seat body shell.
|Engine Type||2.2L turbo|
This petrol-powered and well-priced XUV500 W6 might mark Mahindra's most convincing effort at cracking Australia's congested SUV market, but we're still not completely convinced.
That said, it's certainly cheap, the ownership credentials stack up and it's a very comfortable way to transport seven people.
Will this Mahindra's low price and upgraded spec win your SUV vote? Tell us in the comments below.
The Captiva is very, very long in the tooth and is heading towards retirement some time in the next twelve months. Before then, it's a lot of car for the money, particularly the seven seat LS. It's not fast, flash or futuristic but it will do the job and with all of the early problems sorted, will probably do it for quite some time.
The Captiva's low scores are mostly to do with the car just being old and feeling it, with dodgier plastics, slightly undercooked ride and handling and a lack of engine and safety tech. It doesn't mean it's a terrible car, because it isn't and Holden papers up the cracks with a low starting price and good after-sales.
There's no getting away from the fact the XUV500 is not the sleekest, prettiest SUV in the pack. But it's not ugly, either. More that it looks like it's doing its best with a design philosophy hatched a generation or two ago.
Its best angle by far is when viewed straight on, where the piano-black grille, dual bonnet bulges and complicated (read: a little weird) headlight clusters all add some road presence to Mahindra's only SUV.
A side-on viewing, however, is less satisfying, where a combination of strangely placed and super-sharp body creases (including one over the rear wheelarch, which adds a Harbour Bridge-style crescent to the otherwise-straight window line) and serious rear overhang give the XUV500 an inescapable awkwardness.
Inside, expect a vast collection of rock-hard (though nicely patterned) plastics, with the ambiance rescued somewhat by the clean-looking and vertical central control unit, which is home to the media screen and air-con controls.
Ready for some hashtag real talk? There are better-looking and better-feeling seven-seat SUVs out there. But there aren't many that start at $25,990 drive-away. And I think that's Mahindra's point.
Formerly known as the Captiva 7, the seven seat body has remained mostly the same for its 11 years on sale. The only real changes have been around the front end, with Holden several times fiddling with the grille, lights and bumpers. There's nothing flash about the Captiva, but you know exactly what it is coming at you, with the double grille and big Holden badge.
In profile there's a lot of the original BMW X5 if you squint, right down to the copyright lawyer-dodging shape of the rear quarter window. It also has that X5's big gaps between wheelarch and tyres and a good view of the wheelarch itself. If that's your thing.
Little has changed at the back apart from bumpers and the LED effect lights added in the last update in 2014. It's unlikely you're buying the Captiva as auto haute couture, though.
Inside is basic, and you can place the Captiva's genesis in the mid-2000s, there's a certain generic GM feel to it. The switchgear feels old and clacky, the plastics are hard but do fit well enough. An Audi interior it isn't. The update in 2014 to make the 7.0-inch screen fit in the dashboard is fairly obvious and it's a shame the whole dash couldn't have been replaced. The huge steering wheel surrounds a tightly packed instrument cluster with small dials and a very old-looking LCD panel for trip computer duties.
Pretty damn practical, actually, regardless of whether you want to carry people or cargo. Carrying both at the same time, however, is tricky.
But let's start with people. There is a huge amount of room in the third row of the XUV500, a space with enough head and legroom to put plenty of its competition to shame.
Thanks to second-row seat backs that fold flat, before the the entire seat lifts up and pushes forward, climbing into seats six and seven isn't too big a drama, either.
We rarely say this about seven-seat cars, but at 175cm, I'd feel plenty comfortable back there on a longer drive. There are two air vents in the third row, too, along with bottle storage and side-seat storage for thin items.
The space in the middle row is ample as well, and you'll find three ISOFIX attachment points, one for each of the three seats. There's also a door pocket in each rear door and storage nets on the rear of the two front seats. A pull-down divider that separates the back seat is home to two cupholders, matching the two for front seat riders.
The only downside to all this people-lugging happiness is that, with the third row of seats in place, there is absolutely no room for luggage. Mahindra doesn't quote a litre storage figure when seven are seated (mostly because it would probably be embarrassing to write "one litre"), but trust us, you'll be lucky to squeeze a soft backpack in the boot with all seats in place.
Things improve considerably when you drop the third row of seats, though, which unlocks 702 litres of storage, and that number climbs to 1512 litres with the second and third row folded down.
The Captiva's interior dimensions are impressive. In seven seat versions, the boot space starts at 87 litres, expanding to a handy 465 litres with the 50/50 split fold rear row stowed. Flop the middle row forward and you're up at 930 litres, a good size cargo area that could swallow a flat-pack wardrobe. If you snaffle a five-seat version, you can remove the boot floor panels to reveal another couple of hundred litres of hidey holes.
There are cup holders up front (two), in the middle row (two) and in the boot (one, strangely) for a total of five. In the seven seater, two will go thirsty.
Price and features
Make no mistake, this Mahindra kills the competition on price. The entry-level W6 version will cost you a lean $25,990, while the fruited-up W8 version will set you back $29,990. You can even have an AWD W8 for $32,990. The best part? All of those are drive-away prices.
Go for the W6, and you can expect 17-inch alloy wheels, cloth seats, air-con with vents (powered by a second compressor) in the second and third row, cornering headlights with DRLs, front and rear fog lights, cruise control, rear parking sensors and a 6.0-inch multimedia screen linked with a six-speaker stereo.
The Captiva's value is heavily dependent on the model you choose. Standard features across the range (starting with the LS) include a 7.0-inch touchscreen running MyLink, a six-speaker stereo with AM/FM radio, Bluetooth, cruise control, rear parking sensors, reversing camera, auto headlights, leather steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, three 12 volt power outlets, keyless entry and start and a tyre inflation kit in place of an (optional) spare tyre.
No Captiva comes standard with sat nav as they all feature Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, which both use your phone's GPS apps.
There are four models, three 'standard' specifications - LS, LT, and the top of the range LTZ, with a fourth version in the form of the five seat only Active 'special' edition, that isn't.
Pricing starts at $26,490 for the 2.4-litre LS (with five seats and five-speed manual gearbox), $28,690 for the auto, and the diesel comes in at $31,690. Seven-seat LS pricing ranges from $30,490 for the petrol and $33,490 for the diesel, both six-speed automatics.
The Active enters the price list at $31,990 drive away. Based on the five-seat petrol LS (to be discontinued in May 2017), the auto-only Active adds 18-inch alloys, textile leather seats and a cargo cover. There's also a similarly specified seven seat version at $33,490.
On to the LT, and the price rises to $37,490 for the petrol and $38,490 for the diesel, both of them seven seaters. Part of the big jump for the LT is explained by the petrol engine switching to Holden's 190kW 3.0-litre V6 and the addition of all-wheel drive (AWD). The LT picks up a sunroof, bigger alloys, side steps, cloth trim with "Sportec" bolsters on the front seats and powered heated mirrors.
The LTZ's pricing is a mixed bag. Ordinarily, the V6-powered version would attract an rrp (carmakers insist we call it MLP, manufacturer's list price) of $40,490, with the diesel adding a thousand dollars to weigh in at $41,490. However, Holden is running a long promotion offering the LTZ V6 at $35,990 drive away with three years of free servicing.
The LTZ has 19-inch wheels, leather-look trim, electric driver's seat and front parking sensors.
You can choose one of seven colours - black, white, red, silver, blue, brown and grey and all but white will cost you $550. Orange is no longer on the menu, no matter how much you want it to be 2007 again.
Engine & trans
There's a diesel engine currently available, but the clock is ticking - Mahindra expects it to be phased out within six months. But the big news here is the new petrol engine, a turbocharged 2.2-litre unit good for 103kW/320Nm. It's paired exclusively with an Aisin-developed six-speed automatic transmission, and will send it's power to the front or all four wheels.
Mahindra doesn't quote official performance figures, but those engine outputs hardly scream excitement, do they?
If you like a choice of engine size, you've come to the right place. The Captiva has three engine specs in the range - two petrols and a diesel.
The smaller petrol, a 2.4-litre four-cylinder, produces 123kW at 5600rpm and 230Nm at 4600rpm. Driving the front wheels, this motor is available with choice of gearbox, either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic. This 2.4 is only available on the LS and Active.
The 24-valve 3.0 SIDI V6 is available on LT and LTZ and produces 190kW at 6900rpm and 288Nm at 5800rpm.
The single diesel is a 2.2-litre iron block with common rail direct-injection and makes 135kW at 3800rpm and a stout 400Nm within a very usable range of 1750-2750rpm. You can have the oil burner in all three trim levels, driving the front wheels in the LS and four-wheel drive in the LT and LTZ.
Both the V6 and diesel are available only with the six-speed automatic transmission.
Unlike earlier Captiva models, none of these engines feature a timing belt. Those early engines suffered from issues related to the fabric belt while problems with the later timing chain driven engines are less common. Reliability of the V6 is well-proven in the Commodore while later four cylinders also perform well.
Zero to 100km/h performance varies between the engines. The 2.4 will reach 100km/h in around 10.5 seconds while the V6 is rather quicker at 8.6. The diesel falls right in the middle at 9.6 seconds.
We've not yet carried out a towing review, but according to Holden, towing capacity is rated at 750kg for unbraked trailers and 2000kg braked.
If you're after good fuel economy, the Captiva probably isn't the car for you.
The 2.4-litre petrol is quoted at 9.7L/100km on the combined cycle but, as we recently discovered, is more likely to return closer to 12.5L/100km.
Diesel fuel consumption on the official combined cycle is listed at 8.5L/100km but our most recent test yielded a slightly startling figure of 12.9L/100km. The diesel's performance, particularly in the gears, is better than either petrol but it appears you'll pay for it.
The big banger V6's official fuel consumption figure is listed at 10.7L/100km, but past CarsGuide reviews suggest 14.0L/100km is a more likely real world figure. As far as fuel economy goes, diesel vs petrol usually falls to the diesel, but not in this case.
Fuel tank capacity is identical across the range at 65 litres.
About as old school as rocking a pair of button-up tracksuit pants with a Run-DMC cassette stuffed into your Walkman.
On a straight and unchallenging road, there's stuff to like about the petrol-powered XUV500. The engine, while gruff under heavy acceleration, doesn't feel too wheezy when you're not asking a great deal of it, and nor is the cabin overly loud at suburban speeds. It's a comfortable space for driver and passengers, too, and the gearbox performed seamlessly on our short test drive.
But that's about where the good news ends. There's an unshakeable agricultural feel to the way this Mahindra SUV goes about its business, and nowhere is that more obvious than through the steering wheel, which has only a vague and difficult relationship with the the front tyres, making it seriously tricky to approach twisting roads with anything approaching confidence.
The steering is slow and cumbersome - light when you first begin turning the wheel, with a ton of weight appearing by surprise midway through the cornering process - and it has a tendency to fight back should the front wheels find a bump or corrugation in the road, too.
The body lolls about when challenged, too, and the tyres are quick to give up their grip on tighter corners. All of which would give it a certain retro charm if it wasn't so very new, and I must admit I was cackling maniacally on some of the more twisting roads.
But it's simply not a car I could live with.
You sit on the Captiva rather than in it, a feeling encouraged by the flat, shapeless seats. It doesn't matter which Captiva you choose, the front seats are not exactly huggy but they'll certainly take people of all shapes and sizes.
You twist a funny knob where the key barrel used to be to start the engine. The view out front and out the sides is commanding as there is a fair bit of glass all around, with just the view out the rear window restricted as it's quite small. If you've got passengers, forget it, but the reversing camera will save the day there.
The ride is, for the most part, reasonable, but will deteriorate along with the road surface. The suspension isn't very quiet and the overall firm feeling delivers passable handling, which you'd expect from a big heavy machine like this. It doesn't have anything like the finesse of much younger metal from Hyundai, Kia and Mazda.
The diesel specs suggest strong performance and that's exactly what you get. It's by far the torquiest of the three engines and shifts the Captiva's two tonnes with reasonable verve. It's a noisy, grumbly unit but works well with the six-speed auto.
The engine specs of the two petrols don't really tell the story. While the V6 is quicker in a straight line, its extra weight knocks the shine off the torque increase and the engine itself isn't a shining example of modern engine tech. Actually, neither of them are, missing out on stop-start and other goodies.
This isn't an off-road review, but moderately ambitious mud-plugging is doable in the AWD models, with a ground clearance of 200mm but no low range or off-road mode. We even checked the manual to make doubly sure there wasn't a diff lock button hidden somewhere.
As ever, the idea here is that when you're buying a Captiva you're buying a lot of space and a cheap ownership experience.
Expect dual front, front-side and curtain airbags (though the latter don't extend to the third row of seats), along with rear parking sensors and ESP. Stepping up to the W8 trim adds a reversing camera with dynamic guidelines. The XUV500 was awarded a four-star (out of five) ANCAP assessment when tested in 2012.
The Captiva carries six airbags, ABS, traction and stability controls, hill descent control, brake force distribution, active rollover protection, brake assist and three ISOFIX points, in addition to the reversing camera and rear parking sensors.
The Captiva's maximum five star ANCAP safety rating was awarded in November 2011.
All XUV500s are covered by a five year/100,000km warranty (though the final two years apply only to the drivetrain), along with five years of complimentary roadside assistance.
The XUV500 is also covered by Mahindra's capped-price servicing program for the first three years of ownership, and will require servicing every six months or 10,000km.
As with all new Holdens, the Captiva owner benefits from a three year/100,00km warranty and lifetime capped price servicing. All prices are available on Holden's website.
Service costs for the diesel are significantly higher than the either of petrols, but do include oil changes.
The standard package also includes a year of roadside assist.
For common faults and complaints, check out our Holden Captiva problems page, which covers known automatic transmission problems, engine problems and diesel problems. There aren't any widespread diesel engine problems with the later version.
Resale value is often a consideration and we've looked at the last major update, released in 2014.
A seven seat Series II LS from 2014 - the second major update for the Captiva after the 2011 update addressed lingering problems - cost $30,490 when new and will trade at around $13000-$15000, below fifty per cent of the purchase price, with private sales a little higher.
An LTZ diesel from the same period sold for $41,490 and trades in the 45 to 50 per cent of purchase price and a little over 50 per cent in private sales.