Is the Holden Captiva a Lemon?

Holden Captiva 7. Verdict: Dog

Holden Captiva 7. Verdict: Dog


Hi John, I'm thinking of buying a Holden Captiva 7 LTZ next year, and I would like to know what your thoughts are about this car. Is it good or bad? Thanks for your advice,



Bad, in a nutshell. Very. I wouldn’t buy a Holden Captiva if my life depended upon it.  

Flashback to 2009: GM goes bankrupt; has zero cash to expend in R&D. The Holden Captiva was already a nasty mid-sized SUV shitbox built in the former Daewoo factory in South Korea, which was also so absolutely on the nose worldwide that they had to change its name, ultimately, to 'GM Korea'. But, trust me, if it walks like GM Korea, and quacks like GM Korea, best not step in it. 

Holden Captiva 7 - click to enlarge

The Holden Captiva can’t match other South Korean contenders like the Hyundai Santa Fe or Kia Sorento (Captiva 7 competitors) or the Hyundai ix35/Kia Sportage (Captiva 5 competitors). Basically the GFC was a springboard to success for Hyundai/Kia and a springboard to failure for GM/Holden.  

Holden Captiva owners experience a tremendous number of problems with the Captiva (and other GM Korea product) in part because of the calibre of GM’s manufacturing there, and in part because of under-done design, which is what happens when extreme cost cutting impacts on R&D. Not every Holden Captiva owner experiences problems, but if car ownership is a game of Russian roulette in respect of reliability and repair, then Holden Captiva owners are playing it with far too many of the chambers loaded. 

The Holden Captiva is a world-class, card-carrying lemon: far too risky a proposition for a rational buyer. Not every Holden Captiva is defective, obviously, but too many Captivas are, and getting it fixed is the next great adventure. The vehicles mentioned above - Hyundai Santa Fe, Hyundai ix35, Kia Sorento and Kia Sportage - are objectively superior in every respect.


Here's a fairly typical customer complaint >>

And this, from someone who contacted me via this website:

I've brought a holden captiva brand new on the 25 jan 2014. Last Tuesday night the car wasn't starting I was thinking it was the battery. So call the NRMA and got to car started. I got to work pulled into a parking spot and it stalled. So call NRMA again, and they said it was the starter motor. So they fixed it or bypassed something so I could get it to holden.

Once at holden they told me they would work on the problem. They told me they fixed the problem and said they would like to keep the car over night, but would be better driving it in traffic. So I took the car 3 hours later on the dash all these lights start flicking. 

So the next day I take it back down to holden. I tell them my confidence is lost in the car and would like a replacement, not a free one. Just a new one. So they tell me the car failed 3 times while testing it. That night the car sounded like a popcorn making machine. And was leaking petrol or oil out of the exhaust. 

So the next day I went to take it down to holden, I decided to video the noise it was making and on the drive down the car while driving loses power and comes to a stop in traffic. My wife and I are fighting over this. I just want the car replaced. 


The Holden Captiva seldom (or is that 'always'?) disappoints on the recall front - despite Australia's notoriously soft voluntary recalls policy. Since 2010:

  • Jan 2010: Fall-apart steering recall
  • Dec 2011: Fuel fire recall (below; click to enlarge)
  • Aug 2012: Dodgy brakes recall
  • Dec 2013: Fuel fire recall II

2011 - the inaugural Captiva fire risk recall. Happy times...


Thanks John for the honest opinion about the Holden Captiva. The other car I have considered, is the Colorado 7. What is your opinion on this car? I have always supported the local manufacturers and have own and driven only Holdens, I just love them, as I worked for the company for over 25 years, so you can see I am a bit brainwashed.

As this will be my last car, I am looking for a vehicle that I can in and out of easily , hence an SUV. 

Thanks again, 



Supporting local manufacturers seems like a fairly moot proposition at the present time because

  1. We’ve all been supporting them with billions in tax dollars that could have been put to better use, and
  2. They have so mis-managed that support that they failed - Holden most appallingly of all.

Buying a Holden Captiva isn’t really an example of supporting local manufacturing anyway.

Video: What REALLY killed Australian Car Manufacturing

The Holden Colorado 7 is a derivative of the Holden Colorado ute - and one thing you need to know is these wagons hastily adapted from utes tend to ride like utes, and be quite robust. So if you need a wagon with significant all-terrain capability, physical toughness, huge tow capacity (3.5 tonnes) and massive engine performance (500Nm) then the Holden Colorado 7 is an excellent choice. You also have to cop the relatively poor on-road and lightly loaded dynamic compromises that all this entails.

Holden Colorado 7 - click to enlarge

Holden Colorado ute - click to enlarge

Based on your earlier preferred vehicle (Holden Captiva) I guess you don't really need the things the Holden Colorado 7 is especially good at. (Climbing gnarly off-road trails, towing the QE2...)

Just for kicks (and also benchmarking) go for a test-drive in a Holden Colorado 7 and then test-drive an equivalently priced Hyundai Santa Fe (probably Santa Fe Elite or Santa Fe Highlander). Compare the two objectively. I’m a huge fan of the Hyundai Santa Fe - I don’t have any commercial arrangement with Hyundai other than to evaluate their products as a journalist. I just think it’s the SUV in the segment for benchmarking.

BENCHMARK: 2015 Hyundai Santa Fe - click to enlarge

You also get five years warranty with the Hyundai Santa Fe, with unlimited kilometres, plus capped price service for the life of the vehicle and 10 years free roadside assist with the Hyundai Santa Fe, so it's a compelling consumer support proposition as well as a fundamentally good vehicle.

Obviously there’s two sides to the purchasing proposition. There’s the subjective side (your 25-year fling with Holden) and the objective side (what’s dispassionately the best vehicle for particular needs & purposes). I can’t help you with the subjective bit - as a result of which you might buy the Holden Colorado 7 and love it (it’s not a dog). The Hyundai Santa Fe is more civilised, has more features and is objectively better ... unless you want to tow an ocean liner or ford a mighty river. (But it will do light off-roading easily.)

Fundamentally, you know, Hyundai has become today what Holden was in the 1970s and 1980s - a seller of highly suitable cars for mainstream Australians. Times have certainly changed.

Let me get the team from the brokerage (most likely Ben) to call you to assist with getting the lowest possible price, and develop a plan for actually acquiring the vehicle.


Thanks very much John for your honest assessment. I'll take it on board. As I stated in my last email, this car whatever I choose will be my last. As I just turned 70, this car will probably see me out.

I will contact Ben down the track as I am not buying until Feb.-March