My wife has two phobias which are not best suited to life in WA - sharks and SUVs.

The first can at least be controlled by staying well out of the ocean but the second is a bit harder, considering they dominate this State's roads and carparks.

She's only ever driven two versions of the Toyota Yaris, so whenever I've given her the opportunity to try a big brute she's been freaked out by its sheer size and her inability to see over the long bonnet. In fact, I think she'd rather take her chances in the water at Cottesloe.

Until she was forced to drive the new Holden Captiva 7.

It was her turn to do the school band practice drop-off and, with five girls to ferry around, the Yaris wasn't going to cut it.

When she asked if she could borrow the Captiva I was surprised. After all, my first impression of the LTZ was that it was a bit of a tractor - the steering wheel is big (albeit with leather wrap), the turning circle is bigger, the interior trim a bit plastic-y with some needless faux wood panelling and the noise from the 2.2-litre turbo-diesel engine way too loud.

It was certainly lagging behind its rivals, the Toyota Kluger and Nissan Pathfinder, which I've enjoyed in the past few months.

Anyway the Captiva 7, as its name suggests, has seven seats, which meant room to breathe for the growing girls. And those seats were comfy leather, the front two of which were heated, while the kids could climb in easily thanks to side steps which come standard on the LTZ along with roof rails.

When she returned, I braced myself for a rant about how she couldn't see over the top of the steering wheel and couldn't park it. Instead, she asked nicely if she could take it to work the next day because she wouldn't have time to put petrol in the Yaris.

In fact, it was a struggle to get the Captiva off her after that, meaning after almost four years in Australia, this country of big cars had another convert. And, to be honest, I was converted too.

First up there's the price. The top-spec LTZ can be yours for $40,990 plus on-road coasts, while a similar-level Pathfinder is $54,490 and the range-topping Kluger variant an eye-watering $67,990 (although they do have bigger engines). Even the base model Captiva, the 2.4-litre petrol LS two-wheel-drive is $29,990 plus on-roads, compared with $39,990 and $40,990 for the Pathfinder and Kluger entry models.

What's more, get in there before the end of the financial year and you can have a Captiva 7, with sunroof, for $28,990 drive-away after a $1000 cashback.

You also have 400Nm of torque and an all-wheel-drive set-up that ate up any verge or rough ground I threw at it around the suburbs. And once you're on the move the diesel quietens down, you don't feel as if you have a small-ish engine and the six-speed automatic transmission has better gear ratios than I found in its little brother, the Trax.

Plus, thanks in part to an "Eco mode" button, the diesel Captiva has a combined fuel use of 8.1L/100km, significantly lower than the petrol-only Pathfinder (10.2) and Kluger (10.6).

Inside, there's 85 litres of storage with all the seats up and 465 litres with the back row down and fitting neatly into the floor. Plus you get a cavernous 920 litres to play with if you pop the middle 60:40 split seats down. Go further and tilt the front passenger's seat forward, and you can fit in something up to 2.7m long.

There's also full connectivity via the 7-inch touch screen, although, for the life of me, I couldn't work out how to program an address into the garish-looking sat nav. But you do have hill start and decent control, keyless entry and start, reversing camera and rear curtain airbags.

All important things that could keep my wife interested in SUVs.

If you're willing to compromise on a little bit of luxury, the Captiva 7 offers SUV driving and loads of carrying capacity at a decent price. It looks good, too.

Model LTZ
Price $40,990
Engine 2.4-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel
Outputs 135kW/400Nm
Transmission Six-speed automatic
Thirst 8.1L/100km

Model ST AWD
Price $44,490
Engine 3.5-litre V6 petrol
Outputs 190kW/325Nm
Transmission CVT automatic
Thirst 10.2L/100km

Model GX AWD
Price $44,990
Engine 3.5-litre V6 petrol
Outputs 200kW/337Nm
Transmission Six-speed automatic
Thirst 10.6L/100km

Model Si CRDi
Price $41,990
Engine 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel
Outputs 145kW/346Nm
Transmission Six-speed automatic
Thirst 7.3L/100km

The West Australian

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