Vauxhall Antara review
The Vauxhall Antara rivals the Ford Kuga and VW Tiguan, with a good-value price and plenty of kit
The Vauxhall Antara has a lot going for, with rugged looks, generous kit levels and a value price tag all in its favour. However, it has failed to make an impact in the compact SUV sector since it was launched back in 2007, having been overshadowed by more popular rivals like the Ford Kuga, Volkswagen Tiguan and Toyota RAV4. A facelift at the beginning of 2012 included a new look, a new engine and a better quality interior, but it hasn’t improved the car’s fortunes and the Antara is still something of a rare sight on UK roads. One of its biggest problems is a lack of choice; there are only two trim levels and one engine to choose from, while the high emissions and disappointing fuel economy also limit its appeal. As you’d expect, it’s available with either two-wheel or four-wheel-drive transmissions, with all models benefitting from hill decent control.
Our choice: 2.2 CDTi (163) Exclusiv AWD
With its high-riding stance, sharp creases and tough looking plastic body mouldings, there’s no denying that the Vauxhall Antara has plenty of kerb appeal. It’s not the best looking 4x4 in its class, but it’s certainly more eye-catching than the bland VW Tiguan. The 2012 facelift brought the Antara up to date with the rest of the line-up, with the firm’s new front grille and Griffin logo, and tweaked light clusters at the rear. It’s just a shame the interior doesn’t live up to the promise of its exterior. The facelift included extra storage, new trim materials and improved instruments, but the switchgear still looks a feels very dated, while the materials are still a bit low rent. There are still just two trim levels to choose from - Exclusiv and SE Nav – but all versions come well equipped. Standard kit includes 17-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning, heated front seats, front fog lights and privacy glass, while four-wheel-drive models also get cruise control, parking sensors and larger alloys. SE Nav adds huge 19-inch alloy wheels, automatic lights and wipers, Xenon headlamps and extra chrome trim.
Although the Antara can’t match the Ford Kuga and VW Tiguan for involvement from behind the wheel, it does have precise steering, good body control and a supple ride. It also offers decent refinement, which makes it relaxing to drive. Four-wheel-drive versions are available and provide plenty of reassurance in wet or icy conditions. Plus, they’re surprisingly capable off-road, too. There’s only one engine - a smooth and torquey 2.2 CDTi diesel, which is available with either 161bhp or 182bhp. A six-speed manual gearbox is standard across the range, while four-wheel-drive models can be had with a six-ratio automatic that delivers slick shifts but does sacrifice performance. It’s easy to get comfortable behind the wheel, though, with plenty of seat and steering wheel adjustment, while the high driving position gives a commanding view of the road ahead.
Vauxhall has worked hard to improve the reliability of its models over the last couple of years, and owners say they’re already noticing the benefits. Newer cars like the Insignia and Meriva are ranking well in our Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, in 21st and 32nd place respectively in the 2012 Top 100. The Antara is still something of a rare sight on UK roads and hasn’t yet made its way into the results, but Vauxhall finished a decent 13th overall as a brand – ahead of BMW and Audi. The Antara’s mechanicals are tried and tested in other Vauxhall models, so should prove durable. Plus, the first owner of the car benefits from a unique warranty that lasts the lifetime of the car, up to 100,000 miles. As for safety, the Antara hasn’t been subjected to a Euro NCAP crash tests, but that’s no reason to suspect it would perform badly if put to the test. All versions come with front, side and curtain airbags and a host of driver aids including electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes, traction control, hill start assist and adaptive brake lights, which flash rapidly during an emergency stop.
Compact SUVs are famed for their family-friendly versatility, and the Antara is no exception. The boot measures in at 420 litres, which expands to 1,420 litres with the rear seats folded. This is only slightly less than the Chevrolet Captiva, which manages 477 and 1,577 litres respectively, but its miles behind boxier rivals like the Toyota RAV4 and Hyundai Santa Fe. That said, swinging open the large tailgate reveals a usefully low loading lip, while SE Nav cars come with a folding front passenger seat as standard for when you want to carry extra long loads. Inside, there’s enough space for five adults, while those in the back get class-competitive head and legroom, too. There are also plenty of useful storage cubbies and lidded compartments, as well as a foldout rear armrest. Finally, the combination of four-wheel drive and standard self-levelling suspension makes the Vauxhall an excellent choice for towing. Every Antara comes with a space-saver spare wheel as standard.
If you look past the long list of standard equipment and good-value price tag, you’ll discover some very high running costs. Even the most efficient model, which is the lower-powered front-wheel-drive model, emits 167g/km of CO2 and can only manage 45.0mpg. At the top of the range, the most powerful four-wheel-drive Antara with an automatic gearbox emits a hefty 205g/km and has an official fuel consumption figure of only 36.2mpg. Newer rivals like the VW Tiguan 2.0 TDI BlueMotion, are in another league – that manages a much more eco-friendly 53.3mpg and 139g/km. However, one of its biggest faults is its residual values, as the Antara will struggle to return 40 per cent of its value after three years. On the plus side, you won’t spend a fortune on extras, as sat-nav and metallic paint are the only items on the options list.