Vauxhall's Antara makes sense for buyers wanting a luxurious compact SUV with head-turning looks
Memories of the Frontera can be banished to the history books - the Antara is worlds apart from its dated predecessor. Despite sharing many parts with Chevy's Captiva, the new car has a more upmarket feel. Don't be put off by the limited engine range - the diesel is ideal - although the auto increases costs and ruins performance. The Antara makes sense for buyers wanting a luxurious compact SUV with head-turning looks.
Heading into the rough for the first time since 2004, Vauxhall is ready to make a splash with its all-new 4x4!
The Antara follows in the tracks of its recently launched sister car, the Chevrolet Captiva. But it will have its work cut out convincing buyers it's a match for the likes of Land Rover.
Built alongside the Chevy in Korea, the new Vauxhall has a similar shape. On closer inspection, the two models take on different appearances. Smaller headlamps and accurately designed bumpers give the Antara a classier look - there's even a Jaguar-like vent behind the front wheels. The rear has attractive lights and a sloping tailgate, plus neat detailing that helps put the Vauxhall ahead in the style stakes.
Inside, the appealing design continues. While the basic ergonomics are identical to those in the Captiva, the newcomer's dashboard is a great deal more satisfying. Round vents and Vauxhall dials ensure the Antara has a more European feel, while the standard leather trim fitted to our SE model was very comfortable.
Sitting in the back of the Vauxhall, you'll also find that there is ample head and legroom. But unlike in the Captiva, seven seats are not offered as an option. With a high boot floor, there isn't a huge amount of luggage space, either, so if you want to shift large loads, a compact family estate offers superior practicality.
Only two engine options are available: a 2.4-litre petrol unit, which is likely to account for a tiny proportion of Antaras sold, and a 2.0-litre diesel with 148bhp. The oil-burner delivers a blend of strong performance and decent economy, and can also be specified with an automatic gearbox.
However, even before you take a test drive, it's clear that the manual is the better option. The self-shifter blunts performance, and CO2 emissions rise by 20 per cent to 238g/km, putting it in the top tax band.
Out on the road, the Antara offers a broad range of abilities, but it never leaves the driver in any doubt that it is a 4x4. It doesn't provide the car-like agility of class competitors such as the Honda CR-V, and although it's comfortable and has more direct steer-ing than the Chevrolet, the Vauxhall feels rather cumbersome when you change direction at speed.
We've got no complaints with the ride, however, which soaks up motorway bumps with ease. And when it comes to heading off the beaten track, the Antara proves capable, with automatic hill descent control as standard alongside the all-wheel-drive system. In everyday conditions, drive is sent to the front tyres, but the set-up can feed up to half of the engine's power to the rear wheels when necessary.
While other models in Vauxhall's line-up have an array of different variants, the new 4x4 is available only in three trim levels. Because the car is built in job lots in Korea, specification choice is limited - all versions come well equipped, but look expensive as a result. Buyers will have to really want the standard satellite navigation, park-ing sensors and other luxuries to look past the £27,795 price of this automatic diesel-powered range-topper.
If you need seven seats, the Captiva or Hyundai's Santa Fe are both cheaper and more practical options. Meanwhile, Land Rover's more prestigious Freelander carries a similar price, but doesn't offer such a long list of standard equipment.
Vauxhall has produced a good all-rounder in the Antara, and the only factor to hold it back is its pricing.