What is it?
Vauxhall’s new 4x4. The Antara arrives on the scene a full three years after the Frontera disappeared from dealers’ forecourts, but it’s not exactly a direct replacement.
The Antara is very much a soft-roader – Vauxhall says it’s in the ‘fun and fashion’ 4x4 segment. And that means that, most of the time, the Antara isn’t even four-wheel-drive; it’s front-drive, but an electro-hydraulic diff can divert up to 50 per cent of the power to the back wheels as necessary.
You may spot that the Antara looks a bit like the new Chevrolet Captiva. It is; the cars are siblings, but the Vauxhall has no seven-seat option. It’s also got a different interior and exterior, in fact, Vauxhall says that the only shared exterior piece is the windscreen.
There are two engines available: a 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol (only available in base E trim and with a manual gearbox) and a 2.0-litre diesel, with either a five-speed auto or five-speed manual. It’s the auto diesel we’ve tested here, in mid-spec S trim.
What’s it like?
Not bad at all. To our eyes it’s better looking than the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V, and the cabin quality is good. The stylish dash is far removed from the Captiva’s Lexus copy, and equipment levels are pretty high.
The diesel engine's reasonably refined, but sometimes you’re caught outside the power band, and no amount of kicking-down through the auto 'box helps. Most of the time, however, it's well-suited to the kind of driving the Antara encourages – smooth, efficient progress. The auto might sap some power, but it's preferable to the notchy manual.
The diesel gets automatic load levelling at the rear, which helps keep things even, and body control is good, for a 4x4. The ride is also good; this is a comfortable mile-coverer.
It's a shame that the steering feels as vague as a, err, you know …errr…teenager's conversation. The steering connections in right-hand-drive Antaras were re-engineered for better crashworthiness, and we suspect that this may have caused a lessening of feeling. Once you get used to it, though, you can place the Antara with confidence.
Should I buy one?
Hmmm. It's a difficult one, this, because there's a lot of choice in the small 4x4 market. You could have a RAV4, CR-V, Freelander, X-Trail, Qashqai, 4007 or Outlander, to name but a few and, well-equipped though it is, the Antara isn't the best of this batch.