Antara is a high-riding estate that handles quite engagingly for one of its type
This is really a Chevrolet Captiva
Chassis changes involved extensive retuning to reduce roll and sharpen steering
Interior upgrades include new seats, extra storage space and classier instruments
Interior has been reworked in a bid to civilise the Antara
What is it?
It’s still modestly handsome, the Antara SUV, but it’s far from Vauxhall’s most polished product and last year sales fell spectacularly from a not-that-high 1421 in 2009 to a decidedly poor 380 in 2010.
Vauxhall says this 73 per cent tumble came about because it deliberately stopped promoting the car in anticipation of these upgrades, but it’s also because it knew the original edition wasn’t up to snuff, figuring that a proper sales push would be more effective with a reworked Antara.
The makeover has been fairly extensive, even if the car looks pretty much the same as it did before, the chief identifier being a new grille.
Besides a pair of all-new diesels, the chassis, NVH and interior have all been reworked in a bid to civilise the Antara – and there’s now an entry-level front-wheel-drive version costing £19,995. The 2.2 CDTi diesel engines come with either 161 or 182bhp, the lesser model serving 258lb ft to the 295lb ft of the more potent edition, both peaks arriving at 2000rpm. So there’s plenty of torque underfoot, channelled to six-speed manual or automatic transmissions. The petrol option is no more.
What’s it like?
Chassis changes involved extensive retuning to reduce roll, sharpen steering precision and improve the ride, hardware highlights including new MacPherson strut top bushes, a stiffer front anti-roll bar and hydraulically damped trailing arms for the multi-link rear suspension.
The steering gear is more rigid, while the NVH improvements run to hydraulic engine mountings, additional lamination of the windscreen and attention to everything from the front body frame to the door seals, the air intake and more. Read the list in full and it’s easy to conclude that GM was less than happy with the manners of the original Antara.
That the interior gets an electronic parking brake, more storage space, upgraded seats, new door trims, classier instruments and improved lighting suggests that it wasn’t completely happy with what was in the cabin, either.
For the most part, this detail attention has been effective, as are the new diesels. The Antara certainly isn’t the best compact SUV in the class, but it isn’t the most expensive either – particularly as a front-driver, in which form it’s brisk enough to break 62mph in 9.9sec.
A shame, then, that the manual gearchange is obstructive (it’ll improve, says Vauxhall) and the central storage box forces you to crank your arm oddly when going for second in the left-hookers we tried. In right-hookers it will be sixth, if not fourth too. More relaxing (if rather more money) is the 4x4 auto. It’s well matched to the engine and allows the Antara to advance with soothing authority, especially as it now handles rather tidily, both in two and four-wheel drive formats.
As promised, it rolls less and steers with greater precision, grips pretty well and resists understeer, the net result being a high-riding estate that handles quite engagingly for one of its type, if with a firm ride.
The interior? It’s mostly better, but it tries too hard to hide its cheapness; bolt-heads at the bottom of the centre console cubby are evidence. In addition, the electronic handbrake is too fiddly, the centre stack dated and the optional sat-nav system obtuse.
Should I buy one?
Truth is that though a better car and worth considering at its base price, this is really a Chevrolet Captiva and not worthy of the standards set by the latest European-engineered Vauxhalls – nor the best of the opposition.
Vauxhall Antara 2.2 CDTi
Price: £19,995; Top speed: 117mph; 0-62mph: 9.9sec; Economy: 44.8mpg; CO2: 167g/km; Kerb weight: 1885kg; Engine: 4 cyls, 2231cc, turbodiesel; Power: 161bhp at 3800rpm; Torque: 146lb ft at 4200rpm; Gearbox: 6-spd manual