Vauxhall Antara big softie and so sturdy

Iain Dooley says Vauxhall's sturdy Antara soft-roader will appeal to active families.

Engines – The first-generation Antara could be had with a 150hp diesel engine, which is certainly man enough for most tasks. A little noisy when cold and when pushed hard, the Vauxhall lump does offer plenty of pulling power for towing or light off-roading.

Exterior – With its chiselled looks and chunky stance, the Antara looks every inch the purposeful sport utility vehicle it sets out to be. With a good level of ground clearance fore and aft plus a wide opening tailgate revealing a low loading lip, nothing appears out of place.

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Interior – Owners of Vauxhall's regular offerings will feel at home in the Antara. The cabin layout is very similar to that of an Astra or Vectra, while the lofty driving position is perfect for seeing over hedges on countryside drives. The five-seat Antara boasts plenty of space plus a flat and wide rear load bay.

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Driving – Preferring not to be rushed, the Antara is most comfortable wafting along at sensible speeds. The diesel motor's ample power and torque make long journeys relaxing, while the 2.0-litre engine's ability to tow without complaint should please those with caravans. The car's part-time all-wheel drive system works well in all weathers.

Ownership – Viewed as a 'soft-roader' the Antara performs well. For many it will be viewed as a step up from a family hatch or estate, and in this context the Antara's flexible and spacious cabin is an improvement. It's also a manageable size for parking and urban driving, while its go-almost-anywhere abilities will appeal to active types.

What to look for – Few SUVs are pushed hard or ever get their wheels genuinely dirty, but that shouldn't stop you from checking an Antara's underside for damage and paying close attention to its behaviour on the test-drive. Cabin faults should be minimal – damaged upholstery and trim – while you should use your discretion when assessing exterior damage. Kerbed wheels, parking dents and scratches could hide a greater level of mechanical neglect, for instance.

Model history – 2007, Vauxhall launches Antara with diesel power and the option of an automatic gearbox. The five-seat Antara was offered with a good level of standard equipment and the ability to tackle moderately challenging terrain. Updated car was launched this year.

Reasons to buy – Comfortable, capable, spacious interior.

Reasons to beware – Plenty of rival offerings at his level, on-road refinement.

Pick of the range – Antara SE 2.0 CDTi.

What to pay – 2007 07 �12,025; 2007 57 �12,725; 2008 08 �14,700; 2008 58 �15,600; 2009 09 �17,150; 2009 59 �18,100; 2010 10 �19,900. Figures relate to showroom prices for cars in A1 condition.

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