Vauxhall Antara to the four and two
Vauxhall has tweaked its Antara SUV with a new engine and the addition of two-wheel drive.
As any car executive will tell you, moving with the times is key to survival. Market trends and customer buying habits change so often now that you can't stand still.
When first launched, Vauxhall's Antara allowed the brand to move into the expanding 'soft-roader' market. The car's chunky looks and smart blend of Vauxhall design added a sense of familiarity to its go (almost) anywhere abilities thanks to the inclusion of all-wheel drive.
Second time around, and the Antara retains its trademark purposeful looks, although there's been a general tidy up fore and aft – new lights and grille. It also gains an electronic parking brake and a new diesel engine in two states of tune plus the option of front-wheel drive. Mechanically these options fit well with the current focus on lower emissions and fuel consumption. A predictable but welcome refining of the car's on-road behaviour also forms part of the update package.
It shouldn't come as a surprise that the Antara is a spacious and accommodating car. What is a surprise is that it rivals some full-size sport utility vehicles (SUV) for a general feeling of roominess, despite a similar-sized footprint to a conventional family estate.
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The cabin also boasts a more upmarket ambience than before. Higher quality plastics and contrasting trims have done much to boost the car's aesthetic appeal.
There's a school of thought that believes such a policy will help lure buyers away from more expensive premium SUVs as some choose to downsize for cost-saving reasons. Certainly, the general fit, finish and overall feel of the revised cabin lends weight to this argument.
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On the road the Antara corners well with a minimum of body roll and stops with little effort. The ride is compliant but Vauxhall engineers have opted for a slightly firm set-up to boost driver enjoyment. Even with big wheels fitted, the Antara copes well with the usual urban hazards.
Normally at this point it would be time to talk about the car's all-wheel drive performance. However, in line with an increasing number of rivals, front-wheel drive is now an option. Predictably this is a great choice for buyers who will never venture away from the security of tarmac and are relatively undemanding when it comes to towing caravans or trailers. The trade-off is slightly better fuel consumption and CO2 emissions from the 2.2-litre turbo diesel engine.
For some, though, the attraction of all-wheel drive is easy to justify. The 'on-demand' system offers the best of both worlds. Only working when it's needed, the system is smart, effective and quick to respond in changing conditions. Ordinarily power is sent to the front wheels, but when a loss of grip is detected that balance can change to as much as 50pc to the rear wheels depending on conditions. Factor in hill descent control and you're all set for that muddy hill ahead.
Vauxhall's new 2.2-litre, Euro 5 diesel motor can be had with either 163 or 184hp, with the former also available for front-drive variants. The lower power unit combines 44.8mpg with a CO2 rating of 167g/km. The higher power option delivers 42.8mpg and 175g/km CO2.
Both prove exceptionally quiet and refined and lack the noisy, rattly attributes that are still a feature of some rivals' engines. Acceleration is brisk, especially with the 184hp Antara, and the standard six-speed manual gearbox can be swapped for a six-speed auto – both new.
Available in two trim levels and packing a considerable amount of standard fit safety and comfort equipment, Vauxhall's revised Antara offers drivers a refined and enjoyable driving experience.
As an alternative to a conventional family car, the five-seat SUV's practical cabin easily accommodates an active lifestyle, while the all-wheel drive element will be the icing on the cake for anyone seeking break away from the beaten track.
Price: Vauxhall Antara 2.2 CDTi SE 184, �25,455 on the road (range from �19,995)
Engine: 2.2-litre, 184bhp turbo diesel
Transmission: Six-speed manual driving all four wheels.
Performance: 0-60mph 9.6 seconds; top speed 124mph
CO2 emissions: 175g/km