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First drive: Vauxhall Antara – on sale now



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Antara is Vauxhall’s first SUV since Frontera production stopped in 2003. Its parent, General Motors UK, realises that although it’s a late entry, there’s still more growth to be had in the soft-roader segment. Which is why GMUK has simultaneously launched the Captiva for its value brand, Chevrolet.

Antara and Captiva share platform and engines, but that’s where the similarity ends. Antara will be pitched as the more premium SUV of the two, targeting empty-nesters in their 40s and 50s.

Vauxhall hopes it will appeal to owners of larger 4x4s under pressure to go more green and who don’t want to feel short changed on quality and equipment. Captiva is family-orientated, and aimed at buyers from mid-30s to early-40s, particularly SUV first timers.

Marketing of Antara will be relatively low-key, through dealer events, posters and print advertising. No TV advertising is planned, unlike Captiva’s current campaign. GMUK said Captiva’s contribution to Chevrolet is more important than Antara’s to Vauxhall, hence the emphasis. Sales volumes will be similar.

Between the two cars the styling is distinct, and no Antara will be available with seven seats, as most Captiva models are.

All Antara variants have ‘intelligent’ four-wheel drive, which keeps the car in two-wheel drive except when additional traction is necessary, whereas the Captiva’s range includes an entry-level car with front-wheel drive only.

A 2.4-litre petrol engine powers the lowest priced Antara, but this will account for a fraction of the 4,000 to 5,000 registrations expected in 2008. Models with the 2.0-litre CDTi turbodiesel will take 90% of sales, with around a third with automatic transmission.

In lowest-spec E trim, Antara comes equipped with ESP, descent control, air-con, front foglamps and 17in alloys. Diesel versions also get self-levelling suspension and a trailer stability programme. The mid-range S, predicted to be the best seller, gains electronic climate control, heated front seats, cruise control, chilled glovebox, automatic headlamps and wipers and 18in alloys.

Top-spec SE adds DVD sat-nav, CD changer, leather seat and door facings, Bluetooth connectivity, Xenon headlamps, auto-dim mirrors, tyre pressure monitors and parking sensors.

However, buyers may baulk at the £26,320 price. The transaction price will need to be at least £1,000 lower to compete with its rivals.

Behind the wheel

On the road Antara is well behaved, and, while its cornering ability is not quite car-like, it is accomplished enough.

Its suspension is noticeably tauter than Captiva’s and the steering is more direct. The ride cannot be faulted, as it soaks up bumps with ease – a view reinforced on an off-road section of loose gravel and potholes which Antara tackled in safety and comfort. Its intelligent 4x4 system directs up to 50% of power to the rear axle when loss of front traction is detected, and hill descent control can keep the vehicle below 10mph on slopes.

Both transmissions are stress-free. The automatic option is at the expense of performance, price and higher CO2 emissions, but some buyers will desire its smooth, effortless gearchanges.

Driven: Vauxhall Astra GTC 2.0 CDTi SRi

Two door handles and a roof aerial are the only bodywork items the GTC has in common with other Vauxhall Astras.

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