Joining the lengthening SUV conga line this week is Vauxhall, which grabs the waist of Citroën, just before Peugeot leaps up from its seat, straightens its paper crown and links on the back.
It’s an interesting party, though, because behind the streamers, party poppers and Agadoo singalong is nervousness.
All these entrants won’t be going strong at the end, there are just too many of them.
Does the Antara have what it takes to keep going until the lights come on?
The Antara is a chunky-looking thing, resplendent in all the necessary trinkets of SUV-ery such as chrome skid plates, roof rails, side vents, bold grille and beefy alloys, although the rear looks a little weak in my eyes.
The interior is pretty much as you would expect from a Vauxhall, using many of the usual quality fittings from the rest of the range.
The chrome styling on the steering wheel is an uplifting touch and, although the car is built at GM’s Gunsan plant in Korea, there appears to be no drop in build quality over European-built machines.
Vauxhall has little pretension to off-road greatness with the Antara.
Despite the intelligent four-wheel drive that automatically sends drive to the back wheels if needed, for the majority of its life the front wheels will be doing all the work.
There’s also a Descent Control System which when activated uses the brakes to keep the car under 6mph for attacking the wilderness, as far as weaponry goes that’s about it.
Instead, Vauxhall is focused on the Antara’s road-going capabilities, with independent multi-link suspension at the rear and a self-levelling pump-based system rather than shock absorbers to keep everything taught while cornering.
Prices start at £19,995 and finish at £27,700, and there are three trim levels: E, S and SE.
The only option is metallic or mica paint – no doubt a logistical result of the car being built in Korea.
There are two engines, although there might as well be one. Looking rather a lame duck is the 2.4-litre petrol engine, a Korean cast-off that has somehow found its way into the Vauxhall range.
With 140bhp, it has less power than the diesel and manages less than 30mpg on the combined cycle. Slower and less efficient – no wonder it’s got no more than a cursory showing in the line-up as the entry-level model.
Of much more importance is the 2.0-litre diesel engine, which has 150bhp and 37mpg, and according to the press pack should take “more than” 90% of sales.
Less then 95% would be a surprise, even though it is £1,100 more expensive in the introductory E specification.
It’s not, however, the most efficient of engines: with 198g/km of CO2 for the manual the Antara is four benefit-in-kind tax bands higher than the 2.0-litre diesel Mitsubishi Outlander and its Volkswagen motor or the Honda CR-V.
Perhaps a little surprising is the estimate on the numbers Vauxhall expects to sell – 5,000 in a full year is not a whole heap of SUVs, especially when you look at the 12-15,000 unit a year success of an SUV like the CR-V.
Only a third are planned to be heading the way of fleet, again, a rather surprisingly unambitious figure of only 1,500 a year.
Consider the equivalent CR-V fleet sales figure of around 5,000, the fact that there is likely to be very little support and no TV advertising for the Antara and you’re left wondering whether Vauxhall really has its heart set on this car.
The Antara is resolutely designed for a family of five and no more. Those parents with bigger families will have to go elsewhere in the General Motors stable, to the seven-seat Zafira or Chevrolet Captiva.
There are no plans to increase the capacity of the Antara, and Vauxhall is positioning the car as a proposition for older couples, whose brood have already flown the nest, or at least have their own power.
Vauxhall thinks good solid people over the age of 45 will buy this car, perhaps as a reaction to having had too many dull saloons.
So while there is not expected to be heavy levels of support for the Antara for fleet purchasing, it should still be a competitive option because its residual values are predicted to be the strongest in the Vauxhall line-up.
CAP is predicting that the Antara will hold on to around 40% of its value new after three years/60,000 miles. The next best Vauxhall is the Astra TwinTop at 35%.
Behind the wheel
First off, forget about the petrol model.
There was a unanimous, negative verdict from all who drove it on the launch and apart from its cheaper entry price, it does nothing better than the diesel.
The diesel is obviously the stronger option, but it’s not Vauxhall’s usual excellent 1.9 CDTi. It’s a collaboration between GM Korea and GM Powertrain – and it shows.
It is noisy, especially at high revs, not especially quick and the gearchange is surprisingly baggy, but with SUV driving not really all about performance, it can just about be forgiven.
The steering is faster and more direct than its Captiva cousin but still retains enough vagueness to dissuade you from barrelling about the countryside like a hooligan.
There’s plenty of space in the cabin, the ride quality is pretty good and overall it is a perfectly engaging SUV without redefining the sector in any way.
The Antara is a decent SUV whose greatest strength is its handsome looks. No doubt with Vauxhall’s ability to sell good, solid cars, it stands a better chance than many of success.
|Model:||2.4||2.0 CDTi (auto)|
|Max power (bhp/rpm):||140/5,200||150/4,000|
|Max torque (lb-ft/rpm):||162/4,000||236/3,200|
|Max speed (mph):||109||113 (111)|
|0-62mph (secs):||11.9||10.3 (12.1)|
|Fuel consumption (mpg):||29.4||37.2 (32.8)|
|CO2 emissions (g/km):||229||198 (238)|
|Now Prices (OTR):||£19,995–£27,700|