autoevolution

OPEL Antara Review

OUR TEST CAR: OPEL Antara 2.0 CDTi

OPEL Antara  - Page - 1
Almost half a decade since last having a 4x4 in their model range, Opel have returned to the SUV segment. This time, their new weapon is more of an urban crossover instead of an oldschool SUV with body-on-frame and decent off-road capabilities. Or at least that's the kind of marketing the Russelsheim-based company is using to promote this model.

Opel's connection with the SUV segment was first made official in 1992, with the launch of the first generation of the Frontera SUV. Not long after that, the larger Monterey was also entering the Opel SUV family. Its fate wasn't as prodigious as that of the Frontera little brother, which also received a second generation, unlike the Monterey, which was withdrawn in 1999.

Sadly, even though it was the better seller of the two, the compact Frontera didn't manage to pass the test of time to a third generation, thus ending the Opel SUV story in 2003. Both the Monterey and the Frontera were actually bastard children from the General Motors-Isuzu union back then. None of them has any major Opel R&D pumped into them.

In fact, the Frontera was a rebadged and slightly re-styled Isuzu Rodeo/Wizard, while the Monterey was nothing but an Isuzu Trooper underneath those few German touches.

Coincidentally, the new Opel Antara is also having a similar fate concerning its origin, since it's not actually an Opel except for a few minor features in the interior and an exclusive exterior design. Underneath all that metal skin you can pretty much find, depending on what you want, a Holden/Chevrolet/Daewoo Captiva/Winstorm or a Vauxhall Antara/Saturn Vue. All hail globalization!

If that doesn't scare anyone away, maybe you'd also like to know that the Opel Antara is not even built in Germany, but in South Korea, along a part of its rebadged brothers. Last year, a new plant in Saint Petersburg, Russia, also began to manufacture the Opel SUV for the European market. We took an Antara equipped with a 2.0 CDTi diesel engine to the test, in its 150 hp guise.

When the Antara GTC concept appeared in 2005 at the Frankfurt Motorshow, pretty much everybody thought that the production version would look at least 50% as good when it arrives. That wishful thinking usually happens when talking about other car manufacturers. Apparently, not at Opel, since the production Antara only kept the front headlights and the name from the concept. Which is pretty much like a Mona Lisa reproduction made by a three-year old with crayons - not quite the same deal.

Pretty much everything about the Opel Antara screams "pig on wheels". Which, coincidentally or not, the Antara actually is. From some points of view, obviously. The front is very new-Opel-looking, which might actually pass as pretty to some people. The amount of pedestrian-friendly "plastic chrome" on the grille is a bit offensive on some eyes though, and most of us here at autoevolution found it a bit unnecessary. Also, the exterior rearview mirrors look a bit like Dumbo the Elephant's ears, if he were a cyborg.

Getting to the side of the car is where things actually get much worse. We're not exactly sure what actually happened, but we think that the designers probably got into a fight with the bean counters over what elements could be kept from the Antara GTC concept. Naturally, most of us first thought that the bean counters were the ones who won the fight, but after watching an interview with Stefan Arndt – Chief Designer for the Antara – we started having second thoughts. Apparently, in Arndt's vision, the profile of the production Antara was inspired by sports hiking shoes. Shoes!?! Seriously? Why would anyone want to drive a four-wheeled shoe?

Not to say that the overall proportions of the car are wrong, it's just that the design motifs taken from the Antara GTC concept don't look quite as good on a car as high and as narrow as the production version. The rear might actually be a near-perfect example of why tall and narrow never works in cars, only in trains.

As anti-climatic the exterior design is, especially compared to the concept, the interior on the other hand looks quite good. The materials used and the fit and finish are actually almost top notch, despite the fact that we didn't test the best-equipped Antara, but the Enjoy trim level, which is technically right in the middle. Sure, the whole center console and the dashboard are made from hard plastics, but all the buttons and knobs passed the "touch test". Also, we didn't notice any squeaks and rattles anywhere.

The overall interior space is nothing to be proud of considering the exterior dimension of the vehicle, but it's nothing to be ashamed of either. Feet, shoulder and headroom are perfectly acceptable for four passengers to travel comfortably or even five depending on the necessities. The luggage compartment on the other hand is just a bit bigger than that of a regular compact hatchback, which gets the Antara a pretty low mark from this regard.

What some of us actually hated about the Antara's interior were the height of the seats, especially the front ones. Of course, they are (manually) height adjustable in the trim we tested the car, but that didn't change the fact that driving the Antara is a bit like sitting on a bar chair. Some people might enjoy this driving position, some of us didn't.

Plus, the steering wheel (albeit manually height-adjustable as well) sits in a very awkward, van-like position. A taller driver driver might even take it for a vinyl disc and start acting like a disk jockey if the steering wheel is on its highest position. The overall ergonomics are very good though, and each button and knob is exactly where you'd want it to be.

Starting with this test drive, the autoevolution team will also provide an interior 3d panorama of the cars we're driving, to give our viewers a better idea of what is like to sit in the car. You can use the feature by clicking on the 3d viewer inside this text. We'd like to think that the user-friendliness of this idea is pretty good and we would love to hear some feedback on it from you guys.

On the whole, the Opel Antara isn't a very large crossover/SUV, even by modern standards. This, along with the rather high driving position and huge exterior rearview mirrors make for an excellent 360 degree view all around, which obviously is very helpful in traffic. Sadly, the car's rounded nose makes it a bit difficult to estimate all "corners" of the car when parallel parking.

To counteract this, the Enjoy trim level we tested was equipped with both front and rear parking sensors, which pretty much cancel almost any visibility problem towards the front. The two-liter CDTi oil-burner with Common Rail is quite a good choice of an engine for the Antara when talking about fuel economy. It's not the best choice for performance enthusiasts, but that's a different test chapter altogether.

In the version we tested, the VM Motori-sourced four-cylinder was mated to a five-speed automatic transmission which handled much better than we would have first expected. Unusual for a modern diesel, the engine's fuel economy seems to be very much influenced by the driver's right foot. We say this because during the busy city section of our test drive and using two different drivers we once managed around 13 liters per 100 kilometers (US 18.1 mpg), while a second driver achieved a rather high 15.9 liters per 100 kilometers (US 14.8 mpg).

Either way, despite being a pretty small engine and highly underpowered for such a heavy vehicle (150 hp and approximately 1950 kilograms/4300 pounds), the low down torque together with the nicely geared and rather fast-shifting transmission make for a pretty relaxed city-driving. The Antara 2.0 CDTi will definitely not land on any quarter mile racing enthusiast's Christmas wish list, but at low speeds it's easy to live with in heavy traffic.

Despite the marketing effort put into making people believe the Antara is a city dweller by definition – a sort of urban cruiser – when looking at the mildly high ground clearance and the fact that it has an all wheel drive transmission actually made some of us think this might behave quite reasonably outside the city. Well, it turns out this is not exactly the case, from quite a few points of view.

First of all, although benefitting from the expected low-down torque of a diesel engine and a pretty fast-shifting automatic transmission, the vehicle's enormous mass counteracts any sign of dynamism. It is simply far from easy to overcome the inertia of almost two tonnes with just 150 horsepower and 320 Nm (236 lb ft). The Antara 2.0 CDTi is so slow on the move that it can even make you scared to pass a long(ish) truck on the road if another car is seen coming towards you in the distance.

The five-speed automatic gearbox inefficiently tries to squeeze every bit of power from the engine in order to propel the car as fast as you'd want but that is technically impossible. You can't bend the laws of physics. The sad part is that it's not even the engine's or the transmission's fault; it all sits in the enormous weight of the car.

That same weight is also the main reason behind the Antara's boat-like movements whenever tackling a corner with too much optimism or when braking harder than usual. On the good side the car appears to be very comfortable when driven for longer distances, but only if you're not in that much of a hurry, since then it would become a bit tiring.

But wait, that's not all, what about its off-road capabilities? It DOES have an all-wheel drive system after all. Sure it does, but it's not a permanent one. In other words, for more than 99% of the time the Antara is a FWD, while the rear wheels should in theory only provide traction when the car is trying to pass over a small swamp or something. Other than that, only the front tires are pulling. In other words, no, the off-road performance is average at best.
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Our OPEL Testdrives:

autoevolution Jul 2009
59
History
5
Exterior
5
Interior
6
In the city
6
Open road
5
Comfort
6
Tech facts
7
Gadgets
5
Safety
8
Conclusion
6
63user rating 51 votes
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this review's
Guest Opinions

Sir May B. Bach

You know what I never liked about Opel? They have been Volkswagen's... ahem... b*tch ever since the guys from Wolfsburg launched that dreadful little car they call the Golf. The Golf spanked Astra's behind with each and every generation it came. Then came that awful-looking Passat which... ahem... spanked the Vectra in almost every market they compete on also. What is it with Opel guys anyway? Is it because they were under the... ahem... GM umbrella for so long?

You know what I never liked about Opel? They have been Volkswagen's... ahem... b*tch ever since the guys from Wolfsburg launched that dreadful little car they call the Golf. The Golf spanked Astra's behind with each and every generation it came. Then came that awful-looking Passat which... ahem... spanked the Vectra in almost every market they compete on also. What is it with Opel guys anyway? Is it because they were under the... ahem... GM umbrella for so long?

Did they get stupid over the years or something? I remember Opel made some pretty nice... ahem... cars until a few decades ago. The Opel Kapitan or the GT are just two of the models which... ahem... come to mind. I'm not really sure what happened since they morphed into the second "popular car manufacturer"... ahem... in Germany, after Volkswagen. Apparently they stayed that way since the seventies.

So, this... ahem... Antara all-wheel drive thingie is a direct competitor for the Volkswagen Tigu... whatever it's called? Good luck with that! I can't say I'm a big fan of Volkswagen either, but this really look like the... ahem... ugly duckling in the Opel range. A "sports hiking shoe" that guy said? Was he dropped in the head when he was... ahem... little? I enjoy my cars looking like ferocious animals or... better yet, like actual cars, not... ahem... sports footwear. I imagined the interior would smell like worn sports shoes as well.

Don't even get me started on the engine they... ahem... chose for powering this big hulk of metal. It sounds and actually is very... ahem... agricultural. why would they expect anyone to buy a car which is ugly, underpowered, kills off brain cells with its emissions and has an absolute... ahem... useless all-wheel drive system which isn't even working as it should?

Oh, it has Bluetooth connectivity for your cell phone. So what? My pack of albino chinchillas have diamond encrusted collars which also communicate via... ahem... Bluetooth with my remote. I can control every action they make, whether it's... ahem... peeing or copulating. Not that I'm a pervert or anything, don't get the wrong ideas. The thing is, the Opel Antara (what a stupid name, isn't it?) has nothing good on its side

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