Russ SmithSee other Advice articles filed in ‘Used tow car buyer’ written by Russ Smith
Competing at the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V end of the market, the (mostly) 4x4 Antara replaced Vauxhall’s Frontera. Don’t imagine that it has Luton stamped all over it, though: the Antara – like its rebadged sister, the Chevrolet Captiva – is built in Daewoo’s factory in Korea.
Prices for 2010-on facelifted examples start from around £7000, earlier cars selling for even less.
So it's pretty affordable. And the fact it is built in Korea shouldn’t put you off – Korean build quality is pretty good, although some of the technology lags slightly behind that of rivals.
It is a chunky and roomy five-seater that offers a lot of equipment, and always at a price that undercuts Japanese cars, which they still do on the secondhand market.
Though not known for their handling prowess – they get rolypoly when pressed – or snappy gearchanges, they are at home on main roads. They’ve also won friends for their towing ability, thanks to a decent towing limit, self-levelling suspension and Hill Start Assist on post-2011 models.
The Antara was launched in the UK in July 2007 with a 2.0 CDTi turbodiesel engine producing 147bhp and 236lb ft of torque. Vauxhall also offered a 138bhp 2.4 petrol-engined version, but so few people bought one that it’s not worth considering as a realistic option. At the time of writing, of the 590 used Vauxhall Antaras for sale on one website, five ran on petrol.
There was, however, the option of five-speed manual or automatic gearboxes, which are more evenly split; self-shifters are just in the minority.
Equipment was good. Even the base-spec Antara E got traction control, electric windows, reach and rake-adjustable steering, heated electric mirrors, alloy wheels, ABS, air-con and roof rails.
S trim added climate control, part-leather heated seats, larger alloys and cruise control. SE topped it off with full leather seats, parking sensors, headlamp washers, a six-CD changer and optional body-coloured bumpers.
The range was given a refresh in December 2010, with a revised grille (featuring a distinctive new Griffin logo), headlamps and tail-lights. It also got a more modern-looking interior that had better storage, especially in the centre console.
The overhaul extended to all of the mechanicals: the petrol engine was dropped and a new Euro 5-compliant 2.2-litre turbodiesel was unveiled with 160bhp and 181bhp outputs. The lesser-engined models could be had with two- or four-wheel drive. A bargain-basement 2WD-only Exclusiv got less kit. The fruitier engine came with adaptive four-wheel drive.
All Vauxhall Antaras were now equipped with six-speed gearboxes, in manual or auto. Despite the increase in engine size and power, fuel consumption improved slightly. The still-not-brilliant handling was at least improved by revised spring and damper settings, and the SE model gained 19in alloys.
You don’t expect to find corrosion in cars this new, and the Antara is as good as anything else on that score. However, look for problems on the tailgate. The handle/numberplate lamp assembly can cut into the paint and expose bare metal, so check the area carefully.
There have been a few issues with throttle-pedal sensors, although only on cars with automatic gearboxes. The symptom is a sluggish throttle response. Pay attention to that during your test drive because it can prove reluctant to be fixed.
Do not, however, confuse this with the generally disappointing performance – especially from the 2.0 CDTi.
The Antara’s economy figures in normal driving are way off the manufacturer’s claims – by around 25%. In real-world driving, you’ll rarely better 30mpg and, when towing, you can expect mpg figures in the low 20s.
On manual cars, make sure that the clutch operation is free from slippage and smooth – no jerking or clonks.
There have been reports of dual-mass flywheel failures at surprisingly low mileages and replacing one, in addition to a new clutch, can land you with a bill close to £2000.
You should also check a car’s mileage reading against its service and MoT history. A few owners have reported Antaras ‘clocking’ themselves – that is, the digital odometer resetting itself to a significantly lower level. It’s not hard to imagine some owners seeing that as something of a bonus and not reporting it.
This makes an Antara without all its documentary history suspicious. But remember that you can get a car’s MoT history via the DVSA website, and that will show past mileage readings.
Vauxhall Antaras were far from exciting when new, but have also suffered greater depreciation than many competitors, so have become more appealing as a secondhand buy.
They make decent tow cars, too, as long as you adjust your expectations and don’t anticipate getting a technological tour de force.
It’s like buying something half a generation older. If you know the score, that’s not half bad.
We think the best used Vauxhall Antara to buy is the 2.2 CDTi SE (181bhp) version. Yes, it is the most powerful variant with the most kit. But it tows better and is only £200 more than the less gusty version.
However, we'd avoid the 2.2 CDTi Exclusiv 2WD version. Not only does it not have the benefit of four-wheel drive, it’s also been stripped of any goodies.
What you need to know
Here we are looking at Vauxhall Antaras built between 2007 and 2015. Right now, prices range from about £3500 to £18,000.
As usual, it is best to ignore the lowest quoted price and accept that the good stuff starts somewhat higher, say around £4250 upwards for something with the right history and less than 100,000 on the clock.
Add another £1000 or so and you can acquire a top-spec SE model with 65,000 miles and one previous owner; we found a number like that.
Post-facelift models without mega mileage on them start at £7000 for an Exclusiv, £7500 with 4WD and more like £8250-plus for the much-harder-to-find 181bhp models.
Here are some useful figures (for a 2009 Vauxhall Antara 2.0 CDTi):
- Kerbweight 1795kg
- 85% match 1526kg
- Towing limit 2000kg
- Towball limit 150kg
If you're looking to fit a towball to an Antara, a Witter flange towbar will be £105.12 and a Westfalia detachable towbar will cost £199.20, fitting extra (quotes supplied by PF Jones).
And what about servicing? We got quotes for a Vauxhall Antara 2.0 CDTi from Servicing Stop which state that an interim service will cost £128.80 and a full service will come to £198.15.