The Antara was first launched as Opel's answer to the Land Rover Freelander and BMW X3 at the 2005 Frankfurt Motor Show. Developed from General Motors' three-door GTC concept, the Antara was designed as a four-wheel drive crossover promising saloon car plushness and off-road performance. The German marque's first off-roader makes a fine first impression. The Antara is a spacious, well-proportioned sports utility vehicle with a commanding, high-riding stance. More handsome than the fussy X3, but lacking the sharp style of the new Freelander, Opel's 4x4 seems sufficiently serious to draw glances outside Wellcome. The model borrows the Astra's rising belt line yet mercifully shuns the Zafira's wagon shape for a more contemporary sports-SUV look on 18-inch alloys. It retains the Opel bonnet crease and wide chrome bar accent on the grille but introduces new details such as crafted side air vents and an integrated turn indicator in the front wing. The interior blends fixtures from a top-of-the-line Opel sedan with sporty elements that have been designed to reflect the oomph of its V6. Large, distinctive instruments are ergonomically placed in the cabin's driver-orientated layout. Other eye-catching interior features include three large, round air vents on the dashboard and a distinctively shaped handbrake integrated into the floor console, a la Saab. The retro chocolate brown interior matches the dark plastics to give the cabin a luxurious feel. Fine touches include a leather steering wheel matching the upholstery, automatic interior lighting, cruise control, a front and rear parking pilot, and a heat-absorbing windshield with a rain sensor. Also standard are a CD/MP3 sound system with remote controls on the steering wheel regulating the volume of seven speakers around the cabin. All-round vision is excellent as you sit high in the driver's seat, while the optional tilt-and-slide electric sunroof (a HK$15,000 option) provides additional light. The telescopic steering column also tilts for extra comfort. Speed-sensitive power steering, power windows and mirrors are standard. The Antara's versatile layout easily seats five adults. There's an impressive 933mm of rear leg room and some clever storage options, thanks to Opel's Flex-Fix storage system, which provides many compartments first seen in the Zafira and Astra wagon. The 370-litre boot with luggage compartment cover increases to 865 litres when the rear bench seat is folded down and up to 1,420 litres when loaded to the roof. The rear seat-back can be split 60:40 and folded forward and storage boxes under the load floor assist with the organisation of the luggage compartment nets and dividing walls. Rods and hooks can be snapped into two rails on the side walls of the Antara's luggage compartment, allowing the boot to be separated into different sections to protect the cargo. Opel seems as keen on storage as its Japanaese rivals, for you'll find a drawer under the passenger seat, a sunglasses holder in the roof liner, nets on the front seat backs and compartments in the front, rear and centre arm rests, and even more storage in the rear wheelhouses. The Antara is sold in Hong Kong with the top-of-the-line 3.2-litre Ecotec engine. With its five-speed automatic transmission incorporating ActiveSelect, the V6 engine can whoosh the Antara to a top speed of 203km/h, which is respectable for a heavyweight SUV. Opel is proud of the Antara's intelligent, active four-wheel-drive system, which promises tractional stability when accelerating and increased driving dynamics. Under normal conditions, Opel says, the Antara is a pure front-wheel-drive car but additional power can be 'quickly and seamlessly' distributed between the front and rear axles at a ratio of up to 50:50 when needed. The reality, however, doesn't quite match the marque's claims. The Antara isn't short of power, but there's a noticeable lag from the transmission when you try to press the SUV into overtaking. With only two passengers on a flat road to Shek O, the gearbox scrambles to propel the 1,820kg dead weight into action - and when the power does come, it's neither as seamless nor as fast as Opel would have you think. Where the Antara does excel is in its composed handling and active safety features. It has a firm-yet-pliant ride and body roll is well suppressed, thanks to anti-lock braking and stability electronics, solid sports suspension and a stiff body shell. Ventilated disc brakes and a modern, four-channel ABS halt the SUV effectively and hydraulics take over the brake assist function in an emergency, the marque says. The descent control system saves you from having to brake on hills and is handy in Hong Kong. Active rollover protection can apply high braking pressure within milliseconds to individual wheels to prevent toppling, the marque says. The Antara's standard safety package includes front and thorax/pelvis side airbags for the driver and front passenger, head curtain airbags for the front and outer rear seats and an optional tyre pressure monitoring system (HK$12,000 offered with bi-xenon headlights). The Antara is not a bad first attempt at an SUV, but it falls short of a Freelander. If you factor in the cost of the optional extras, it's only about HK$20,000 cheaper than the Land Rover, less engaging to drive and could suffer worse depreciation. What's more, if you're in the market for a mid-range five-seater SUV, the cheaper Mitsubishi Outlander (from HK$265,000) delivers the same fuel economy with much lower emissions, at 226gpk. Opel fans might disagree, but the Antara's pricing is unlikely to boost the marque's appeal in Hong Kong.