It’s a dilemma faced by thousands of car buyers every year – they want the style and practicality of a 4×4, but feel unable to justify the compromised dynamics, economy and performance of a big off-roader.

Now Vauxhall can offer a car which fulfils all their needs – the stylish Antara. The technically sophisticated five-seater combines dynamic, stylish design with intelligent four-wheel drive, high levels of flexibility, generous interior space, a raised driving position and clever features such as "Flex-Fix".

Two transversally-mounted engines with four valves per cylinder are available for the Antara – a petrol and a diesel. The entry-level unit is a 2.4-litre, 140PS four-cylinder petrol with two overhead cams and a balancer shaft to ensure smoothness and refinement. Most buyers in this market want diesels though, so Vauxhall expects the 150PS, 2.0-litre common-rail turbo-diesel to be the top seller, taking more than 90 percent of sales,

Both engines are linked to an intelligent active four-wheel drive system which combines the benefits of front-wheel drive – such as fuel economy, predictable handling and increased driving dynamics – with the grip and security of permanent four-wheel drive when it is needed.

This innovative system features an electronically-controlled electro-hydraulic differential which ensures optimal torque distribution between the front and rear axles in all situations. The drivetrain is fully integrated in the ABS and ESP systems, enhancing vehicle control and active safety.

The comprehensive standard safety package includes front airbags, thorax/pelvis side airbags for driver and front passenger, head curtain airbags for the front and outer rear seats as well as a crash-optimised chassis with four load paths. Other safety features include three-point safety belts and head restraints for all five seats. The front seats are equipped with seat-belt tensioners and belt-force limiters. The outer rear seats come with ISOFIX mountings for fast and secure fitting of child seats.

The stylish good looks of the Antara, both inside and out, are matched by a quality feel which will mean that owners of larger 4x4s will be able to downsize to an Antara without feeling short changed.

In fact, the Antara’s price and equipment will leave buyers feeling positively flush, with the sort of luxuries which would cost thousands when added as options to other SUVs.

The entry-level E starts at just under £20,000 but includes four-wheel-drive, ESP, a decent control system, air conditioning, alarm, front fog lights and 17-inch alloys. Diesel versions even have self-levelling suspension and a trailer stability program, which automatically recalibrates the ESP to allow for towing.

Moving up the range, and the S gains Electronic Climate Control, heated front seats, trip computer, cruise control, a rear seat centre armrest, chilled glovebox, 18-inch alloys, automatic headlights and wipers and chrome door handles.

The flagship SE is arrives fully laden with the sort of equipment. There’s a DVD-based satellite navigation system with a six CD changer, leather seat and door facings, a Bluetooth mobile phone system, Xenon headlamps, electro-chromatic dimming rear-view and door mirrors, a tyre pressure monitoring system and parking distance sensors.

With this level of kit fitted as standard, there’s not much left for an options list. Metallic paint is an extra £400, but it’s the innovative FlexFix system which is expected to capture the headlines when it’s available in early 2008.

With FlexFix, transporting bikes is super-simple. Instead of having to mount a bicycle carrier on the tow ball or roof rack, Flex-Fix simply pulls out of the rear bumper and is ready to go. No parts need to be stored in the garage or loft and there are no tools needed. What’s more, at £475 it costs only a little more than conventional bike carriers.

The integrated rack can transport up to two bicycles, stows away almost invisibly in the rear bumper and can be easily pulled out like a drawer. The Flex-Fix carrier’s unlocking lever is located directly on the edge of the luggage compartment sill, ensuring easy access even when the boot is full.

Despite these innovations and the Antara’s premium feel and stylish looks, it is priced to compete with mainstream rivals, with prices starting at £19.995. A full price list is below.

Antara E

2.4i 16v: £19,995
2.0CDTi 16v: £21,095
2.0CDTi 16v auto: £22,570

Antara S

2.0CDTi 16v: £22,620
2.0CDTi 16v auto: £24,095

Antara SE

2.0CDTi 16v: £26,320
2.0CDTi 16v auto: £27,795