Monday, 7 November 2011 5:29 PM
The latest coupe-for-the-masses, on the same striking styling note as the VW Scirocco and Renault Megane Coupe – and priced aggressively - is Vauxhall's new 3-door Astra variant; the GTC.
Built, of course, on the same chassis as the popular Astra, but with much retuning of chassis and suspension under that curves-enhanced, 3-door coupe body - the GTC is all about making more of a style splash, while keeping some real-world family car practicalities. But, as a “coupe”, with that retuning intended to deliver driving thrills for when the car is empty of kids, dog, shopping etc. The GTC is also the basis for the fastest Astra ever, the 276bhp, 155mph, Astra VXR; due in 2012.
So, today, with the Vauxhall website ready to take your GTC configuration ideas – with prices quoted accordingly – and sales set to start in November, it’s time for some TotallyMotor wheel time with the new GTC, in a potentially popular 2.0 CDTi SRi trim.
With 163bhp, an 8.4secs to 60mph sprint time and optional-extra FlexRide Tour / Sport adjustable dampers (£790), but also a quoted 58.9mpg (combined) and latest Start/Stop technology; this circa £25k (inc. options) Astra GTC could well be fast, fun and frugal.
GTC is the third body based on the Astra “Delta” platform - we’ve already seen the Astra Hatch and Sports Tourer - but the only exterior design parts the GTC shares with the rest of the Astra family are the door handles and the roof aerial. The coupe is lower and wider, with that segment-defining pinched and tapered rear roof line, as well as plenty of sculpting and shaping to the metalwork around the rear quarters. Special note should be made of the intense detailing around those shared door handles; flowing back to the rear lights with sharply creased definitions, like a speeding arrowhead slicing through the air.
These more exciting coupe cues let this Olympic White (£100 optional extra) GTC SRi standout on its (standard) 18-inch, 10-spoke alloys, with a low ‘n’ lean look that’s easily in the same attractiveness-ball-park as the aforementioned coupes from VW and Renault.
Vauxhall supply the GTC SRi with the 18-inch wheels as seen in our TotallyMotor test car pics, but for an extra £565 you can bag some 5-spoke, 19-inch alloys – also pictured on another grey GTC – or, for an extra £1000, how about some huge 20s on your GTC? Big wheels in those big wheel arches look good.
Into the interior and the main point of happiness are the black leather sports seats; a £1,050 optional extra in SRi trim, complete with sport perforations, plenty of every-direction adjustment, and chill-banishing electric heating.
They look the part and, the good news is, they fit the part, too. At this moment in time, I’d personally say that the new Ford Focus is currently the most comfortable “real-world car” I’ve driven from a seating and driving position point of view. But this Astra GTC SRi is right up there.
Plenty of slide and tilt from the steering wheel, soft-touch and supportive sports seats, and that all-important point for us long-leggers; some decent up-and-down adjustment to the driver’s seat. The only point where the Focus just edges out is that the driver’s seat goes just a centimetre to two lower into the chassis; where I like it. But the GTC driving position is very, very good indeed.
There’s leather on the steering wheel too and a goading red glow at the 6-speed gear-shifter’s base, and from that cracking driving position, I’m already looking forward to stretching the SRi’s legs.
But, a diesel SRi; you might question? Well, there’s been the oil-burning-SRi discussion already when I test-drove the Vauxhall Insignia (diesel) SRi, but with 163bhp, a slick manual gearbox, those adjustable dampers set to Sport and empty back lanes ahead, I can indeed confirm that this SRi earns its famous badge in terms of handling.
Wider and lower than the average Astra, the GTC turns into corners with real composure and almost zero body-roll; its (electromechanical) power steering feeling very close to mechanically-natural – quick and precise – and the GTC’s wide footprint and wheel-at-each-corner stance bring grip and reassurance throughout the cornering process. And when the drive returns to the calmer side of things, so can the advanced “HiPerStrut” suspension, with a push of the on-dash "Tour" button.
Again, measured against the impressive new Focus, ride-, handling- and drive-wise; the Astra GTC is excellent.
The 2.0 CDTi, 4-cylinder turbo-diesel engine doesn’t let the side down either. It’s as refined and responsive as we’d be right to expect a modern diesel unit to be, and it’ll hit 60mph in 8.4secs, and pull on to 131mph. All to the quoted eco-tune of 58.9mpg (combined).
I did find the Start/Stop a little over-eager at times, for example, when I was rolling (very slowly) to a stop with the car in neutral, clutch out and brakes softly applied – the cut to the engine also culling the power steering but, of course, not the braking assistance. Flick the “Eco” button on the dash to quickly disable the Start/Stop.
The Astra GTC’s brake pedal is firm and progressive, with a nicely-weighted initial bite, and matched with engineered-accuracy in chassis, suspension and drivetrain; this SRi test car was instantly quick, fun and engaging to drive. Just the way a (“real-world”) driver-focused coupe should be.
The Vauxhall Astra GTC range starts at £18,495 and will be in Vauxhall dealers in November.
Words & pics: Daniel Anslow
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