Vauxhall Astra GTC 1.4 Turbo SRi

Does Vauxhall's new Astra coupé earn its go-faster stripes?

 

Price: £20,345 (range spans £18,495-£22,430). On sale now
Engine: 1,364cc, four cylinders, 16 valves, turbo, 140bhp
Transmission: Six-speed gearbox, front-wheel drive
Performance: 125mph, 0-62 in 9.0sec, 47.1mpg official average, CO2 140g/km

GTC. A few weeks ago, this meant Grand Touring Convertible, as in a new Bentley Continental. This time it means Grand Touring Coupé, and the tag is applied to a Vauxhall Astra. Cynics might assume this is but a way of hyping a three-door version of the existing five-door Astra hatch, but there's more to it than that.

The only external parts shared between the three- and five-door Astras are the door handles. Everything else is unique. The windscreen and rear window have a "faster" slope, the wheels are set more broadly apart and seem to stretch the body out with them. What was once a front grille has shrunk to little more than a winged badge, while the lower air intake has grown. It looks the proper racy coupé, yet it has virtually the same generous interior space as the five-door.

It also looks smaller than it is, a trick of proportion played by the big wheels. Straight away these wheels bring on in me a sinking feeling, that the ride over broken British roads will be awful and that the muscular look has taken precedence. But that is to pre-judge; the UK is the biggest market for Astras and will be so for this more sporting variant, so much of the development has been done here. The cars are made here, too. UK-market cars even get UK-specific steering settings, designed to cope with our twisty, cambered roads and to please the drivers who hope to enjoy them.

All GTCs come with so-called HiPer Strut front suspension. This enables the axis about which the wheel steers to be moved outwards, so it passes through the middle of the tyre's contact patch. This means that when the engine's power is fed through the tyres, it doesn't tug the car to one side or the other when accelerating on a surface of uneven grip. In a powerful, front-wheel drive such as this, it's a useful refinement.

Six engines are offered, three petrol and three diesel, beginning with a 1.4-litre turbo petrol of 120bhp and culminating, excitement-wise, in a turbocharged petrol 1.6 with an impressive 180bhp. I tried this last engine, plus another turbo 1.4 with 140bhp and a 2.0-litre turbodiesel with 165bhp on tap, all in GTCs equipped to the higher SRi trim level – a Vauxhall designation of sporting intent.

Current-generation Astras I've tried have felt capable enough, but slightly heavy and clumsy for what is meant to be a compact car. So my hopes for a rousingly entertaining drive in the GTC were not high. I was wrong.

All three cars I sampled steered with precision, consistency and credible weighting, making them agile and easy to place. They responded keenly to the accelerator, particularly in corners, where engine power could be used in sporting fashion to fine-tune the cornering line. And yes, they coped very well with British bumps, proving supple despite the precise responses. Thank a very clever rear-suspension design for that, a piece of genius in its simplicity.

I stormed up two motor-sport hillclimbs in the 1.6, which remained faithful right up to my ragged edge. The 2.0 turbodiesel felt muscular and relaxed, but more fun on the road is had in the excellent 1.4 turbo, which is probably the best all-round bet. All were as good as I hoped they would be, better than I thought they would be and – crucially and the biggest surprise of all – more enjoyable than a new Ford Focus.

It's a quality job inside too, with pleasing trim materials and even a DAB radio. Recommended? Absolutely.

Suggested Topics
Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him
musicIndie music promoter was was a feature at Carter gigs
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
Performers dressed as Tunnocks chocolate teacakes, a renowned Scottish confectionary, perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
news
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Sport
Arsenal signing Calum Chambers
sportGunners complete £16m transfer of Southampton youngster
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Junior / Graduate Application Support Engineer

    £26000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful international media organ...

    QA Manager - North Manchester - Nuclear & MOD - £40k+

    £35000 - £41000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: QA Manager -...

    Property Finance Partner

    Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: LONDON - BANKING / PROPERTY FINANCE - ...

    Agile Tester

    £28000 - £30000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: An ambitious...

    Day In a Page

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

    Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on