Vauxhall has made some pretty dull cars in the past 20 years. The company’s top designer, Mark Adams, told me as much recently when I visited his state-of-the-art design studio in Germany. For too long, he explains, “the emotion has been missing from our cars”. He’s right. Vauxhall may be known for making dependable cars to a high safety standard at competitive prices, but they have been anything but exciting. The new Astra GTC might just change that.
First off, and bear with me, it really is a very attractive car. It’s not something I’d normally rush to say about a Vauxhall, but the GTC is a sleek three-door coupé that really can compete with the likes of the desirable VW Scirocco and more elegant Renault Mégane. It may be based on the body shape of the everpopular Astra but the similarity ends there. It’s lower to the ground, wider and far more sporty-looking than its pedestrian five-door cousin.
“You can draw the GTC with three simple lines”, -Adams tells me, and it is the GTC’s signature blade – running down both sides – that gives the GTC a swishlooking feel and makes it one of the most attractive Vauxhalls in some time.
And it’s not just a pretty face. On the road – the car was developed with British roads in mind – it is a tight little package. It benefits from Vauxhall’s “HiPerStrut” front-suspension system, which puts the front end under load for greater camber control and less torque steer. This is all rather dense petrolhead stuff but essentially it gives the GTC very precise steering, so you can throw it around with a real sense of fun. It is probably most fun in its 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol version, and while my 2.0-litre diesel test model isn’t the most exciting in the range, it still has more than enough poke and mid-range pulling power to push it forward with some verve.
Vauxhall needs the excitement. The twin challenges of Korean makes such as Hyundai and Kia coming up to standard and Chevrolet (another good-value GM brand) spooling up in Europe are threatening to close its massive Ellesmere Port plant near Liverpool. The GTC isn’t perfect, by any means – the diesel is sluggish at low revs, the doors are weighted like an Olympic weightlifter’s dumb-bells and the cabin a little garish – but it’s a real departure from the run-of-the-mill Vauxhalls of the past. Let’s see if it is up to the challenge.
ASTRA GTC 2.0 CDTI SRI
Engine capacity: 2.0 litre 16v Turbo Diesel
Power output (PS @ rpm): 165 @ 4,000
Top speed (mph): 131
0-60mph (seconds): 8.4
Fuel economy (mpg): 58.9
CO2 emissions (g/km): 12
The GTC beats the Scirocco for price by a fair margin, especially when you factor in the healthy Vauxhall discount – you should aim for £2k off the GTReuse content