Vijay Pattni31 August 2012

First drive: Vauxhall Astra GTC BiTurbo

A twin-turbo, twin-intercooled GTC with refreshed looks: we test the hot new 'performance' Vaux'...

Vauxhall Astra GTC BiTurbo

Oooh, that looks a bit tasty.

Indeed. It's called the Vauxhall Astra ‘BiTurbo', and is the first major refresh - externally - of the new Astra range, including the rather delectable new Astra GTC, pictured above.

What's new?

That huge panoramic windscreen, for starters. Jump in, look up and it kind of takes you by surprise just how much ruddy sky there is on offer. Most airy. The rear has been given a once over, and there's a new front end too, including redesigned fog lights and grille, said to be inspired by the wings on an aeroplane.

Bet it ‘flies', then, eh, eh? No?

Ahem. That ‘BiTurbo' badge does indeed signify something special underneath the Astra's curves: a modified version of the 2.0-litre diesel engine pinched from the Insignia. Two turbochargers - a small one for low revs, big one for, erm, big revs - fits onto the four-pot, together with a specially built twin-intercooler to allow the entire system to be shoehorned into the Astra's engine bay. It's also a six-speed manual only: no auto will be offered.

Diesel? That's the fuel of Satan! Be gone with it!

Hang on a sec. On paper, this engine boasts some impressive stats. It packs 195bhp, but also 295lb ft of torque from as little as 1,250rpm - that's as many torques as the VXR. It'll hit a claimed 0-62mph in 7.8 seconds, but also return 57.7mpg and emit just 129g/km of CO2. Vauxhall wants you to think of it as a performance-orientated diesel, to which the world is slowly becoming accustomed . It's also the most powerful diesel Astra ever built - a VXR diesel, if you will.

So it's the most potent diesel Astra EVER? 

Yes, but a word of caution: it doesn't actually feel that quick. Sure, its got the punch, but it's not that ‘what-the-hell-just-happened' kind of performance, like you've accidentally stepped on a torque bomb. More like, ‘I-see-your-point'. It's also a bit gruff - repeated forays into the upper parts of the rev counter elicited rather unattractive growls. Hole-in-the-exhaust-type growls. Became a bit of a headache, that.

But it looks so fast!

That it does, and if you keep chugging about without stretching the engine, it's a fine performer. Just not the diesel sports hatch we wanted. All Astra BiTurbo variants sport a 6mm drop in ride height, but the handling remains the same: confident, grippy and accurate, albeit a little detached. Still, it's comfortably £1500 cheaper and more powerful than an equivalent Golf GTD, if such nuances matter. Prices for the GTC BiTurbo start from £23,925. It's a decent car, the BiTurbo, but - whisper it - the Golf is a better drive.

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