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Vauxhall Astra GTC

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Vauxhall Astra GTC
8/10

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Road Test

Vauxhall Astra GTC driven

Driven October 2011

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Why don't more firms build small coupes? It's a mystery, that one. I mean, we like them don't we? Yet cars like the Ford Puma and Toyota Celica have steadily been dropping out of sight. But now it looks like the VW Scirocco might have jolted some life back into the sector. The bemusingly-styled Hyundai Veloster is on its way, and sooner still we have this, the Vauxhall Astra GTC.

Yes, technically it's a three-door hatch, but we'll go with Vauxhall's assessment of its coupe credentials here simply because it has so little in common with the standard five-door hatchback. Outside the only carry-over parts are the door handles and aerial, while under the skin all the suspension has been altered. That's quite big news actually, because Vauxhall has shoe-horned in the nifty HiPerStrut front suspension from the Insignia VXR - a move which shows Vauxhall is serious about the GTC being a car for people who enjoy driving.

And for people who like looking at them. We're not alone in thinking the GTC is chuffing good-looking are we? Enough of that, you can flick through the pics and make your own mind up, so let's move on to the way it drives.

Iffy stuff first. Neither of the petrol engines we drove is particularly inspiring. The 138bhp 1.4 turbo is smooth but gets a bit boomy at the top end, while the 178bhp 1.6 turbo doesn't feel that much faster and also loses composure at high revs. The best engine is the 2.0-litre 163bhp diesel, although it's also the most expensive. Torquey, efficient and perfectly pleasant to use though. For a diesel.

But the engines aren't the stars of the show in the GTC. The chassis itself takes top honours. You don't need the £790 Flexride adaptive dampers because the standard set-up is plenty good enough. The GTC dashes round corners without effort. Seriously, rough surfaces, mid-corner bumps, potholes, weird cambers and crests, nothing seems to phase the GTC or diminish its ability to carry speed around corners.

It's no hot hatch (at least not yet, although word is that the VXR version is now close at hand), so don't go expecting scintillating thrills and super-sharp steering, but nor is the GTC a plodder. It outdrives a Ford Focus, so long the benchmark in the hatch class and that's a feat not to be underestimated.

Vauxhall has got the balance of ride and handling pretty much spot on for its market. It's enjoyable, but not intimidating and rides very well indeed.

The cabin's not bad either. It's not as boldly styled as the bodywork, but the driving position is good (just mind the gearlever, which is mounted a bit far back) and if you're carrying passengers be prepared for positive comments - there's more space in the back than you'd expect. Prices start at £18,495 for the entry-level 120bhp petrol, with diesels (initially a 108bhp 1.7) available from £20,060. One thing though, if you can, spend the extra £1300 and trade up from Sport to SRi trim. It looks and feels so much better inside.

So that's the GTC. A Vauxhall that looks superb, and it drives well enough to have Ford and Volkswagen looking over their shoulders in a concerned manner...

Ollie Marriage

We like: No modern Vauxhall has looked (or driven) better
We don't like: The view out
TG Verdict: A thoroughly convincing coupe. Fine effort, Vauxhall. Now where's the VXR?
Performance: 0-62mph in 7.8secs, max 137mph, 39.2mpg
Tech: 1598cc, 4cyl in-line, fwd, 178bhp, 170lb ft, 168g/km CO2, c1400kg
Tick this: SRi trim c£1,300 depending on engine
Avoid this: Towing pack £350

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