Vauxhall Astra

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Road Test

Vauxhall Astra GTC SRI driven

Driven July 2011

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How much do you really care about kingpin inclination angles or spindle lengths or roll stiffness on the all-new Astra GTC? In fact, do you concern yourself with the finer workings of a Watt's link rear suspension - with bespoke roll-centre height stiffness - or the fitment of something called a ‘HiPerStrut'? We'll take a stab in the dark and say ‘nein'.

Good, because trying to stomach such intensive engineering concepts will leave you with a funny taste in your mouth and an agitated abdomen. What you want to know is how the brûlée tastes. And this Astra GTC tastes good. Very good.

Essentially, Vauxhall has tightened all the screws on the hatch, lowered it, widened it and fitted the anti-torque-steering device from the Insignia VXR (the ‘HiPerStrut') to the front axle. We drove the hatch and GTC back-to-back, and the change in character is remarkable.

The GTC's steering feels incredibly accurate, pointy and direct, instantly making the hatch feel a little soggy by comparison. The grip levels are also widely improved, the GTC's tyres squealing only when really pushed, and even then, you can still place the three-door Astra where you point it. Even when we got that curvaceous rump to momentarily step out, the lunacy was controlled, progressive and - crucially - fun.

The electric steering doesn't telegraph the entirety of the road surface to your palms though, but still lets you know the bones of the story. There's little body roll, you can change direction aggressively without upsetting the balance, and the ride is lovely, in part thanks to our car's FlexRide adaptive dampers (£790 option).

Now you've digested it, here's the aftertaste. The GTC feels like it can handle a lot more power. Cue the obligatory ‘when's the VXR coming out' question. A Vauxhall insider told us a development model of the halo GTC ‘does exist', and is being readied for the first-half of 2012. Watch this space...

Vijay Pattni

Performance: 0-62mph in 7.8 secs, max 137mph, 40.4mpg
Tech: 1598cc, 4 cyl, FWD, 178bhp, 169lb ft, 164g/km CO2

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