Vauxhall Astra GTC review
When Vauxhall attempts to take on class leaders it invariably comes close. The Vauxhall Corsa is a neat alternative to the superb Ford Fiesta while the Vauxhall Astra falls just a little short of the Focus and Golf in the small family car segment.
The Vauxhall Insignia can safely claim to actually be the best in its class, ahead of the Ford Mondeo and Skoda Octavia in terms of sales this year.
But taking on the fearsome reputation of the Volkswagen Scirocco is a more difficult challenge entirely.
The Scirocco is the country's best three-door coupe, a sporty take on the family car segment and one that offers sharp handling, plenty of performance and eye-catching design.
It has very little competition, which could explain Vauxhall's foray into the coupe market with the new Vauxhall Astra GTC.
Introducing the new Vauxhall Astra GTC
This is the wayward younger brother of the more conservative Astra hatchback and Sport Tourer models. Built on the same platform, Vauxhall has replaced almost all of the hatchback's body panels for the coupe variation.
As a consequence, the Vauxhall Astra GTC gets a distinctive look of its own with a lower, sloping roofline and ground-hugging ride height.
At the front, you could be forgiven for thinking this was a more everyday car with only a few bonnet creases to distinguish it from the volume market.
This more subdued styling improves towards the rear, where chunky rear light housings and a more stylised back end give it a more aggressive feel.
It may not have the same visual impact as the Scirocco or the asymmetric Hyundai Veloster but there are always bright body colours - ours was a striking yellow more reminiscent of Seat hot hatches.
Vauxhall is obviously pleased with the design, the Vauxhall Astra GTC was the basis for the stunning Vauxhall Astra VXR hot hatch after lashings of body kit and a turbocharged engine upgrade.
Overall the Astra GTC is a bit of a looker, albeit one that will appeal to the more conservative coupe buyer. Once you venture inside, the GTC will grow in your estimation even more.
Inside the Vauxhall Astra GTC
The dashboard takes most of its cues from the Astra hatchback, which is not a bad thing. The materials are of a high quality and, in higher specification trim levels, the leather seats are particularly premium.
Space in the front is impressive and there is plenty of head and legroom. However, venture into the back seats of it is typically cramped for adults, a common complaint with coupes.
There's still a decent-size boot at 370-litres and, compared to rivals, the Astra GTC holds up well in the practicality stakes.
For the driver, the car is comfortable and the dashboard is easy to navigate, even if there are a few too many buttons for my liking.
Vauxhall tends to pack its console with as many controls as possible and this can become cluttered. However, it is easy to get to grips with and should not cause too many distractions.
There are two trim levels to choose from, not including the sports-oriented BiTurbo trim or range-topping VXR hot hatch.
Entry-level Sport models get daytime running lights, 18-inch alloy wheels and, inside the cabin, air conditioning, DAB radio, USB, cruise control and an MP3/CD player.
Move up to SRI trim and sports front seats are added along with front fog lights, leather-covered steering wheel, tinted rear windows and hill-start assist.
It's an impressive level of equipment for a car that starts from as little as £20,000 and the sporty emphasis gives the interior a nice makeover compared to the standard hatchback.
On the road
We drove the BiTurbo, a 2.0-litre 195bhp model which sits at the top of the range - excluding the VXR model.
The car came with a six-speed manual gearbox and automatic stop-start, which brings fuel economy down to an impressive 57.7mpg.
CO2 emissions are a manageable 129g/km which keeps costs down and reinforces the opinion that this is not aiming to top any rivals in terms of power.
That isn't to say the 2.0-litre engine is underpowered; it actually makes the most sense in the range, providing plenty of torque and acceleration.
The BiTurbo comes with uprated suspension and a lowered ride height. This means a bumpier ride but the payload comes in terms of handling.
The Astra GTC BiTurbo handles superbly with responsive steering and plenty of grip aiding the involving ride.
It's safe to say the drive is fun and engaging and this is a car that will certainly leave a smile on your face. Compared to the Scirocco? The Astra GTC stands up well on the road and does not feel like it is lacking in any area.
It even looks the part with extra body kit and a stylish rear spoiler giving it more of a distinctive silhouette.
Should I buy an Astra GTC?
If you're considering an Astra GTC, the BiTurbo is probably the best option. The engine is impressive and the equipment gives the car a sporty, performance feel without the associated costs.
The Astra GTC is a fun car to have and to drive but it is not to be confused with a genuine hot hatch.
In terms of competition the Astra GTC is the closest yet to the class-leading Scirocco and with affordable prices and running costs, puts forward a very tempting financial argument for ownership.