"The Vauxhall Astra GTC is the best handling, most stylish Vauxhall in a generation."
The Vauxhall Astra GTC is a robust rival for the likes of the Volkswagen Scirocco and Renault Megane coupe. It looks great and drives even better, while equipment levels are generous. It's also an almost entirely new car from the standard Astra hatchback, with its sporty performance proving most impressive – especially for its competitive price tag. You can only get it as a three-door, but there is a selection of four engines – two diesels, two petrols - with all but the most powerful turbo petrol model coming fitted with fuel-economy-improving stop-start technology. The only downside is that, despite being fast and stylish, it falls between stalls a bit, not being quite sporty enough to be a true sports car. Some canny design and smart suspension brought over from the Vauxhall Insignia VXR also means it's comfortable and practical. That's why it was named CarBuyer's Best Coupe for 2012.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
Any car with performance as fast as the Astra GTC is always going to drink a lot of fuel and rack up the costs as a result. The engine options are a 120bhp or 140bhp 1.4-litre petrol, a 180bhp 1.6-litre turbo, a 165bhp 2.0-litre diesel and a 192bhp 2.0-litre BiTurbo diesel. All cars come equipped with stop-start technology as standard, which does improve fuel economy (only the 1.6-litre turbocharged model doesn’t get it). We’d recommend the 2.0-litre CFTi for the most effective blend of performance and efficiency, as it returns 57.6mpg and emits 129g/km of CO2. The cheapest and most efficient of the diesels only emits 119g/km of CO2, but once you look at the petrol engines, the efficiency drops dramatically, and if you choose to have the optional automatic gearbox fitted then that makes matters even worse. When you come to make a second-hand sale in the used car market, expect resale value to be about average for this class. The base-model 1.4-litre should be relatively inexpensive to insure, though.
Interior & comfort
The GTC's new suspension also makes the Astra pretty comfortable. Because of its low weight, the GTC doesn’t need the same ultra-stiff suspension that you’ll find in most sports cars, so you get a car that handles great and offers sporty performance while still managing to absorb any bumps and lumps in the road with relative ease. Inside, the dimensions make the back seats not really usable for long drives, but you do still get reasonable headroom and the all the seats are supportive and comfortable. You get racing seats in the front that are constructed from some brilliant lightweight fibreglass that's well bolstered and comfy. You also get adjustable suspension to make it even more comfortable. And if that's still not enough, you get the optional FlexRide system fitted, which adjusts the suspension to match the road surface. And there's not very much road noise inside the car, either – even when you add the 19 and 20-inch optional alloy wheels.
Practicality & boot space
For a three-door hatchback, the GTC is surprisingly practical and offers more space inside than its main competitors do. There's loads of storage cubbies, big door bins and a reasonably sized glove compartment inside, while the rear seats also have a lot of room, enough for three adults to be pretty comfy – but mainly for short journeys; longer drives may get a little less comfortable as time goes on. It's also relatively easy to get in and out of the back, so you could use the GTC as a family car at a push. The boot is a decent size, with 380 litres of space with the rear seats in place, which is significantly larger than you’ll find in a Volkswagen Scirocco. Once you fold the back seats down flat, the capacity expands to 1,165 litres, but a high load lip means that loading and unloading heavy items into the boot is more of a headache than it should it be. For a three-door hatchback, the GTC is surprisingly practical and offers more space inside than its main competitors do. There's loads of storage cubbies, big door bins and a reasonably sized glove compartment inside, while the rear seats also have a lot of room, enough for three adults to be pretty comfy – but mainly for short journeys; longer drives may get a little less comfortable as time goes on. It's also relatively easy to get in and out of the back, so you could use the GTC as a family car at a push. The boot is a decent size, with 380 litres of space with the rear seats in place, which is significantly larger than you’ll find in a Volkswagen Scirocco. Once you fold the back seats down flat, the capacity expands to 1,165 litres, but a high load lip means that loading and unloading heavy items into the boot is more of a headache than it should it be.
Reliability & safety
As the Astra GTC is assembled from parts and engines that have been put through rigorous use in the standard Astra by UK and German engineering teams, the Astra GTC is likely to be pretty reliable. And Vauxhall is making steady improvements in the reliability of its cars, even if it did drop 13 places in the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey to place 26 out of 32 in the manufacturer rankings. The standard Astra ranked 103 in the top 150 cars list. The GTC has also been awarded the maximum five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests, securing an excellent 91 per cent for adult occupancy. All models come fitted with six airbags, electronic stability control (ESP) and electronic brake distribution as standard. You can also get hill start assist, rear parking sensors and adaptive cornering headlights as optional extras.
Engines, drive & performance
The Astra GTC is fitted with the 325bhp Insignia VXR's front suspension and an upgraded version of the Astra hatchback's multi-link rear suspension – which work well together to make the GTC really good to drive. This is helped by Vauxhall specifically tuning the GTC to suit UK roads, and while it may not be as awesome as the Renault Megane coupe, it feels really well balanced and has sharp, responsive steering – especially through the corners. The performance is excellent – all the engines, from the 1.6-litre 16V Turbo petrol engine and 2.0-litre BiTurbo diesel to the most powerful Astra ever made, the 2.0-litre turbo, are fast and fun. To get the best out of them, however, you will have to work the gearbox pretty hard, particularly if you buy the entry-level 109bhp 1.7-litre diesel model. But add on the FlexRide damping system, and the Sport tightens up the steering and overall settings of the car to make even that model a bit of a giggle.
Price, value for money & options
With a list price in the same ballpark as the Renault Megane coupe, the GTC isn’t exactly cheap, but that's not to say you won’t get some value for money from it. The Astra comes in two main specifications – the entry-level Sport and the top-spec SRi. Sport is equipped with electric windows, daytime running lights, CD/MP3 player, DAB radio, USB and iPod connectivity, electric front windows, cruise control, remote central locking and air-conditioning as standard, and the SRi throws in part-leather seats and sat-nav as well. If you go for the BiTurbo, you’ll also get unique part-leather seats, automatic headlights and windscreen wipers, electronic parking brake and front fog lights, on top of the same standard equipment as the Sport models.