Does the second-generation Opel Astra GTC have the go to match the show?
IT LOOKS FAST doesn’t it? But you’d be mistaken if you thought the Opel Astra GTC was a VW Golf GTI rival it’s not, but neither was the previous-generation GTC. However, whereas the earlier GTC portfolio boasted a fiery GTI-matching 147kW 2.0-litre turbo version, the current line-up only comes in dreary 1.4- and 1.6-litre turbo guise both engines mapped for economy rather than outright performance. Why would Opel do this? I mean, why offer a fast-looking car without the oomph to match? The reasoning is straightforward: Opel wanted the GTC to be a stand-alone model in the Astra range to bridge the gap between the bread-and-butter five-door hatch and super-hot hatch OPC version. The GTC then caters for a different kind of enthusiast one who wants the performance looks but without the added hooliganism. So is the GTC worth the premium over its five-door Astra sibling?
Compared with the five-door Astra, the GTC takes on a heavily altered form. Bar the antenna and rear-view mirror surrounds, every panel is a freshly-pressed item. And it shows the GTC’s aggressive styling is a far cry from the five-door’s ho-hum identity. The flanks are dominated by two sculpted lines that sweep through the panels like fish evading a predator. However, the car still bares post-2000 Opel styling cues such as the trademark centreline bonnet crease and chrome trapezoidal grille. Each bulging wheelarch is filled by a rather small-looking 18-inch alloy wheel, an optical illusion caused by the 50-profile Continental ContiSportContact tyres.
Finer touches include the sleeker headlight clusters with chevron-style daytime running lights and GTC-branded spotlight surrounds. An oversized two-tone rear spoiler and chiselled crease in the tailgate just below the rear glass double up as a twin-tier wing and give the rear end of GTC a malevolent attitude. The tinted tail-lamps, contrasting black diffuser and chrome oval exhaust tip round off the package. These revisions have transformed the GTC into a squat and refined VW Scirocco rival.
There is nothing particularly new to see inside the cabin where the facia layout is practically identical to the five-door version’s save for a few subtle tweaks. Opel says the GTC is suited to everyday family use but I don’t see it there’s nothing practical about the three-door layout. The doors are heavy and access to the rear, although better than most rivals, isn’t baby-seat friendly. That said, the rear seats are big enough for two adults to sit in comfort with headroom to spare and the boot, at 380 litres, is larger than the five door’s.
Quite disappointing are the cloth-covered seats, although full leather trim is standard on the 1.6 Sport model. And then there’s the slight ergonomic issue of seatbelt mounting. The repositioned B-pillar a direct result of the large, coupe doors means that unless you’ve got the reach of Morn Morkel, buckling-up is a time consuming and painful exercise.
Our poverty-spec test unit employs a 1.4-litre turbocharged Ecotec mill with 103kW and 200Nm on tap. Stirred through a six-speed manual gearbox, the 1.4-litre lacks the low-down torque of the Scirocco and generally feels under-powered. However, it cruises quite superbly on the long road and overtakes with relative ease thanks to the beefy shards of mid-range torque. Press your foot flat and you can hear the pint-sized turbocharger spooling under load but there’s none of the expected shove and aural gymnastics just a lethargic rev needle. Perhaps it’s the 1410kg kerb weight or maybe the tall gear ratios? Strangely though, the more time I spent behind the GTC’s wheel the more I began to enjoy it it’s a very comfortable drive.
Put to the test, the GTC logged a 0-100kph readout of 9.83 seconds, bettering Opel’s figure by a ball hair. The GTC’s outright stopping performance is exceptional, needing just 2.8 seconds/40 metres to come to a complete stop from 100kph. One can’t argue with the fuel economy either. We returned a combined figure of 6.8/100km on our economy run but, by cautious driving, owners should be able to come within a fraction of the claimed figure of 5.9/100km.
The running gear has undergone some revisions in the form of a wider track, a longer wheelbase, 15mm shortened coil springs and a high-tech HiPerStrut front suspension arrangement, which helps quell torque steer, improves body control and lateral grip. The rear employs a Watt’s linkage that cushions the lateral forces exerted on the suspension. All this sounds quite fancy but does it work? Yes sir. The chassis is exquisitely poised and keeps neutral through twisty confines yet can also misbehave a little when provoked. Our road test engineer, Peter Henkel, got some lift-off oversteer around Turns 2 and 3 at Killarney circuit, but was generally impressed with how planted it was through corners.
Out on the road it’s a similar story the GTC is notably stable at highway cruising speeds and the chassis undisturbed through sweeping bends. The lowered suspension is notably firm, but is never intrusive, rather adding to the GTC’s sporty appeal. The steering set-up has also received some attention and while generally devoid of any tactile feedback, the speed-sensitive assistance does provide effortless manoeuvrability at parking speeds, and progressively weights-up as you dial in more power.
I felt underwhelmed by the GTC. I expected so much in terms of driver involvement and all-round enjoyment after all, the GTC is the precursor to the Astra OPC. The 1.4-litre engine although amazingly efficient doesn’t do the GTC line-up any justice. A sporty coupe such as this should have three engine derivatives to choose from: an entry-level force-fed 1.6-litre, a frugal oil burner and a semi-performance hot hatch-humbling 2.0-litre turbo offering with at least 155kW at the flywheel. That’s not much to ask considering the new OPC will pack in excess of 200kW Having said that, the GTC is still a whole lot sexier than the similarly-styled Renault M’gane Coupe and equally as good-looking as the Scirocco, matching both vehicles on overall quality and packaging.
At R287000 the GTC is competitively priced, slotting between the R259900 M’gane and the R299800 Scirocco. But I’m afraid with this particular GTC, the cons far outweigh the pros. You’re better off with the regular five-door Astra as it offers almost identical performance, more practicality and a cheaper asking price.