Matt Prior
6 February 2007

What is it?

A new two-seat sports car from Opel that we won't be getting in the UK. Not officially, anyway, though it is homologated for Europe so, with headlamp deflectors, could be put through an SVA test.

The Opel GT's design derives from the Vauxhall VX Lightning concept of 2003, but the car itself is based on General Motors' US product. Underneath the pretty exterior lies the chassis of the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky. Vauxhall/Opel and Saturn, a US GM subsidiary, will be sharing plenty of common engineering and cars from hereafter as part of a major cost reduction programme. Already, the Astra and Vectra are sold in the US as Saturns. The Opel GT is the first US-developed car to make it to Europe under the agreement, albeit partly developed in the EU and powered by a very un-American 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine putting out 260bhp.

What's it like?

Not altogether brilliant. It has definitely been packaged in the US, because that part of it's appalling. There's a small boot with the roof up, which all-but disappears with the roof down. It's atrocious really - this car is as big as a BMW Z4 or Honda S2000, yet is less practical than the old Vauxhall VX220 that was a full foot shorter. The seats don't slide far enough back either, opening the boot or dropping the hood take time and patience, reclining the seats is all-but impossible with the doors closed and there'll be too little headroom for many drivers.

Part of the reason for the bad package is that the GT's chassis is based on the same concept as the Corvette's. It has a central tubular and sheet steel backbone running down the spine of the car, part welded, part bonded. Rails down the outside stiffen it and suspension is by double-wishbone front and rear. That's the good news. This front-engined, rear-driver has a very balanced weight distribution. And because it wears the same tyres front and rear, it's a nicely neutrally balanced car.

Shame, then, that the suspension isn't allowed to get more out of it. The GT really does feel like a small Corvette at times. It rides well enough, but body movements could be better controlled. Once the GT is keyed into a corner it can too easily be perturbed by bumps and camber changes. It's not unenjoyable, but it could, and should, be better.

Still, the engine is good. Strong from low revs, with a sound response, reasonable noise and decent pull right through to the soft rev limiter. It drives through a five-speed manual gearbox with well-stacked ratios and a meaty, positive long-throw shift. Opel claims it has a 0-62mph time of 5.7 sec and a near 140mph top speed.

Elsewhere, cabin fit and finish are acceptable, though materials could be improved, the hood suffers from wind noise, there's no wind deflector and cabin storage is poor. Still, looks nice, eh?

Should I buy one?

Probably not, but I can see the appeal if you want to own something that hardly anybody else will have. Import it yourself and the manufacturer warranty should be honoured at any Vauxhall dealer brave enough to take on the work.

Don't expect to be able to get a bargain on one though. In mainland Europe, retail prices are around the 30,000 Euro mark, which converts to about £24k. By the time you've brought your Opel GT over the channel, you could be into decent BMW Z4 and Nissan 350Z money. And both of those are better cars.

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