Handsome Astra GTC gets nearly 200bhp, but it needs to be worked hard and is, ultimately, too expensive

What is it?

Vauxhall’s lovely three-door Astra GTC, with the near-200bhp turbo petrol engine from the Cascada. It is not, however, one step down from the VXR. Other than the engine, the rest of it is standard GTC - so you get the rather good HiPer Strut front suspension, the effective rear suspension and the retuned steering. 

This car is a Limited Edition, which adds an imposing set of 20-inch rims and a smart set of deeper bumpers. 

What's it like?

It’s a fine-looking car, the GTC, and those sharp lines means it can just about get away with the attractive 20-inch wheels. Although it’s hard to not to miss the fact that the brake discs look very small behind the wheels, which lends them a bit of an aftermarket feel. 

It can just about get away with maintaining a respectable ride, too - it’s nowhere near as choppy or crashy as you might expect, and potholes don’t seem to worry it at all. We drove it on well-maintained French roads, but deliberately seeking out some uneven, undulating surfaces caused the car to pitch about a bit. 

And the engine? Given that the GTC has a nicely realised chassis, it’s not a surprise that it will easily contain the 1.6-litre’s 197bhp without any drama. The HiPer Strut front end does away with any hint of torque steer, and you can properly nail the throttle through a tight corner without corrupting the steering. It doesn’t squirm or wriggle about from a standing start, so you can get it moving quickly and cleanly.

Trouble is, it just isn’t that enjoyable when you do. Somehow, it does not feel that quick - granted, the 0-62mph of 7.3 seconds isn’t particularly rapid - and if you want to be reminded that it has the power output of a Mk5 Golf GTi, you really need to work it. And that gets a bit tiring. Noisy, too, with a less than enticing exhaust note that tends towards loud rather than lovely.

It’s better suited to trundling along at speed on a motorway than anything too enthusiastic, which is a shame because the rest of the car retains the GTC’s fine handling traits. 

Should I buy one?

Not at full list price, because as an LE it’s £21,495, and for that money you might as well get a 1.4 Scirocco. Sorry for the predictability, but the Astra’s engine just isn’t special enough.

There are some good discounts already available, knocking around £5k off list, at which point it starts to look like a much better deal. 

Dan Stevens

Vauxhall Astra GTC LE 1.6i Turbo

Price £21,495; 0-62mph 7.3sec; Top speed 143mph; Economy 42.2mpg; CO2 156g/km; Kerb weight 1428kg; Engine four-cyls, petrol, turbocharged, 1598cc; Power 197bhp at 4000rpm; Torque 206lb ft at 1500-3500rpm; Gearbox Six-speed manual

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Andrew 61 9 March 2014

Those wheels don't look like

Those wheels don't look like 20's, just shows how big and bulky today's modern cars have become? I can see everybody copying Renaults twingo and putting the engine in the back, this does at least seem to allow the bonnet to be dropped back down to a sensible hight. No strange 'A' pillar styling disasters.
catnip 9 March 2014

I'd forgotten about the

I'd forgotten about the Cascada, not seen one yet. Probably start to see a few once the weather improves....
superstevie 9 March 2014

catnip wrote:I'd forgotten

catnip wrote:

I'd forgotten about the Cascada, not seen one yet. Probably start to see a few once the weather improves....

I've seen a couple. Rather handsome car in the metal

jer 9 March 2014

5k already? Seems too much

You will be in trouble with vauxhall ...