What’s it like?
Under the skin, the effort that’s gone into distinguishing the GTC in this market is impressive. At the rear is a modified version of GM’s clever compound crank axle and Watt’s link set-up. Vauxhall says it offers advantages over a multi-link set-up including straight-line stability, minimal lateral deflection in corners and greater compliance and ride comfort at the rear.
What really sets the GTC apart from the crowd is the HiPer strut front end, which is far superior to the McPherson struts used by nearly every front-drive car.
Despite the emphasis on the GTC’s UK tuning, we were only able to try this late prototype car at the Millbrook test track. A combination of emergency lane changing, slalom, low-speed city-style driving and a blast around the deceptively tough handling circuit - driving the GTC SRi back to back with the equivalent hatch - was the basis for our assessment.
The upshot is that the GTC is a marked improvement over the hatch, though with such a sophisticated front suspension system, that should be no surprise.
At lower speeds, the steering feels satisfyingly meaty and precise but, driven hard, the GTC attacks obstacles with a remarkable air of calm, seemingly giving the driver much more time to think and react to a situation, while simultaneously carrying more speed. The downside is that the helm can feel a little distant or remote - a result of the way that the HiPer strut partly isolates the steering wheel rim from what's happening under the front tyres.
Pushed hard on the handling circuit, the identically-engined Astra SRi hatch - a car we had for comparison purposes - quickly lapsed into (well controlled) understeer but, more seriously, the steering feedback became extremely mushy and imprecise. The GTC, however, remained surprisingly crisp even when driven very hard into bends and felt much more at ease tricky situations. Though it’s worth noting that our test car - which rode well at the track - also had the optional FlexRide active dampers. The final production GTC might not be quite so competent on the passive suspension.
Should I buy one?
This model has decent pace, fine sports seats, a good driving position though the effective engine is not the most cultured. A definitive verdict will have to wait for the open road. But it’s also clear that this front end will be well up to handling the 200bhp+ of the upcoming VXR model. The downside is that such is the competence of the GTC chassis that the smaller engined models will probably probably feel distinctly underpowered. .
Vauxhall Astra GTC SRI 1.6 16V Turbo
Price: £21,380; Top speed: 137mph; 0-62mph: 7.8sec; Economy: 40.4mpg(combined); CO2: 164g/km; Kerb weight: na; Engine: 4 cyls, 1598cc, turbo, petrol; Installation: Front, transverse, FWD; Power: 178bhp at 5500rpm; Torque: 169lb ft at 2200rpm; Gearbox: 6-spd manual