We’ve driven a few Astra GTC models now, but this 1.6-litre turbo engine is the best fit yet for the car’s character. It’s smooth, punchy and sounds even better than it does in the five-door. There’s 178bhp on offer, but you really get the feeling that this chassis could handle far more – which bodes well for the VXR version with nearly 300bhp.
The Astra GTC is the sporty three-door version of the Vauxhall hatchback, with a wider track, lowered suspension and front springs lifted from the Insignia VXR. So this top-of-the-range 178bhp 1.6-litre turbo model should be the perfect fit.
Until the VXR arrives later in the year, this engine is the most powerful in the line-up and is capable of launching the GTC from 0-62mph in 7.8 seconds. It’s smooth and provides plenty of power through the rev range, plus it has a lot of character, producing a deeper note than the standard five-door.
However, while this 1.6-litre turbo is the quickest version currently on offer, it’s the most expensive to run, too. CO2 of 168g/km means road tax will cost a huge £265 in the first year, while 39.2mpg fuel economy will mean regular trips to the pumps.
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Nevertheless, it’s very good to drive. All those suspension tweaks have ensured that the warm hatch feel is ever-present through bends. The car corners flatly, with masses of grip from the newly widened track. If we have one issue with the handling, it’s that the steering doesn’t provide enough feedback.
That sportier feel brings a firmer ride, too. Our test car rode on the standard 18-inch wheels, yet despite the stiffer springs the GTC deals with lumps and bumps very well. Adaptive dampers are an option, but we’d say they’re not necessary as the normal set-up is so well judged.
In a market where style is all-important, the GTC holds an advantage. Every body panel on this car is different from the five-door, and it makes for a really eye-catching transformation. Yet the new looks don’t come at the expense of practicality.
There’s acres of room inside for four adults – or five at a squeeze – and they can bring their luggage along, too, as the boot is 200 litres larger than a VW Scirocco’s. In fact, with the rear seats in place the car’s load area is 30 litres larger than that of the five-door Astra.
The GTC is certainly more than ‘just’ a three-door Astra. It’s got a new-found sporty character, and this 1.6-litre turbo feels at home under the bonnet. That’s good news for buyers of this car – but even better news for those waiting for the hot Astra GTC VXR.