The words ‘sleek’ and ‘stylish’ might not immediately spring to mind when you think of a Vauxhall Astra. That all changes the moment you clap eyes of the Astra GTC. It’s a car that takes lots of what makes the Astra so good to live with, and wraps it in a seriously smooth body.
Well, just look at it. The designers were certainly having a good day when they came up with the Astra GTC, because it manages to look svelte, chic, classy and purposeful all at the same time. The super-hot VXR version has a body kit that turns the aggression up to 11.
It’s less of a three-door Astra than an Astra coupé - and in fact it shares only the door handles and an aerial with the five-door Astra.
Every model runs on alloy wheels at least 18-inches in diameter, so it looks mean. Everything from the nose badge backwards looks like it’s been streamlined in a wind tunnel. The front grille is narrow and sloping, flanked by headlights that look similar to those of the Astra hatch.
The heavily sculpted bonnet leads back to a windscreen that is large and steeply raked to aid aerodynamic performance. The two side doors are extremely large. In fact, everything about this car is large in personality.
It manages to look svelte, chic, classy and purposeful all at the same time.
What’s it like to drive?
Vauxhall developed the Astra GTC for British roads, and on British roads, so it’ll drive well down the A66 or Northern Circular. The mid-spec 1.4-litre turbo petrol engine is lovely as it feels punchy and strong from low down. The mid-spec 1.7-litre diesel gives the Astra GTC a turn of pace befitting those looks while turning a blind eye when a filling station slopes into view.
The suspension manages to blend sharp responses with an ability to stifle the effects of strident surfaces. Some original owners will have added the optional FlexRide adaptive suspension.
The steering feels quite meaty, which is great on an open road, but requires a bit more effort when parking.
The steering feels quite meaty, which is great on an open road.
Where the outside of the Astra GTC looks significantly different from that of the conventional hatchback version, the interior is virtually identical. That isn’t a bad thing at all – the Astra interior is a classy-looking and usable space.
Directly ahead of the driver sits an instrument binnacle with four dials and a small information display. Bear in mind this Astra was designed before the days of digital dials.
The headlight dial sits in the usual place by the driver’s right knee and the steering wheel is just the right size. Vauxhall also resisted the temptation to festoon the steering wheel with buttons, which makes it look much less intimidating than some of its peers.
The centre console is topped by a small, early-model touchscreen and buttons for the audio and sat-nav systems, as well as a few of the car’s on-board set-ups. Below these are the controls for the cabin temperature and ventilation – they’re traditional dials and much more usable for it.
The gear stick sits in a raised mounting so is in just the right place for navigating twisty roads and hills. Everything you touch, press, twist and sit on feels decent in terms of quality, and the cabin should be free from rattles and squeaks.
All models feature air-conditioning, cruise control and electric windows, but moving up to SRi adds automatic lights and wipers, sports seats, rear privacy glass and an electric parking brake. If the car has FlexRide fitted, you can press the Sport button and the trim lights up in red.
Okay, you don’t buy a funky three-door with practicality in mind. Nevertheless, it has to be capable of dealing with daily life, and the Astra GTC certainly achieves that.
There’s great space in the front of the Astra GTC for a couple of tall adults to stretch out. What you might not expect is that there’s also fair space in the rear seats. The only gripe they might have is that the rising window line means they don’t get much of a view out. This can make the rear of the cabin feel gloomy, especially if the car has privacy glass.
Still, the boot is a good size and will easily take a couple of suitcases. The seats fold down in a trice if you need more space. The only slight gripe is that there’s quite a lip to lift things over. Still, it’s comparatively more practical than the Volkswagen Scirocco, for instance.
Running costs and reliability
The Vauxhall Astra GTC’s 1.4-litre petrol engine won’t drink too much fuel because it’s strong enough not to need thrashing on motorways and A roads. Expect a figure of about 38mpg in the real world.
The 1.7-litre diesel is also pretty strong but relaxed, so will do around 48mpg and make light work of long journeys.
Insurance groupings kick off from 13 and top out at 27 for most models, although the super-hot VXR sits in group 35.
What we love
The Vauxhall Astra GTC is undeniably glamorous and draws attention when it drives past. The best news is that it’s a supermodel you can live with, which will take care of humdrum journeys too. It’s also good fun to drive when you’re on your own. Roomy and practical enough to carry you and your mates, it also won’t cost a fortune while doing so.
Finally, it has top-notch safety credentials, having scored a full five-star rating from crash test experts Euro NCAP when it was tested back in the day.
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Town and country drivers
The Astra GTC continues the tradition in the British car industry of using long-served and reliable oily bits and clothing them in bodywork that stops people in their tracks. Add in the facts it’s cheap to run, safe and well equipped and this car becomes a coupé for the modern age.
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