It is not only the car’s performance and outer skin that differentiate it from the rest of the Astra range.
Vauxhall has had a car called Astra in its range for more than 30 years. The current one, introduced in 2009, is the sixth generation to wear the name. The Astra GTC, launched at the end of 2011, has a stylish three-door coupe body – making it the third body shape to join the current Astra range, in addition to the hatchback and the Sport Tourer estate car. On the outside the GTC is almost completely new, sharing no body parts with the hatchback or estate apart from the door handles and aerial.
The Astra GTC engine choice is 1.4 or 1.6 litre petrol, and 1.7 or two-litre diesel. Prices start from £18,495. This one is the range-topping ‘hot hatch’ high-performance version, the two-litre diesel SRi. Priced at £22,430, it is expected to be the best-seller. The car is quite a looker, with finely sculpted body lines, a wide front grille and flared wheel-arches for added visual muscle, all of which combine to give this top-performing Astra a sassier style than the more commonplace Astra hatchbacks and estates. Designer Mark Adams and his team have done a great job.
It is not only the car’s performance and outer skin that differentiate it from the rest of the Astra range. A lot of unseen hardware is significantly different too. Although based on fundamentally the same chassis as the Astra hatchback, the GTC has been given a longer wheelbase, it has a wider front and rear track, and the SRi has slightly lowered suspension. The result is a rapid, grippy sports coupe with tauter behaviour, faster acceleration and a higher top speed than any other road-going Astra.
Vauxhall chose the Shelsley Walsh hillclimb in Worcestershire as the venue to showcase the Astra GTC SRi. This was brave. It is the world’s oldest motorsport venue, it has been in continuous use for 107 years, and it is a demanding test of a car. Although it is only 1,000 yards long (914 metres in metric), it climbs steeply through several tough corners on a wooded hillside, and it has a reputation as a course that puts a strong spotlight on automotive power and agility.
The Astra GTC did not disappoint in this testing arena. On a sprint against the clock up the famous Shelsley Walsh track, the ‘hot’ Astra performed rapidly and tidily, a convincing demonstration of how effective Vauxhall’s engineers have been at tweaking the standard Astra chassis to handle the extra power and enhanced performance. This is a road car with a distinct motorsport flavour.
Out on the road in its normal habitat, the GTC 2.0 CDTi is a zestful drive. Its performance figures are 8.4 seconds from 0-62 mph and a top speed of 131 mph.