Drive – Opel Astra GTC Review

2 Jan 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Drive – Opel Astra GTC Review
Opel Astra

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Pros

Dynamically competent

Good list of equipment

Flexible engine

Cons

Big doors

Looks faster than it is

Collection of buttons not always intuitive

There are a few stalwarts of the Australian new-car scene. Corolla and Commodore spring to mind. Holden’s once-loved Astra was another and it’s a car that is still well known, even though Holden discontinued it in 2010 and replaced it with the now locally manufactured Cruze.

But it didn’t take long for the Astra to make a reappearance, although this time it wears Opel badges from the European brand the Holden versions were long sourced from. In its latest guise, the Astra arrives hoping to plant a big target on the rear windscreen of the Volkswagen Golf, although in some ways it competes with the Holden with which it shares some underbody components.

Price and equipment

As with Volkswagen, Opel isn’t pitching bargain prices as its key selling point. The Astra range kicks off at $23,990 (plus on-road and dealer costs) for a five-door hatch or another $2000 for a wagon.

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Included are alloy wheels, Bluetooth, voice control, USB input, cruise control, trip computer, heated exterior mirrors, six airbags and stability control.

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There’s also an Astra Select that comes with a bigger engine (1.6 turbo instead of 1.4 turbo) and each is available with diesel, delivering plenty in the way of choice. The sporty flagship – at least until the arrival of the Astra OPC early next year – is the GTC coupe.

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It gets a unique three-door body and wider footprint for better handling (more on that later) and is priced from $28,990, bringing larger alloy wheels, among other goodies.

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By the time you get to the GTC Sport tested here, it’s a $34,990 proposition but it brings stylish 19-inch alloys, an electronic park brake, leather trim, dual-zone climate-control airconditioning, rain-sensing wipers and satellite-navigation. Unlike most rivals there’s no auto option for the GTC, with fans of self-shifters having to make do with the less powerful 1.4-litre engine. Ours also had some options, including a premium lighting pack ($2000 bringing xenon cornering lights, LED running lights and auto high beam) and FlexRide, which alters the shock absorbers between three settings.

Under the bonnet

While regular Astras get a 1.4-litre turbo, the GTC Sport gets a perkier 1.6-litre unit. Peak power is 132kW and the four-cylinder is feisty enough once you build revs and the turbo comes to life.

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Relatively short gearing in the lower gears (it tops out about 90km/h in second gear) helps its acceleration at lower speeds, although while it’s brisk, the Astra GTC isn’t as quick as it looks and the performance doesn’t match that of some obvious rivals.

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The 230Nm comes in handy and builds steadily from about 2000rpm, with the peak arriving at 2200rpm. While it takes a second or two at lower revs to get the turbo pumping usefully, it’s very welcome once it arrives.

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Fall below 2000rpm, though, and there’s not much to play with. And sixth gear isn’t as useful around town or when you encounter a modest hill on a freeway, necessitating a change or two. Fuel use is claimed at 7.3 litres per 100 kilometres but we used closer to 10L/100km in everyday driving.

How it drives

The GTC makes up go-fast points through the bends. It doesn’t shy away from twisties and uses its unique suspension to good effect to present a more planted, engaging feel than the regular Astra.

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Opel Astra

Steering feels well weighted and responsive without any of the unwanted kickback over bumps.

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Sticky 19-inch Bridgestone tyres do a good job of keeping the car on the bitumen when the driver points it in a corner. It amounts to a car that more than holds its own once the pace is ramped up.

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For a sporty car, the Astra also does a good job of disposing of lumps and bumps, quickly settling and reassuring the driver.

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The optional FlexRide system allows the choice of three settings – Normal, Tour and Sport (firmer), with the latter also making the throttle more sensitive and changing the illumination of the instruments to red.

Comfort and practicality

It looks sleek and low but the GTC is surprisingly spacious inside, although the huge front doors make getting in and out something of a challenge in carparks.

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Once nestled into the supportive seats, the sporty feeling is evident thanks to the alloy pedals and low driving position. There’s also enough metallic flecks – in a mix of fake chrome and a more elegant brushed aluminium look – to reinforce the sporty flavour. Throw in the elegant LED lighting throughout the cabin and it’s an upmarket location, albeit without any overhead grab handles.

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But there are a lot of buttons and knobs and the operation isn’t as intuitive as it could be; the lack of touch functionality doesn’t help with the colour screen either.

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The boot is modest but functional enough, helped by the 60-40 split-fold seats and ski port.

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Using the rear seats is more of a challenge, especially if you want to accommodate three. It’s relatively narrow and legroom is tight, but at least there’s a fold-down armrest.

Opel Astra
Opel Astra
Opel Astra
Opel Astra
Opel Astra
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