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Vauxhall Astra GTC 1.7 CDTi Sport review (2012 onwards)
Model: Vauxhall Astra GTC 1.7 CDTi Sport
Bodystyle: three-door hatch
Engine: 1.7 CDTi turbodiesel
Transmission: six-speed manual
Date of test: June 2012
First drive: Vauxhall Astra GTC
Read more Vauxhall car reviews
What is it?
The Astra GTC is every inch the modern three-door family hatch. It's the three-door version of the latest Vauxhall Astra but anyone with their eyes open will instantly be able to spot that it's some way removed from the five-door car. Long, arching lines, a lower, foursquare stance, sharp punctuating details, it looks more like a sports coupe than a family runabout and that, in a nutshell, is the idea.
What was a thin borderline between the five-door and three-door versions of our favourite family cars is, in many cases, starting to look more like a mile-wide demilitarised zone complete with landmines and machine gun turrets.
beneath those playboy looks beats the throbbing heart of an environmentally aware accountant
Three-door models have grown noticeably sportier to the extent that they'll often have different engines, suspension set-ups and trim levels. Not to mention their own heavily tweaked styling and terms like 'sport', 'coupe' and 'GT' slapped liberally all over their marketing campaigns.
The model we're looking at is the entry-level diesel, the 1.7 CDTi, with Sport trim and Stop/Start. So beneath those playboy looks beats the throbbing heart of an environmentally aware accountant.
Where does it fit?
The Astra GTC is not the first three-door family car to think it's a coupe. The old Astra three-door was a 'Sport Hatch' to its friends while SEAT markets its three-door Ibiza supermini as a 'Sports Coupe' and Renault's Megane ditches the passé 'three-door' tag in favour of Coupe branding.
On the surface, it makes sense. Family hatchback buyers with families have always edged towards five-door practicality and three-door versions have long catered for those seeking more pizazz. The GTC and modern three-door hatches generally are just being bolder about demarcating the differences.
Is it for you?
And the GTC really is different. The door handles and roof ariel are the only exterior parts shared with the five-door Astra Hatch. There's 10mm of extra wheelbase, the track is wider (by 40mm at the front and 30mm at the rear), it rides 15mm lower and the advanced HiPerStrut front suspension from the Insignia VXR is fitted.
go easy on the GTC's throttle, it goes easy on your ears
The 1.7-litre diesel engine in our test car is shared. In fact, the powerplant is ubiquitous across the Vauxhall line-up. In this installation, the common-rail turbo diesel is packing 128hp, enough for a 10-second 0-62mph time and a 122mph top speed. With Sport trim, the car costs just over £21,000.
What does it do well?
In light of all the changes, it shouldn't come as a surprise that the Astra GTC is a very different proposition to the five-door Hatch when you actually drive it. The three-door car feels far more attentive, acting swiftly and cleanly on your inputs with tauter body control.
The ride is firmed-up but even with the optional 19" alloys fitted to our car, it resists getting overly choppy on anything less than the bumpiest back roads. It certainly doesn't put your dental work in jeopardy in the way that many genuine sports coupes and hot hatchbacks will.
Also helping the GTC remain an amiable companion for everyday driving is a decent level of refinement. There's no doubt that if you push the 1.7-litre diesel engine hard, it gets noisy but the thorough soundproofing that's common across the latest Astra range ensures that when you go easy on the GTC's throttle, it goes easy on your ears.
What doesn't it do well?
It's a common occurrence when a car drives with fluency and composure to find yourself thinking it could use more power. In the 1.7 CDTi GTC, however, you'll get a longing for horses to rival Clare Balding's because, although 128hp and torque of 221lb ft sounds adequate, the best of the pulling power is realised across a very narrow rev range.
There are just too many buttons
That peak torque comes between 2,000 and 2,500rpm. There's a dead zone below this range and not much action to be had above it so, unless you stay bang on top of the gears to keep the engine plugged into its sweet spot, the car can feel surprisingly sluggish. This lack of punch would be far less of an issue in a five-door Astra but when a car that looks and handles like a GTC such shortcomings are highlighted.
What's it like to live with?
The GTC might have a longer wheelbase than the Hatch but its curvy exterior and the lower door quota means it gives quite a bit away on practicality. Rear seat accommodation is OK for two adults but the long arching roofline that does so much to melt your heart outside might be responsible for taller passengers hitting their heads when they get in. It also compromises rear visibility and although the 370-litre boot capacity is fine for a three-door family hatch, the boot opening is quite narrow.
Of course, all this stuff tends to be par for the course when you choose a car for its swoopy lines. In the front seats, the GTC has a roomy feel and a comfortable driving position. Quality is generally up to snuff too but the dashboard (which is common across the Astra range) could really use some decluttering and simplification. There are just too many buttons.
How green is it?
If you want more performance from your Astra GTC Vauxhall has a 2.0-litre CDTi diesel or a range of excellent turbocharged petrol engines that will interest you, but don't give up on the 1.7 CDTi yet. With the aid of Stop/Start technology, this model can return 62.8mpg on the combined cycle and that puts emissions at 119g/km. It's a strong performance, good enough to pose questions for many prospective buyers about whether more power is strictly necessary.
Would we buy it?
There's no doubt that Vauxhall has done a comprehensive job of fashioning the GTC. Where once a three-door hatch was just a five-door hatch with two doors missing, this three-door Astra offers something very different. The curvaceous looks speak for themselves and from a driver's perspective the GTC has genuine class.
This entry-level 1.7 CDTi diesel model is never going to serve up enough performance either to live up to the GTC's racy looks or get the most from its sharp handling. It does keep the costs down, however, and as a mixture of sporty and sensible it definitely holds some appeal.
First drive: Vauxhall Astra VXR
First drive: Vauxhall Astra GTC
Read more Vauxhall car reviews
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