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From once being a fairly charismatic brand – I remember lusting after the Superboss Kadett in my pubescent years – the lightning slash lost some of its sporty allure as it became more grown up and fuddy-duddy over the years.
In recent years the passion’s been reignited with cars wearing high-performance OPC badges, and the introduction of the Astra GTC coupé to bring some style and aspiration to the Opel party. The previous GTC three-door sold here from 2006 until 2009, and in March this year the latest generation was launched on local shores, fresh from its international debut at the Frankfurt Motorshow in September 2011.
Though it shares a basic platform with the Astra five-door hatch, the GTC isn’t simply a three-door version and the two cars don’t share a single body panel. The GTC coupé is wider, lower and has a longer wheelbase than its five-door cousin, giving it much cooler curves. It’s styling that makes women go weak at the knees while the car’s broad “shoulders” give it a masculine and hunkered-down look that goes down well with the lads too.
Engine power isn’t quite as athletic as the styling, and the model choices in the new Opel GTC are an Enjoy version powered by a 103kW 1.4-litre unit and a 1.6 Sport with 132kW on tap – both turbocharged petrol engines.
The 132kW version on test here doesn’t quite make it into hot hatch territory, and is down on power from the 147kW 2-litre turbo engine that powered the flagship version of the previous Astra GTC that sold here a couple of years back.
With a 0-100km/h time of 8.8 seconds (as tested by us as Gauteng altitude), the 1.6 Sport makes forward progress with an eager surge rather than manic, palm-moistening pace. But no matter; unless you end up dicing a Golf GTI or similar, you won’t feel short-changed in the power department.
While there’s not enough vooma to bring out a real boy-racer streak, the nice thing about this turbo engine is its easy driveability and good spread of midrange torque. There’s no significant turbo lag nor any lulls in the power delivery, just a linear quickening of pace. There’s no significant noise pollution either and the four-cylinder engine sounds very smooth and civilised.
Six forward gears give this car good cruising legs (up to a top speed of 220km/h) and theoretically good economy, although we couldn’t get anywhere near Opel’s quoted 6.8 litre per 100km consumption figure and the best we managed was 9.2.
CHASSIS IS THE REAL STAR
If the performance and consumption are no more than lukewarm, the GTC’s chassis is the real star of the show, delivering an almost perfect balancing act between a cushy ride and nimble handling.
The car features Opel’s advanced HiPerStrut front suspension, the first time that this system has been used on an Astra model. Ideally suited for a compact coupé, HiPerStrut delivers improved ride and handling characteristics as well as a more direct steering response. A Watt’s linkage is used in the rear suspension to minimise lateral movement of the axle while the wheelbase and track are increased over the Astra hatch.
The result is a car that’s particularly impressive on bumpy tar, over which it wafts quite serenely even though it wears its low-profile 18” mags. Yet this hasn’t been achieved by making the suspension soft and marshmallowy, and the GTC feels very taut and balanced when thrown through fast corners. I doff my cap to your suspension engineers, Opel.
It’s a great chassis and I look forward to seeing how it handles more power when the high-performance OPC version is launched here later this year.
Two-door cars aren’t made for families, but if you have to fit four people in the GTC the back seat’s acceptably spacious for regular-sized adults. But the front seats didn’t always return to their original positions after being tipped forward to let rear passengers in.
A flexible luggage compartment holds between 380 litres and 1165 litres and there are numerous stowage nooks inside the cabin.
A price of R304 000 doesn’t put the GTC Sport into bargain basement territory but it’s well specced for the money, with standard features including cruise control, six airbags, climate control, and 7-speaker sound system with USB connectivity and Bluetooth phone pairing. And an electronic handbrake.
Heated leather seats are also part of the package, and they’re a very sporty-elegant design with contrasting double stitching and well-bolstered side support. Included in the price is a 5-year/120 000km warranty and a 5-year/90 000km Service Plan.
The Astra GTC gives Opel fans something to get reasonably excited about with its stylish curves and eager performance. -Star Motoring
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