'Semi-hot' Astra GTC driven in SA

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IOL mot pic mar22 Opel Astra GTC 1 . Long-ratio Astra GTC gearbox makes it more effective on the open road than in the Stoplight GP.

There's no doubt about it. The GTC is an attractive car. But does its show match its go?

Keep in mind that in its initial spec we're only talking about small capacity with relatively low-output 1.4 and 1.6-litre turbo engines, so don't expect the three-door Astra to compete with rival Scirocco and Megane two-litres, because it just won't. At least not until the OPC shows up later this year.

Opel quotes 103 and 132kW respectively in these two models, which are more intended for the masses than hotter hatch enthusiasts. Although each has a six-speed manual gearbox, the gearing is noticeably long, meaning neither is very sporty despite the latter's “Sport” designation.

The 1.4's claimed maximum torque of 200Nm is delivered from 1850 revs right up to the power peak at 4900rpm, which GM says is good enough for 0-100km/h in 9.9 seconds and 201km/h flat out, at a cost of 5.9 litres per 100km and 139g/km of CO2.

The makers' corresponding numbers for the 1.6-litre turbo are 230Nm, anywhere between 2200 and 5400rpm, 8.9 seconds to 100km/h and a 220km/h top end.

REAL WORLD

In the real world, however, acceleration happens in long-drawn-out spells, which is still very satisfying out on the open road, if not what you'd expect from such a racy looking car.

Honestly though, I could hardly feel a significant power difference between the two, and would recommend the lower spec and cheaper Enjoy model. It also gets a conventional handbrake lever, rather than a pushbutton as in the Sport, which is always good in my book.

We remember the GTC's five-door sister Astra for its wonderful suspension qualities, and thankfully the excellent ride's still evident here. Each model gets an unconventional Watt's Link rear suspension (a special system found on many racing cars) that works extremely well to keep the hatch's rear end in check on bumpy surfaces.

The GTC's front suspension is the normal McPherson strut-type but modified with what Opel calls Hyperstrut. Essentially, Hyperstrut reduces the effect of steering on camber and caster angles to reduce torque-steer. And it seems to work well, because I'd say this car is possibly the best handling among its aforementioned peers.

HARD PLASTICS EVERWHERE

I'm also impressed with the steering feel considering it's assisted electronically. Normally, these electric systems can feel vague and wandery at speed, but the GTC's steering gives pretty good feedback. Still not as good as old fashioned hydraulics would be though.

I do wish Opel would stop milking its German roots with claimed “German precision” in its build quality, because while it is indeed very good, it is miles off what you get in a Golf or Scirocco - let alone other high-end German cars. The interior is quiet and well put-together but hard plastics can still be found everywhere and I did hear a few rattles in one of the cars available to test at launch. The dashboard layout is also neat considering the amount of buttons needed to work climate and entertainment systems.

BOTTOM LINE

Astra GTC 1.4T Enjoy - R287 000

Astra GTC 1.6T Sport - R304 000

Opel's sleek Astra GTC arrives



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