Posted on 08 November 2011.
From 26 November 2011 the three door coupe style GTC versions of the Vauxhall Astra range will be in UK dealer showrooms at prices from £18,494 rising to £22,430.
There is initially the choice of six engines, three petrol and three diesels, with two levels of trim and equipment – Sport and SRi. a lower emission 109g/km diesel engine will be added later next year and a VXR high performance petrol version with between 280 and 290PS will join the line-up during the first six months of 2012.
The new three door GTC replaces the previous three door Astra Sports hatch variants and now complete the new generation Vauxhall/Opel Astra line up of five door Sports Hatch and five door Sports Tourer Estate variants.
Vauxhall’s new generation Astra has already laid down successful sales foundations in the UK, the largest market in Europe. In 2010 the Astra range was the UK’s second best-selling car overall, as well as the best-seller in its segment, with sales of 79,330, beating both the Focus (76,892) and the Golf (62,912).
The Astra’s lower medium segment is the second largest in the UK, accounting for 20.9 per cent of the total new car market, and currently coupe and three-door hatch sales make up 11.7 per cent of this segment.
In previous years, the Astra Sport Hatch – GTC’s predecessor – dominated this class. In 2007 and 2008 it out-sold its nearest competitor by three-to-one, and up until last year was still the clear leader with total registrations of 11,451 in 2010 ahead of the Scirocco in second place, Audi A3 in third position and the Megane Coupe was fourth.
Overall in this segment, fleet/business user-chooser and retail sales are split evenly at around 50:50 per cent and the three door GTC is expected to account for around 20 per of all Astra sales, much like its predecessor. The Sports Tourer estate takes 17 per cent of total Astra sales and the five door Sports Hatch accounts for the remaining 63 per cent of Astra’s UK sales.
Dougie McColm, Vauxhall’s product marketing spokesperson, said at this week’s UK media launch of the GTC that around 2,000 units will be sold in the UK this year and in 2012 between 13,000 and 14,000 sales are expected. he anticipates that 60 per cent of customers will choose the SRi variants in keeping with the trend established by other Astra models. Initially diesel powered models driven by business user-chooser customers will take around 60 per cent of sales. But this will balance out with an increase to 55 per cent for petrol sales once retail customers place their orders for both the 1.4-litre turbocharged 120PS and 140PS units which will account for 40 per cent of sales and the VXR variant is added.
The single best selling engine will be the 2.0-litre CDTi 165PS turbodiesel unit with Start/Stop which will take 25 per cent of all registrations. With the most popular SRi trim and equipment option this variant costs £22,430. With CO2 emissions of 127g/km the VED road tax charge is £0 under the First Year rate and then £95 per annum. for company car drivers the Benefit-in-Kind tax charge for this model will be 18 per cent and the insurance group rating is 20E. Overall the GTC range has insurance group ratings varying between 13E and 25E.
The only exterior design elements the GTC shares with its siblings are door handles and the roof aerial – even the wheelbase and tracks are different said ‘Brit’, Mark Adams, Vauxhall’s vice president of design. We have aimed to create a car that looks like it’s been plucked from the class above, with its low, wide stance and simple, yet rakish lines.
“We wanted the Astra GTC to be the ultimate expression of Vauxhall’s design language, and to embody our passion for the motor car, but we didn’t want emotion to get in the way of functionality: the Astra GTC still needed to be clever, practical and affordable” he said.
Much of the fine tuning of the chassis, suspension and steering settings were undertaken at Vauxhall’s Engineering Centre at Millbrook, Bedfordshire and the UK’s unique and variable road surfaces, winding roads with unique types of cambers have been unbeatable real-life conditions for producing the final settings for the UK’s Astra GTC and potentially Europe’s Opel Astra GTC versions.
First drive impressions.Although the Vauxhall Astra GTC three door, which goes into UK showrooms from 26 November, is the third member of the new generation family after the five door Sports Hatch and Sports Tourer models, it is significantly different styling wise although the powertrains are all shared by its stablemates. a high performance VXR version will be added in the first six months of next year.
In a full year between 13,000 and 14,000 GTCs will grace UK roads and this country is the largest market in the World for all Astra sales with traditionally nearly 80,000 annual sales outpacing the Focus and Golf ranges.
The GTC will sell against the VW Scirocco, Audi A3, Renault Meganne Coupe, Volvo C30 and even the BMW 1 Series Coupe.
Vauxhall at this week’s UK media launch were keen to point out that priced from £18,495 the GTC is nearly £1,350 less than the basic VW Scirocco. There is at launch a choice of three petrol and three diesel engines with two trim levels, Sport and the best selling SRi.
The Astra GTC three door shares no body panels with either the Astra Hatch or Sports Tourer, only the front door handles and the aerial are carried over, so it has a unique appearance and the aim was to retain functionality but make it clever, practical and affordable.
In profile, the design team wanted to create ‘tension’ in the GTC’s shape by minimising the lines running along the body. Vauxhall’s signature ‘blade’, a crisp line that sweeps up from the front of the door, is now similar to the Insignia’s, but runs the opposite way to other Astras. a second line strikes through the door handle, stretching to the rear, while a third line follows the roof’s profile, guiding the eye to the sharply integrated spoiler.
At the front of the car, a centreline crease is complemented by slim, ‘eagle-eye’-style headlamps featuring wing-shaped daytime running light graphics. a chrome emblem bar running across the trapezoidal grille – mounted lower than on other Astras – completes the picture from the front.
Equally dramatic is the GTC’s rear treatment. The line from the rear quarter C-pillar wraps around the tail and the rear spoiler, which in turn integrates with the roofline. LED rear lighting – optional across the GTC range – highlights the stretched ‘wing’ motif created by the tail lamps. The long wheelbase, rising waistline and wide lower section body, enhanced by the flared wheelarches, gives the GTC a really dynamic stance on the road. On the down-side the relatively small rear side windows do nothing to help rear quarter visibility for the driver. The headroom in the rear is just about sufficient for taller passengers but the ‘nipped-in’ dimensions from the shoulder up reduce the space for rear seat passengers. To say it is a five seater is optimistic unless the rear seats are used by three children. thanks to the long wheelbase there is lots of legroom in the front and just about enough for adults in the rear. Access to the rear, being a three door, is not that easy for adults. however there is a good sized boot with 380-litres of space with the three seats in position and 1,165-litres with the rear seats folded.
Completing the exterior styling standard on both Sport and SRi trims are 18-inch alloy wheels, with each getting a unique design. for the first time on a Vauxhall coupe in this class, 20-inch rims are available as an option on SRi models, with 19-inch wheels a further cost option on both trims.
On the upper-spec SRi model, tinted glass is standard, while the latest generation AFL (Adaptive forward Lighting) is optional across the GTC range. I think a must for all buyers is to go for FlexRide, Vauxhall’s adaptive damping system, costing an extra £790 and is available across the GTC range. FlexRide automatically adapts to prevailing road surfaces and driving styles, providing drivers with fully optimised handling, even in the event of an emergency situation. During the media test drive it became clear to me that models with this system handled the undulating Worcestershire and Shropshire roads better by absorbing the patched road surfaces far more easily than the standard suspension. The ride was more comfortable and the car more settled driven at speeds over rippled and adversely cambered roads.
For more extreme driving the media test session also took in two hillclimb sections, one at famous Shelsley Walsh – the World’s longest serving motorsport venue and in continuous use since 1905 and Loton Park. this was not the everyday driving experience customers will experience but it was where the new GTC’s agility and cornering grip were welcome, especially in the wet.
The GTC has undergone steering, chassis and suspension tuning in the UK on our roads by Vauxhall’s Engineering Centre staff from Millbrook Bedfordshire so Vauxhall versions are specifically set-up for our poorer roads than most of those found in mainland Europe although the settings can be adopted for the Opel Astra GTC variants if required.
The GTC is certainly sharper and more involving to drive thanks to this UK tuning and the adoption of a new HiPerStruts front suspension which has been derived from the 325PS Insignia VXR. The suspension is also lowered by 15mm over that used for the Astra Hatch, the wheelbase is 10mm longer and the tracks are 40mm wider at the front and 30mm at the rear. The result is a flat and level ride and the FlexRide option significantly smooths out the quality of ride and makes it more settled at higher speeds. much improved by the new front suspension is the GTC’s turn-in ability for high speed accurate cornering and there seems to be considerably more cornering grip from the front wheels. The GTC seems very agile and responsive and that will certainly appeal to keen drivers attracted by the sporty styling.
Inside the GTC, in line with the current Astra, storage volume in the cabin has also been improved by 50 per cent versus the old Sport Hatch, with items like the electronic park brake liberating space around the console in SRi models.
High quality materials feature in all GTCs, as do chrome-edged instruments in deep-set binnacles that give drivers clear and well laid-out information. Standard on all GTCs are DAB stereo and USB functionality, while SRi drivers get an onboard computer and leather-rimmed steering wheel, among many other standard items.
Two new colours – Seashell and Flaming Yellow – and a selection of new materials, bespoke to the GTC, set the car apart from others in the Astra range. Morello Red, and a new premium leather trim, are also available as an option and bring with it a six-way adjustable driver’s seat.
There is a wide choice of engines, 1.4 and 1.6 turbocharged petrol units with power outputs of 120, 140 and 180PS plus 1.7 and 2.0-litre CDTi turbodiesel units with 110, 130 and 165PS outputs.
Probably the best choice for most average mileage retail buyers, bearing in mind the sporty nature of the GTC, will be the 1.4-litre 140PS (138bhp) turbocharged petrol unit with Start/Stop function and 20 per cent of all customers are expected to choose this engine.
Kept on the boil this unit is responsive and fun to drive. let the revs fall away in the mid range and the capacity of the engine shows as the response can become sluggish for overtaking slower traffic despite its 200Nm of torque. Compared to other smaller capacity new generation turbocharged direct injection petrol engines, maximum torque is developed from 4,900rpm, when competitor units develop their grunt from 2,000rpm or less, hence the lack of response from low to medium speeds unless the engine is worked hard. Officially this unit will propel the GTC to a top speed of 125mph and zero to 62mph takes 9.0 seconds. Fuel economy is officially 47.1g/km with 140g/km of CO2 emissions. The price of the GTC with this engine with the best selling SRi specification is £20,345 and the insurance rating is 16E.
Pick of the bunch for performance, responsiveness and fuel economy though is the expected single best selling unit, the 2.0-litre CDTi turbodiesel with Start/Stop function as standard. this unit has 165PS (163bhp) of power and 350Nm of torque from 1,750rpm. top speed is 131mph, zero to 62mph takes 8.4 seconds, Combined Cycle fuel consumption is 58.9mpg but my test driving, in a spirited manner, reduced this to 43mpg. The CO2 emissions are 127g/km so road tax will be £0 cost under the First Year rate and then £95 per annum after that. Company car drivers will pay 18 per cent BIK tax. The insurance rating is 20E. Price of the Astra GTC with this engine and the SRi specification is £22,430 but if you are wise add in the extra £790 FlexRide suspension option it makes a very stylish coupe even better.
MILESTONES. Vauxhall Astra GTC 2.0 CDTi Start/Stop manual. Price: £22,430 (Plus £790 for the highly recommended FlexRide option). Engine/transmission; 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbodiesel, 165PS (163bhp), 350Nm (258lb ft) from 1,750rpm, 6-speed manual. Performance: 131mph, 0-62mph8.4 seconds, 58.9mpg (43mpg on test), CO2 127g/km, VED £0 First Year rate then £95 per annum, BIK company car tax 18%. Insurance group: 20E. Dimensions/capacity: L 4,466mm, W 2,020mm, H 1,482mm, boot/load space: 380 to 1,165-litres. For: Very stylish, high road presence, sharp handling, immense front end cornering grip, involving to drive, settled and comfortable ride with the FlexRide option but unsettled at speed without it, roomy in the front, well equipped and competitively priced in its sector. Against: Poor rear quarter visibility, rear shoulder room is tight, confusing layout on SRi models of the centrally positioned controls and switches, I’m no fan of electronic parking brakes.
Miles Better News Agency
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