Opel Astra 1-6 Sport

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Keywords: Opel Astra 1-6 Sport

Description: The tastiest of Opel’s latest offerings is the Astra GTC and we ascertain whether or not it has what it takes to bloody the noses of the segment favourites.

Speak to any Opel fanatic and three names are bound to get shoehorned into the conversation at some point – Kadett, Big Boss and Super Boss. Yes, those were the halcyon days of Opel. Days when the German marque would hand out regular beatings to the Golf GTI brigade. Days when the lightning badge was synonymous with hot hatches and demanded respect amongst street-fighting hooligans and gentlemen racers alike.

Since then, Opel has struggled to compete in the overcrowded bloodied scrum that is the South African hot hatch market, let alone the standard, run-of-the-mill hatch segment.

However, Opel has released some pretty impressive metal in recent times. The 5-door Astra should be a fairly strong competitor while the Corsa continues its role as the company’s bread and butter provider.

The tastiest of Opel’s offerings, however, is the new Astra GTC and we managed to get our hands on the range-topping 1.6 T Sport for a week to ascertain whether or not it has what it takes to bloody the noses of the segment favourites.

In terms of curb-side appeal, the Astra GTC has similar head-turning credentials as those of the Mégane GT Line Coupé and VW Scirocco 1.4 TSI. Unfortunately, while the GTC (R304 000) poses a similar price point to that of the Scirocco (R302 800), the Mégane (R259 900) simply blows it out of the water.

Granted, the Astra GTC has a comprehensive list of standard kit to justify its price tag including some very comfortable, leather-clad and heated bucket seats, auto headlights, auto climate control, cruise control, rear park assist, rain-sensing wipers, remote controls on the leather steering wheel, keyless entry and start, USB, Bluetooth and onboard computer with information display.

While it sounds a bit garish, the LED ambient interior lighting is subtle and classy while the rest of the interior is comfortable and well put together with premium-feel materials and construction. If there was one gripe it would be the abundance of switchgear on the centre stack. It’s probably something you would get used to but there are simply too many buttons here.

And then there’s the engine. If it’s hot hatch performance you’re after, you’ll have to wait for the OPC due later in 2012. Nevertheless, the Astra GTC’s 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder mill is nothing to sneeze at. Developing a healthy 132kW and 230Nm, it’s still capable of launching the GTC from standstill to 100km/h in a claimed 8.3 seconds.

It’s also pretty frugal with Opel claiming it consumes just 6.8 litres/100km in combined cycle testing, although you’re more likely to see a figure closer to 8.0 in real-life situations.

Nevertheless, the Astra GTC provides a smooth, comfortable drive through its 6-speed manual gearbox while still providing plenty of get-up-and-go for those times when you need it.

The Opel Astra GTC is a good, solid, well-built, 3-door hatch. But, then again, so are all the others. It’s difficult to see what sets the GTC apart from its competitors and this fact is exactly what is hindering the Opel brand at the moment. It’s good, it’s just not great.

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