2013 OPEL ASTRA REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Three door small hatchback
Price: $34,990 (plus on-roads)
Engine/transmission: 1.6 litre turbo, 132kW/230Nm; six-speed manual
Fuel Economy claimed: 7.3 l/100km| tested: 11.9 l/100km
If the Opel Astra GTC Sport were a person, it’d be a beauty queen. A beauty queen who’s also a bit of an athlete.
Yep, it’s a bit of a looker - especially with the extra body parts that are unique to the Sport - and it’s great fun to throw around a set of tight, twisting corners.
However there are some liveability issues that mean this beauty queen is not without her idiosyncrasies.
Quality, or the apparent shortage of it, is our main gripe with the Astra.
While some aspects of the interior are well put-together and nicely finished (like the upper dash), you only need to look at the wiper and headlight stalks to see that this interior is full of cheap GM switchgear.
There are inconsistent panel gaps on the centre console plastics too, and the button-heavy centre stack layout can be frustrating to use.
Comfort: The Astra GTC’s seats are supposedly endorsed by a European health organisation, however two of our staff reported that the front backrests simply didn’t have enough lumbar support.
The adjustable squab length is welcome though, and there’s plenty of headroom for taller drivers. As you’d expect, over the shoulder vision is compromised by the thick C-pillars and the small rear window.
The rear seat is a smidge more spacious than a VW Scirocco, but is just as hard to get in and out of. Thankfully there’s a good amount of headroom back there, as well as a fold-down centre armrest with a couple of cupholders.
The GTC has enough seatbelts for three people to sit across its rear bench, but given the narrow width of the cabin we’d envisage the middle position is “emergency only”.
Equipment: The GTC Sport comes equipped with a wide range of gadgetry as standard, with staples like cruise control, Bluetooth and climate control all standard.
You also get heated front seats, auto-on headlamps, foglamps, rain-sensing wipers, a trip computer and front and rear parking sensors. Bi-xenon headlamps are available as a cost option.
There’s a USB input for the 7-speaker sound system, as well as iPod compatibility.
In addition, the GTC Sport comes standard with satellite navigation and a 7-inch colour infotainment screen, however this system is burdened by one of the most difficult and unintuitive interfaces we’ve come across.
Who knew that you have to push in the outer ring and not the middle of the selector dial to execute a command? Not us, and it certainly isn’t obvious when looking at the control panel.
Having to navigate back to the home screen to get to the radio page is also a multi-button exercise. Why there isn’t a simple shortcut key for this common command is beyond our comprehension.
Storage: Seats up, there’s 380 litres of storage space behind the back seats - about par for a modern hatchback. Fold the 60/40 split backrests down and you get a total of 1165 litres of space, along with a flat floor.
There’s also a ski port behind the centre armrest, which is a nifty feature for a small hatchback.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: The Astra GTC Sport’s turbo inline four manages to extract 132kW and 230Nm from its 1.6 litres of displacement.
Those are numbers that not too long ago would have qualified the GTC as a bona-fide hot hatch, so despite its size, the GTC Sport’s motor is not lacking punch.
However, with a 0-100km/h sprint time of 8.3 seconds the GTC Sport is still off the pace of modern hot hatchbacks.
As with all small-capacity turbo engines there’s a bit of turbocharger lag, but it’s not as severe as you’d expect.
Boost starts to come on strong about 3000rpm and by 4000rpm the little four-pot is in its comfort zone, so revs are key to keeping the GTC at its sprightliest.
Refinement: The GTC’s 1.6 can adopt quite a throaty note when given some stick, but otherwise it’s quite a quiet little powerplant.
We couldn’t hear any trim rattles during our test, and wind suppression was good. Tyre noise is noticeable at highway speeds though, thanks to the low-profile tyres and 19-inch alloys.
Suspension: We thought the GTC excelled in this area. With our car equipped with the optional Flexride adaptive suspension, comfort is commendable despite the 19-inch wheels and cornering performance is excellent.
The electrically-assisted power steering is direct and responsive (but not overly sharp, like the Ford Focus can be), and flicking the Astra into a sharp corner is both easy and enjoyable. Grip in cornering is superb, and there’s little bodyroll.
Mid-corner bumps don’t upset the front suspension, but the torsion-beam rear end can occasionally feel a little unsettled by bigger bumps. On the whole, though, the Astra GTC’s suspension is very well sorted.
Braking: The sizable contact patch offered by the GTC’s 235-section Bridgestone Potenzas confers good traction under braking, and the GTC’s all-disc hardware pulls it up quickly.
ANCAP rating: 5 Stars
Safety features: Stabilty control and traction control are standard, as is ABS and an electronic parking brake with hill-hold assist.
Passengers are protected by a full suite of six airbags (front, front side and full-length curtain), and anti-whiplash front headrests.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years or 100,000km.
Service costs: Under Opel’s Service Plus program, scheduled servicing costs for the Astra GTC Sport are capped at $299 for the first three years or 45,000km of ownership.
Service intervals are set for every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever occurs first.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Hyundai Veloster SR Turbo ($31,990) - Not quite as lavish in the equipment stakes as the Opel, but the turbo Hyundai is the more enjoyable car.
With 150kW and 265Nm the Veloster’s turbocharged 1.6 litre out-muscles the Astra’s, and, although less-refined, the Veloster is capable enough in a corner.
Front seat headroom can be an issue for taller drivers, however the Veloster’s back seat and third door makes it a more practical proposition on the whole. Unlike the Opel, it’s also available with an automatic transmission. (see Veloster reviews)
Volkswagen Golf GTI 3 door ($38,990) - The quintessential hot hatch.
Although it’s more expensive than the Opel, it’s got lots more power and a more capable suspension. Its interior is starting to date, but cabin quality is segment-leading. (see GTI reviews)
Citroen DS3 DSport ($29,990) - It’s a bit unfair to line up the markedly smaller (and cheaper) DS3 with the Opel, but in terms of head-turning style and engine output both are about equal.
The DS3 has less power (115kW) but more torque (240Nm), and sprints to 100km/h a full second faster than the Astra GTC Sport. Then again, it’s very, very small. (see DS3 reviews)
Ford Focus ST ($38,290) - The new dominant hot hatch. Not only is it just a few more grand than the Opel, but it’s better in every aspect of performance AND has two more doors for practicality.
Definitely a lot uglier than the Opel though. (see Focus ST reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Okay. So the front seats didn’t agree with us, interior quality is sub-par and we absolutely hated the infotainment interface, but we still found the Astra GTC Sport a likeable machine.
The engine is a sweet unit with a surprising amount of low-end torque for a 1.6, and when optioned with the Flexride adaptive suspension the Sport corners like it’s on rails, yet is eminently comfortable over rough pavement.
It’s a car that will please keen drivers, no doubt. They’ll need to be very keen though, as at $34,990 the GTC Sport is rather pricey for a three-door hatchback with no automatic transmission.
Still, with a gorgeous face like that...