by guest columnist
|Vauxhall Astra GTC
Vauxhalls just get better and better
They are premium cars desperate for a premium badge
**** out of 5
For: Beautifully built, fabulous road holding
Against: High depreciation
Ever since Vauxhall’s rust-ridden nadir in the 1960s, its products, starting with the Cavalier have just got better and better. Thanks to designers and engineers poached from premium manufacturers the products are of true premium quality right from the little Corsa up to the superb Insignia.
These talented engineers and stylists must be very frustrated that they produce such tremendous products only for the sales and marketing people to devalue them through oversupply. At every Vauxhall launch press conference the spin doctors trot out the term ‘premium’ at every opportunity but along with their bosses fail to grasp that belonging to the premium club is nothing to do with product; it is to do with manufacturer behaviour. If too much product is forced onto unwilling dealers they will discount to reach the lucrative targets. Because residual values will plummet as a result, the cost to lease or contract purchase the cars will actually increase to the point that it is cheaper to buy an equivalent Audi , BMW or Mercedes no contest.
As an example, Vauxhall’s ‘puff’ sites the Audi A3 and BMW 1 Series as competitors to the new Astra GTC. Leading trade guide CAP Monitor predicts that the GTC 2.0 CDTi Sport will be worth just £5,300 after 3 years and 60,000 miles, a paltry 29% of its new cost of £21,110. That doesn’t tell the whole story as that value will fall once the GTC is no longer ‘new’ to the market.
The GTC will dominate the class
As would be expected from the latest car to be launched in a given class, the GTC offers the best dynamic qualities and that includes the ‘ultimate driving machine’, the BMW 1 Series Coupé.
The GTC is truly a sports car and not just a 3 door version of the hatch. Vauxhall’s engineers were determined to deliver a driver-oriented feel to the car and best-in-class handling. Key to this is the HiPerStrut front suspension which is taken from the 325 PS Insignia VXR and replaces the MacPherson struts on the 5 door hatch. These struts reduce torque steer, sharpen steering responses and reduce camber change, enhancing grip. On the road it certainly works and you almost ‘think’ the car around corners. The brakes are also tailored to the driver with a linear feel where pedal pressure is directly related to retardation with no over sensitivity so often experienced on current cars.
Considering its sporting pedigree it is surprising that the most powerful engine offered is the 1.6 turbo petrol with 180 PS. The Scirocco , A3 and Megane all offer up to 265 PS and the BMW 1 Series Coupé, 306 which makes the GTC look a little feeble. There will surely be a VXR version eventually which will redress the balance but in the meantime sales will be lost.
Plenty of space for a sports hatch
At launch, there will be three petrol engines; 1.4 T 120 PS and 140 PS and 1.6 T 180 PS. There will also be three diesel engines 1.7 CDTi 110 and 130 PS and 2.0 CDTi with 165 PS. A 109 gram per kilometre ecoFLEX model will be available next year.
There will be just two trim levels for all engine options, Sport and SRI. The Sport is well equipped with ESP (electronic stability programme), six airbags, 18” alloy wheels, air conditioning, DAB radio with MP3 and CD player, electric front windows, cruise control, fully adjustable steering wheel with audio controls and front seat height adjusters. The SRI adds extremely supportive sports front seats, automatic headlights and wipers, electric parking brake, hill start assist, leather covered wheel and dark tinted rear windows.
A great used car bargain
*Vauxhalli provided one night’s hotel accommodation
© Robert Couldwell - October 2011
For publication on Winton’s World
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