By Philip Hedderman
Sit down, grab a box of extra strength tissues … and just drool.
The magnificent creation you see before you is the new Astra GTC – probably the sexiest version ever manufactured.
Now, to the untrained eye, some would dismiss this as a ‘tarted up’ three door version of the bog standard family hatchback.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
In fact Gunter and his team of uber efficient engineers worked so hard at making her stand out from the crowd that not one single panel is the same.
If you want to be picky then only the door handles and the roof are shared by both cars.
Such effort and toil is all part of the Wir Leben Autos (We Live Cars) ethos which is at the top of a global marketing strategy driving home the message that Opel is once again a respected German Badge.
To quantify that we first need a brief history lesson.
Believe it or not but the Opel brand began life in a cowshed in ruralRusselsheimas a sewing machine.
From there it and moved swiftly into transport – namely bicycle manufacturing.
Spotting a niche in the market Adam Opel ventured into the very new and exciting world of the automobile.
Their first couple of efforts – although deemed a success – were not what is termed today as volume sellers.
That all changed in 1909 with the birth of the 4/8HP or as it was more effectionately known the “Doctor’s Car” – revered and admired by physicians for its reliability and robustness travelling dirt roads.
It was also produced for half the price of its rivals,
Needless to say the orders came thick and fast bringing with it many accolades and unprecedented success.
So much so that by 1914 Opel had become the biggest manufacturer of motor vehicles inGermany.
The marque became synonymous with build quality – something which unfortunately waned over the years through the mass production techniques associated with parent company GM.
That’s something the car giant is determined to turn around.
These days the words Germanic and quality go hand in hand and has become a bit of a cliché amongst car critics.
Mention Audi, BMW, VW and Skoda and motoring journalists we’ll all agree on one thing – manufacturing quality.
Opel want a slice of the action and are determined to prove themselves.
And the new Astra GTC is a prime example of that determination.
It would have been so easy to flunk a project like this by simply throwing on a couple of extras a bit of bling and badging her up as a pretend hot hatch.
Thankfully the designers resisted that temptation and actually built a car worthy of the badge from the ground up.
First the styling.
She gets Star Trek-shaped Xenon lights which curve deep into the wings and bonnet, massively flared wheel arches complimented by stonking 19inch, five spoke alloys, a lower roofline and a bulging rear end which would make JLo jealous.
Inside its wall-to-wall leather, bucket seats, brushed aluminium inlays in the doors and chrome trimmed, sunken clocks illuminated in lipstick red – giving a real sporty, vibrant feel to the cabin.
But in a chariot like this its all about the drive and almost everything under the hood has been tweaked, pulled, stretched and stiffened.
The suspension is given the full Monty – dropping 15mm while the tracks front and rear are widened to give a much tauter ride.
This makes a huge difference giving that extra confidence to negotiate tight bends.
The new Opel Astra GTC power train line-up features petrol engines ranging from 120 PS to 180PS and three turbo diesels 110PS to 165PS. All engines t
The 2.0 litre 165bhp diesel unit while lively enough lacks the real killer punch given by petrol variants and the absence of a snorting exhaust grunt is sorely missed.
A tad disappointing but on the upside, the astounding economy of 57mpg and low CO2 count (127g/km) meaning annual Road Tax of just €225 is sure to be a major plus for the cash-conscious buyer of today’.
The blistering pace or lack of it is the true downfall of this otherwise fine ”hottish” hatch but all is not lost with news that the OPC – packing a savage 280bhp – is in the pipeline.
Another small negative is the starting price which kicks in at €23,495 jumping to €25,495 for the SRi which is the proper starting point.
It’s a bit too rich for a car that’s just not quite there.
It really needs to be a couple of grand cheaper if it is to avoid being constantly mauled by the VW Scirocco and more importantly the imminent arrival of theFocus STin September.
The good news is that Opel are definitely heading in the right direction.