During the nine months that the Vauxhall Astra GTC was on our long-term test fleet, its styling was something on which we all agreed: it looked sleek, it looked rakish, it looked fast. As with any new relationship, though, it's the looks that attract you first; the tricky bit comes when you start to get to know all the good and bad habits of the person you're with. We had a fair bit of nitty-gritty to negotiate with the Astra GTC.
The looks are everything, which brings compromises. The doors are long, the seatbelt is a stretch and the haunches are wide. Its small glass area looks great, but seriously impedes visibility; just getting a peek at traffic to the right requires you to peer around the chunky windscreen and door pillars. Rear visibility is tight, too, because of the small rear window.
A car with such limited vision and bulky wheelarches really should come with parking sensors, yet even on the well-specced SRi trim they're only optional. Every time I approached even standard-sized spaces, I cursed the schoolgirl error it was to overlook this option.
The Astra GTC in SRi trim does have lots of tricks up its pretty sleeves, though. Electronic stability control, an MP3 player, an iPod port and a DAB radio are all standard, while other clever features include an anti-dazzle rear-view mirror, and automatic headlights and wipers.
If you want sat-nav, you'll have to add the £855 Navi 600 system; it's not cheap, but the traffic alert and detour function saved me from snarl-ups more than once.
The optional Bluetooth system has also proved its worth, although the voice recognition isn't the most sensitive, so you need to speak up.
As for practicality, you get almost the same proportions as the standard Astra hatchback; it's a little smaller in the rear but there's plenty of legroom. On a family visit to Yorkshire, my parents were quite comfortable in the back, although they weren't so keen on the tinted windows.
The 370-litre boot is generous, too, and did manage to swallow my entire kitchen (its contents, not the sink) when I moved house earlier this year.
On the road, the Astra GTC is stable, it grips well and traction is great. It's fitted with Vauxhall's Hiperstrut suspension system, which is designed to stop the wheel writhing around under acceleration. It works well.
Our reviews are based on hard data and thorough testing in the real world.
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