If you like the blend of pace and practicality that hot hatches offer, but are put off by their high running costs, a performance diesel such as this Vauxhall Astra GTC Biturbo could be the answer.
Okay, its 192bhp output sounds a little anaemic compared with the 276bhp that you get from its petrol sister, the Astra VXR. However, the Biturbo has masses of torque and officially averages almost 58mpg.
It even looks the part, thanks to twin exhausts, 18-inch alloy wheels and an aggressive, VXR-style bodykit.
What’s the 2013 Vauxhall Astra GTC Biturbo like to drive?
As the name suggests, the Biturbo's engine has two turbochargers; the first kicks in at around 1500rpm, then the second takes over at higher revs.
This gives it a more progressive power delivery than many high-powered diesels, and means you don’t have to make frequent gearchanges to keep the engine in its sweet spot.
True, it also means the acceleration doesn’t feel particularly dramatic, but the Biturbo offers strong real-world performance and lets you overtake with confidence.
The Biturbo also comes with a sports suspension set-up, which keep body roll to a minimum in corners without ruining ride comfort, although the steering isn't as precise as a VW Golf GTD's.
It's the refinement that's most disappointing, though. The engine sounds very gruff at low speeds, and never completely settles down. You feel vibration through the seat and pedals, too.
What’s the 2013 Vauxhall Astra GTC Biturbo like inside?
There are some sporty touches, including a flat bottomed steering wheel, alloy pedals and bespoke sports seats, but otherwise the Biturbo is like any other Astra GTC.
On the plus side, this means the cabin is spacious enough for four six-footers, and the boot is a good size and shape.
Unfortunately, it also means there are big blindspots at both the front and the rear, and the dashboard is hard to navigate because it’s covered in poorly arranged buttons.
Perceived quality could also be better, with the plastics feeling quite ordinary compared with those in the best rivals.
What’s more, you don’t get a huge amount of equipment for your money; Vauxhall charges £220 for Bluetooth and £195 for rear parking sensors.
Should I buy one?
The Astra GTC Biturbo succeeds in combining strong performance with sporty looks and low running costs. However, the TDI 184 FR version of Seat's Leon SC offers similar attributes, along with a lower price, more standard kit and sharper handling.
If you’re in the market for this sort of car, we’d also recommend you consider a Golf GTD. It might cost more upfront, but its stronger resale values mean it should work out cheaper than the Astra in the long run, and the GTD feels a lot classier inside.
What Car? says…
Seat Leon SC 2.0 TDI 184 FR
Volkswagen Golf GTD
Engine size 2.0-litre diesel
Price from £23,925
Torque 295lb ft
0-60mph 7.8 seconds
Top speed 139mph
Fuel economy 57.7mpg
CO2 emissions 129g/km