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.
However, there were a couple of downsides to our GTC. Even with the 177bhp 1.6-litre turbocharged engine up front, it simply wasn't quick enough. On top of that it did like a drop of unleaded; the GTC averaged 31.5mpg in nine months.
It pains me to say it, but living with our GTC has been a bit like a requited crush that just hasn't lived up to the fantasy. Yet, here's the paradox: it's achingly attractive and sublimely smooth to drive; you want one, even though you know you shouldn't.
Price when new 21,480
Price now (new) 21,990
Extras Leather pack 1050;
Navi 600 sat-nav 855; Bluetooth 220; LED rear lights 115
Total price new 23,720
Current part-ex value 13,250
Overall fuel economy 31.5mpg
Worst fuel economy 24.0mpg
Best fuel economy 40.1mpg
True MPG 36.7mpg
Official fuel economy 39.2mpg
CO2(g/km)/tax liability 168/24%
Contract hire 234
Cost per mile 43p
Insurance group 25
Typical quote 700
By Emma Butcher