The good-looking Opel Astra GTC coupe disappoints in power delivery and speed of gear changes
Wild looks, mild ride PHOTO: DAVID TING

The new Opel Astra GTC (short for Gran Turismo Compact) is such a head-turner that it is hard not to be smitten by this three-door, even at a casual glance.

Touted as a 'standalone model' within the Opel range, the GTC shares only two exterior components with its less glamorous Astra brothers: the wing mirror housings and radio antenna.

If it was placed next to its primary rival, the shapely Volkswagen Scirocco, it would make the VW look strangely unsexy.

Giving the GTC its dramatic looks are a chiselled front end and muscular haunches, rightfully complemented by that swoopy roofline. The rear end is equally well executed, for it makes this car seem like a sprinter that is about to take off from the starting blocks.

Despite its sporty styling, the GTC is actually slightly larger than its VW rival.

The Opel's front and rear tracks are also 15mm and 13mm wider respectively, but more importantly, its 2,695mm wheelbase is a significant 117mm longer.

Thus, rear-seat occupants will find the legroom decent and headroom pretty good (so long as the passengers are under 1.8m tall). Getting in and out of the back seat takes some practice, though. Storage trays on either side of the rear bench take care of odds and ends.

The infotainment system comes with satellite navigation as standard. There are several options for changing the colour of the touchscreen, with the yellow/red combination remaining visible even under harsh sunlight.

If you need to charge your mobile devices, there are two USB ports under the infotainment panel and an iPod cable nestled in the glove compartment.

Design-wise, there is nothing special about the GTC cabin, which uses parts that can also be found in a regular Astra hatchback. This is slightly disappointing in the light of the coupe's uber-cool exterior.

One way to enliven the interior would be to opt for the panoramic windscreen - a $5,000 option that 'stretches' the front windshield all the way to the middle of the roof. But given Singapore's tropical climate, it is likely that most drivers who choose this feature will be keeping the upper glass portion under wraps (with the retractable cover) during the day.

Certain to delight drivers is the GTC's composure on the go. In this aspect, Opel engineers have managed to strike a natural balance between sportiness and comfort, with the coupe staying relatively flat (with light understeer) around corners, while the ride turns bumpy only over really bad surfaces.

It is the GTC's powertrain that fails to impress. The turbocharged 1.4-litre unit looks good on paper, with output figures of 140bhp and 200Nm (the latter available from as low as 1,850rpm), but the overall performance belongs more to a cruiser than an outright bruiser.

The 10.3 seconds it takes to go from standstill to 100kmh make this wild-looking coupe feel more like a mild family runabout.

Also more mild than wild is the six-speed automatic's manual override function, which has an unhurried response.

However, the transmission does hold on to each gear until you eventually decide to shift up using the lever. In any case, few drivers will want to keep hitting the redline because of the engine's less- than-thrilling soundtrack.

If it had a stronger motor and a faster gearbox, this German newcomer could have been the popular VW Scirocco's worst nightmare in Singapore.

SPECS

OPEL ASTRA GTC 1.4

Price with COE: $132,999

Engine: 1,362cc 16-valve inline-4, turbocharged

Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual select

Power: 140bhp at 4,900-6,000rpm

Torque: 200Nm at 1,850-4,900rpm

0-100kmh: 10.3 seconds

Top speed: 200kmh

Fuel consumption: 6.8 litres/100km (city-highway)

Agent: Auto Germany