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GTC is the sporty version of Opel's Astra. It looks great, but does it inspire - like all great coupes should?

Okay so it is not a coupe in the traditional sense as GTC is a five-seat hatchback but it is a different car to the more sensible Astra five-door. In fact GTC doesn’t share a single panel with the Astra.

Outside the GTC looks very impressive especially in ‘SRi’ specification that includes massive 18-inch alloy wheels. GTC looks powerful, wide (+40mm) and low set (-15mm). It sits on a slightly longer wheelbase and on the road looks full of purpose and promise – so that’s a big thumbs up for styling then.

Inside the cabin is well thought out and in fairness to the Opel design team a big step up on the old GTC. The interior is designed with connectivity and cubby space in mind. As with all Opels it can take a while to get your head around the stereo and navigation set ups but as they say once learnt never forgotten. For buyers with young kids there are three safety belts in the back and this is a plus in this class. The boot is decent but that curvy exterior does impact a little on cargo space. In a nutshell the cabin almost lives up to the exterior styling.

The engine range comes in petrol and diesel with the usual ordinary power outputs available. There are loads of toys on the options list and electronically adjustable suspension is available also. There are a couple of more interesting four-cylinder turbocharged engines higher up the price range namely the 1.6-litre petrol and 2-litre diesel (on test). My diesel pushes out a healthy 165bhp and is capable of returning really excellent fuel consumption figures. The ride and chassis are well tuned but sadly the engine doesn’t encourage any sort of enthusiastic driving. Is it a better drive than the cheaper Megane Coupe? Yes, or the excellent VW Scirocco? No.

GTC is lumpy at low speed and surprisingly noisy. You have to pay attention to get the car to make smooth progress through the gears at city speeds. On the open road the GTC feels more at home and is a far more fluid driving experience. It will cruise at high speed all day long but, and it is a but not once did I feel like taking the twisty way home. GTC even in top spec diesel form does not inspire enthusiastic driving. The petrol equivalent is a more interesting, lively drive but I think we’ll have to wait for the 280bhp ‘OPC’ high performance GTC due later this year to be truly inspired behind the wheel.

GTC is a very impressive looking machine that sadly doesn’t deliver an equally great driving experience. However in its class it is a highly desirable car but with Ireland pricing starting at €23,495 it is not cheap and needs to be lower if Opel is to shift the predicted circa 1000 units in 2012.

Michael Sheridan