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Owner Review

2012 Opel Astra Review

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The Opel Astra GTC is a car I lusted after from the time I saw the first 3D renderings of it in 2010. Circumstances prevented me from buying one new, during Opel's blink-and-you'll-miss-it sojourn in the Australian market, but last year I found a great used buy and could not help myself.

It is a truly beautiful thing to behold and after 9 months or so none of that allure has worn off. I would add a caveat, though, because it is actually a much bigger car than I was expecting. The standard 19” wheels tend to hide it's true size but when you see it in a car park, amongst its lesser brethren, you realise that it is closer to Camry size than to Corolla.

Size can be handy when it comes to the practical side of owning a car. Unlike many other coupes, there are no compromises on cabin or boot space. I've had three burly blokes across the back seat and heard no complaints. The only area where it's gorgeous styling gets in the way is the boot opening, which is a little narrow and has a high lip. Boot space itself, though, is great and the seats fold forward more easily than on any other car I have owned. Rearward vision is also OK for a coupe.

I have never understood why coupes get so much negative press for only having two doors. Yes, the doors are enormous and, very occasionally, it can be a bit harder to get in and out of in a tight car park but most of the time those same wide doors make it so much easier to get in and out. They also make it easy to get in and out of the back, with the added safety benefit of making it easy to control how and when children get out.

The button-fest that is the centre console also comes up for regular criticism but it is really well thought-out and makes perfect sense after a few weeks. It is one of those things you appreciate more as an owner than a reviewer.

The GTC Sport comes with the same 1.6 litre turbo four you get in Holden's Cruze SRi. It is tempting to say that it "only" has 132kW of power but in reality it is quite sprightly in every day use and, given the chance, can be a lot of fun.

Pressing the “Sport” button takes it to another level, firming up the dampers (mine has the Flexride option to facilitate this) and making both the steering and throttle more sensitive to driver input. It also turns the instruments red, which is pretty cool. (Or am I a bit sad?) It's great on a winding country road but definitely too aggressive for city driving.

Last Christmas I drove down to Melbourne via Macquarie Pass and Alpine Way, which gave me plenty of opportunity to give it some stick. The most enjoyable part was flying past a group of Ferraris and Lamborghinis out on a supercar drive day. The driver of their pace car seemed none too happy with me for doing it, either. The GTC gave me huge confidence to push as hard as I wanted, knowing that if a truck appeared around the next bend I'd have plenty in reserve, either to tighten my line or brake, to avoid them. It was easily the most enjoyable road trip I have ever done. I have owned a V8 and a couple of rotaries and none of them would have been as much fun, I'm sure.

So far the car has been perfectly reliable, which you would expect of a car less than three years old. Annual services are capped at $299. Looking at the longer term, the fact the GTC shares many of its components with the Cruze should mean relatively cheap parts and servicing once the warranty runs out, especially now that Holden are selling the GTC in Australia again. Surprisingly, it is cheaper to insure than the Kia Rio it replaced. Fuel economy is also not much worse than the Rio.

I would love to be able to afford a 911 or a Hurracan but I live in the real world and the GTC Sport is a great blend of practical, exotic and fun with fewer compromises than many other coupes. If you are after something with bags of style, small car practicality and enough go to allow you to thoroughly enjoy a weekend drive through the countryside, you could do a lot worse.