Parkers overall rating: 4 out of 5 4.0

There are six engines available from launch. The ‘hottest’ offering in the range is currently a 1.6-litre petrol engine which makes 178bhp and will help the car hit 62mph in 7.8 seconds, boasting a top speed of 137mph. It’s a smooth and spritely unit which matches the car well. There’s also a 1.4-litre petrol unit available with 118bhp or 138bhp, emitting CO2 of between 140-142g/km depending on the size of the wheels and tyres fitted. This engine will haul the GTC to 60mph in either 9 seconds or 10.2 seconds respectively, although does feel like it has to try very hard to get there and you have to work the gearbox hard. A 1.7-litre diesel engine will come in two power outputs; 109bhp and 128bhp, hitting 60mph in 10 seconds or 11 seconds respectively. CO2 emissions for this powerplant are just 119g/km, so it's the version company car drivers are likely to be attracted to. Fuel economy is rated at 62.8mpg on the combined cycle. Rounding off the range is a 2.0-litre diesel engine making 163bhp and emitting 127g/km of CO2. Fuel consumption is 58.9mpg while the sprint to 62mph takes 8.4 seconds. The majority of the range will get manual gearboxes, while the 1.4-litre 138bhp petrol and the 2.0-litre diesel engine will also be available with an automatic six-speed ‘box if required. An even hotter ‘VXR’ version is rumoured to be on the way in 2012. There will also be an ecoFLEX version of the 1.7, which is set to emit 109g/km of CO2.

New for 2014 is a 1.6-litre direct injection petrol engine, first seen in the Cascada convertible, and packing 197bhp and 300Nm of torque. The all-new, four cylinder unit allows the GTC to achieve a top speed of 143mph and 0-60mph time in 7.3 seconds, making it the fastest non-VXR model in the Astra range.Fuel consumption is still competitive at 51mpg combined while CO2 emissions sit at 154g/km.

The Astra GTC is an engaging drive. Power is fed through the front wheels, but the car uses a sophisticated front suspension system borrowed from the Insignia VXR to get as much of the engine’s pulling power down on the tarmac as possible. This has greatly cut down on understeer (the effect front-wheel-drive cars get when the wheels spin through a corner and the car shoots straight on instead of continuing the corner).

Coupled with a wider track both at the front and rear, the GTC is an altogether different proposition to your common-or-garden five-door or Sport Tourer Astra. There’s far more grip available and although the car does weigh in at 1,495kg it feels pretty nimble through corners. The steering is fairly well-weighted and direct, but its electronic operation does cut down on the feedback you get through the wheel.

When turning into a corner at speed the GTC just dips its nose in and grips, inspiring confidence in the car’s handling ability. You have to start doing licence-losing things to fluster this chassis in any meaningful way. It may not have the final ride refinement of some of the German offerings, and is not quite as comfortable or quiet, but there’s certainly enough grip and agility to keep you entertained on your favourite B-road, while motorway miles are munched with ease.

The car’s turning circle is quoted as 10.9m, but with the largest wheels – a massive 20 inches in diameter – fitted the car does seem more difficult to manoeuvre in tight spaces as well as being a lot noiser.