Vauxhall, you know, has quite a performance heritage. From the Prince Henry of 1911 to the fire-breathing Firenza models of the Seventies, the Eighties Chevette HSR rallycars or the Lotus Carlton super saloon, the last century saw plenty for the driving enthusiast to get excited about behind the wheel of something bearing the Griffin badge. None of these models though, were cars that sporting motorists were particularly likely to want to use every day.
Which was why in 1990, Vauxhall launched the Calibra, an affordable compact coupe based on ordinary underpinnings that was super-stylish, sensibly practical and, in its more potent forms, really very decent to drive. It was different enough from humbler Astras and Cavaliers to be desirable. Yet similar enough to remain affordable both to buy and to run. Curiously, the Calibra wasn't replaced, nor was it really replicated in the Vauxhall line-up - until late 2011 and the launch of the car we're going to look at here, this one, the Astra GTC.
This Vauxhall made its debut on the UK market at a time when interest in compact coupes seemed to be on the rise, with all-new models like the MINI Coupe and the Hyundai Veloster arriving to join a revised version of Renault's Megane Coupe, the Peugeot RCZ and perhaps this car's toughest competitor, Volkswagen's Scirocco. None of these cars would have been seriously troubled had Vauxhall done little more than dress up a three-door version of the ordinary Astra family hatch - as had been the case with the previous Astra Sport Hatch and Astra coupe models that tried and failed to replicate the old Calibra's appeal. But this GTC, this 'Grand Touring Coupe', was different. Sharing not a single body panel with an ordinary 'J'-series MK4 Astra of the period, it was wider, longer, lower and more athletic looking. And though the engines would have been familiar to Astra folk back in 2011, a clever HiPerStrut suspension system meant that this GTC variant felt a bit sportier to drive.
This was, in short, a surprisingly desirable Astra. A 280PS petrol turbo VXR hot hatch variant joined the range in 2012. And shortly after, Vauxhall introduced a 200PS version of the petrol turbo 1.6, to bridge the gap between conventional variants and the VXR. When the MK5 'K'-series Astra range was launched in 2015, it didn't include a Coupe/3-door body style, so Vauxhall kept the GTC in the showrooms for another year in conventional form - and the VXR variant continued to sell right up to the end of the decade.