Veloster aims to establish its coupe credentials against the sexiest Astra for years
Hyundai isn’t famed for sporty offerings, but it has got a decent pedigree when it comes to affordable coupes. The first-generation Coupe was launched in 1996, while its replacement lasted until 2009.
Despite lacking the badge kudos normally demanded in this sector, both models had a loyal following, so there’s a weight of expectation resting on the Veloster’s shoulders.
That hasn’t stopped Hyundai ripping up the rulebook and doing something a bit different with the asymmetrical door layout, though. Vauxhall, on the other hand, is following a well established formula of designing a three-door hatch with a slice of coupe-inspired style.
Closely related to the GTC concept car shown at the Paris Motor Show in 2010, the Astra GTC is a sleek and perfectly executed piece of design. Viewed from the front it looks like the five-door, but in profile you’ll notice a sharp crease running around the door handle and all the way up the muscular arches into the svelte tailgate.
Combine this with the curved roofline, and the GTC certainly looks the part. Whether it’s more stylish than the distinctive Hyundai is a matter of personal choice. There’s no debate about the difference in size, though, as you can’t fail to notice that the Hyundai looks tiny parked next to the Astra. This hands the Vauxhall a clear advantage when it comes to practicality.
In the rear there’s plenty of headroom, while the bench can seat three in comfort. Better still, access is good, even without an extra door at the back. The 380-litre boot is huge, but the Veloster’s 320-litre boot is still more than big enough for a handful of shopping bags.
The Veloster is narrower, shorter and lower than its rival, but its wheel-at-each-corner design maximises interior space. In the rear, there’s only a pair of seats with a handy stowage tray in the middle. Legroom is decent, but the sloping roofline pinches headroom and six footers will find their head bashing uncomfortably against the flat section of the two-piece rear windscreen.
Up front, the driving position is let down by a seat that doesn’t go low enough, but quality is hard to fault. The attractive dashboard tapers towards the bottom of the central console, while the upmarket touchscreen and ice blue back lighting are smart features.
Overall, though, the Vauxhall’s interior feels a fraction more upmarket. The only letdown is that, having been lifted wholesale from its five-door sibling, the driving environment doesn’t feel any sportier.
On the move, there’s less road noise than in the Hyundai, and this adds to the GTC’s grown-up feel. However, the Vauxhall’s sensible persona carries over to the handling. Despite revised suspension, the GTC isn’t very engaging to drive. There’s loads of grip, and the handling is predictable, but the controls lack the feedback needed for fun.
The Hyundai is far lighter on its feet and more responsive. It’s clear the chassis has been set up to deliver a sporty drive – turn-in is positive, grip levels strong and the body control sharp. The steering artificially weights up either side of the central position, but you still get a better sense of what’s going on than in the Astra.
So it’s a shame that the engine is something of a disappointment. It makes a dull noise and has to be worked hard, becoming strained at high revs. But it does have an identical 138bhp power output to the Vauxhall and, as it’s 126kg lighter, the Veloster got from 0-60mph six-tenths quicker than the GTC, in 9.0 seconds. But when it comes to in-gear response, the Vauxhall’s extra 33Nm of torque gave it the upper hand during our test runs.
The GTC has punchy throttle response low in the revs and a raspy exhaust note, but the 1.4-litre Vauxhall gets a little gruff above 4,000rpm. It’s cleaner than the Hyundai, though, and sits one band lower for company car tax.
However, it’s worth bearing in mind that the Veloster is considerably cheaper to buy in the first place and comes with a five-year warranty, breakdown recovery and free annual mechanical checks.
Hyundai Veloster 1.6 gDi
Engine: 1.6-litre 4cyl, 138bhp
0-60mph: 9.0 seconds
Economy on test: 30.0mpg
Why? New Veloster crosses the boundaries between the coupe and hatchback classes. Adds style and fun to the Hyundai package.
Vauxhall Astra GTC 1.4 SRi 140
Engine: 1.4-litre turbo, 138bhp
0-60mph: 9.6 seconds
Economy on test: 29.0mpg
Why? Sleek GTC is effectively a three-door Astra, but every body panel is new. It costs more than the Veloster, though.