The Vauxhall Astra GTC has been given the automotive equivalent of a workout to beef up its looks and power, and created the newest VXR.
A natural successor to the previous generation Astra VXR and stablemate to other VXR models in the range, Vauxhall will sell more VXRs in Britain than the rest of Europe and it’s anticipated to take 10pc of GTC volume or 1200 units annually in the UK. Dealers already have 621 orders for the VXR.
Although based on the popular Astra GTC, the VXR version is in fact a very different car both underneath and in its bodystyling, as VP of Design Mark Adams was keen to point out, saying, “We wanted to give the Astra VXR a more muscular look, particularly from the back.
“You actually spend more time looking at the back of a vehicle than any other view when you’re driving and we wanted to make the Astra VXR distinctive.
“It has a lower front line, lower sills, reverse blade and shock wave on the side but at the back it has a more rounded cabin area and a sort of duck-tail on the boot which pulls the whole thing together over wide arches.”
The Astra VXR also has a unique bi-plane rear window spoiler, with a carefully designed small wing exerting downforce over the more familiar spoiler on the back window.
“This is form and function working together,” added Mark Adams. ”We wanted it to have elements of the Astra but also to look different as well so it has a wider track front and back and the arches are flared to create a more dramatic stance, more muscular appearance.”
The wheels, tyres, seats, steering wheel and interior are also unique to the Astra VXR.
Mechanically, the new model has been put on a diet so unsprung weight is cut by 60kgs at the wheels, it uses a new mechanical limited slip differential, sports brakes, bushes and suspension.
This weight saving not only improves dynamic handling qualities but also performance and lowers emissions while making the Astra VXR one of the most powerful three-doors hatches on sale.
It costs a coffee under £27,000 on the road but comes with standard FlexiRide adjustable damping, selectable ESP, digital entertainment system, USB, iPod and Bluetooth connectivity and LED tail-lights.
The side-skirts and bi-plane spoiler as well as 20inch alloys are part of the £995 Aero Pack, but most early buyers have specified this and other options include electric seat adjustment, satnav with SD card and adaptive forward lighting.
The 2+2 interior has some subtle changes to the wheel and secondary switches, instruments and oddments room. The rear seats fold and there’s a ski-hatch for long items.
Aimed at the enthusiastic VXR community and performance drivers, the most powerful Astra was honed on the Nurburgring and the mechanical LSD was developed by a racing supplier and it’s fitted with unique Pirelli tyres.
It has class-leading pulling power in the mid-range as well as in absolute terms and its responsiveness is down to a new type of air-flow sensor and refined turbo-charger with a tuned exhaust note to enjoy.
Astra VXR is fitted with a stop&start system to improve overall economy compared to the previous generation VXR as well as lower exhaust emissions.
First drive impressions
Vauxhall has done a good job of beefing up the Astra VXR for British buyers.
The powertrain and chassis changes are not only impressive where it matters on the road, but they have not destroyed the Astra for every-day use, so long as you are cautious about pulling out or reversing because there are big blind-spots.
But you can see, feel and hear the differences delivered by the Astra VXR.
It looks the part of a rapid road car, it feels sporting in the hands and seat of the pants and the way the exhaust note alters is like turning on a kettle.
The mid-range pull is probably the abiding memory of our initial drive, the way the power pours out in third and fourth is most impressive, it cruises quietly and overall we saw 29mpg on our test route over a variety of A & B class roads and short dual carriageway.
I liked the new lightweight yet very supporting seats, you can sit two in the back but its short on legroom for a third in the middle and the boot is of a useful size and quickly increases when the seat-backs are down.
I disliked the blackness of the interior and lack of relief apart from the coloured instruments and felt more could have been done to highlight elements of the interior contours. Having said that, the Astra VXR comes with good equipment as standard and useful optional items to satisfy individuals.
Astra VXR is keenly priced for the performance per pound and smile per mile.
Vauxhall Astra VXR 2.0 Turbo £26,995.
Technical: 2.0 16v 4cyl 1998cc engine, 280ps at 5,500rpm, 400Nm 2,500 to 4,500rpm, six speed, front wheel drive, independent front HiPerStruts with rear compound crank and Watt’s link, electro hydraulic steering.
Performance: 155mph max., 5.9sec 0-60mph, 34.9mpg combined (actual on test 29.1 mpg).
Fuel tank: 56 litres (12.5 gallons approx.)
Insurance group: 35E T1.
Loadspace: 380 to 1165 litres.
Warranty: 100K .
For: Mid-range pulling power, sharp steering, slick gearchange and strong brakes with acceptable ride over bad surfaces, supportive seats.
Against: Visibility, oppressively dark interior, some kickback through steering under strong acceleration, occasional road noise over certain surfaces.