Vauxhall Astra VXR

11 Jun, 2012 1:00pm Luke Madden

Verdict on the new turbocharged Vauxhall Astra VXR, which delivers on its bold looks with huge pace and sharp handling

Verdict

5
The previous-generation Astra VXR had the pace to outpunch its rivals, but never offered the precise handling it needed to be a winner. This all-new version does. It’s incredibly fast – the fastest in its class – but its sophisticated chassis finally makes all that power usable. Yes, the ride is firm and the price very high, but if you want a head-turning hot hatch that promises real driving thrills, this is it.
The performance hatchback arena has never been more tightly packed or hotly contested. The all-new Ford Focus ST, as well as the updated Renaultsport Megane 265 and Volkswagen Golf GTI Edition 35, are all aiming to be at the top.

However, Vauxhall’s latest contender – the new Astra VXR – is definitely the most promising: it has more power, more torque and more performance-boosting technology than all of its rivals.

Using the curvy three-door Astra GTC as its base, the VXR looks set to turn the most heads, too. A colour-coded front grille, more aggressive front spoiler, LED tail-lights and 19-inch alloy wheels are all standard.

Our car was also fitted with the £995 VXR Aero Pack – an option Vauxhall reckons 85 per cent of customers will specify. The pack includes attention-seeking 20-inch alloys, a biplane rear spoiler and muscular side skirts.

With 276bhp from its 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, the Astra VXR has the go to match its considerable show. It covers 0-62mph in 5.9 seconds – and if you’re in any doubt about how fast that is, just consider that a Porsche Boxster completes the same sprint in 5.8 seconds. This is also six tenths of a second quicker than the Focus ST can manage, seven tenths up on a GTI Edition 35 and a tenth faster than the Megane 265.

Those figures only tell half the story. This is a car full of character. Not only is there searing pace throughout the rev range, but the VXR also produces an exhaust note that sounds like nothing else on the road. From inside the cabin, there’s a growl up until about 4,000rpm, when it develops into something more like the rough whoosh of a jet engine. All that performance is more accessible than ever thanks to a clever front suspension set-up borrowed from the Insignia VXR.

The HiPerStrut system helps reduce the amount of torque steer – the sensation that the steering wheel is tugging in your hands as you accelerate – and it works very well. Under most conditions, you can floor the throttle out of a bend and feel totally in control. It’s only when you find some camber that the wheel can sometimes wriggle a bit. But this just adds to the sense that this car is a bit of a hooligan.

Steering which feels alive is something that has become harder to come by as new cars switch to less talkative electric power-steering systems, but the VXR’s electro-hydraulic set-up helps buck the trend. Turn into a corner and, as you hit a bump, the wheel will feed back exactly what’s underneath the front tyres to your hands. It gives you huge amounts of confidence.

And that’s a good thing considering how capable this car is in corners. A lot like the Megane 265, you have to be travelling at really high speeds before the Astra VXR even begins to feel flustered on a twisting, poorly surfaced UK B-road.

The car comes as standard with a limited-slip differential, which helps draw you into the apex of a bend and slingshot you out the other side. The front wheels will eventually lose grip, but switch the Astra’s adaptive dampers to Sport, or even VXR mode, and they seem to grip even harder than before.

So is it all good news? Not quite. The problem is the ride. It’s firm – but not necessarily uncomfortable – in the standard setting, but it becomes even stiffer when you start to explore the Sport and VXR settings. As a result, these are best used occasionally on smooth roads, rather than as standard.

Still, for all its immense performance, the Astra VXR doesn’t do too badly at the pumps. Combined economy is 34.9mpg, and the car emits a reasonable 189g/km of CO2.

So the blow to your wallet won’t be from your road tax bill or even at the filling station; instead, it will come at the dealership. Vauxhall has set the starting price of the VXR at £26,995, and once you add the Aero Pack and VXR Performance Seat Pack fitted to our car, that rises to £28,485.

Almost £30,000 for an Astra will certainly cause some people to think twice, but then a VW Scirocco R – perhaps the most similar car in performance – costs £30,745. That said, one of the most capable vehicles in this class is the Mégane Cup 265. It’s not as well equipped, admittedly, but it costs only £24,840. A Focus ST looks a relative bargain at £21,995.

So if anything stops Vauxhall from selling the 1,200 Astra VXRs every year that it’s hoping to, it will be the price, because there’s certainly nothing wrong with the way it looks or the way it drives.

Viewed simply in those terms, this is the best VXR model that Vauxhall has ever produced – and a genuine contender for a place at the top of this class.

Disqus - noscript

I never thought I'd see the day, AE giving something with a griffin badge a 5 star rating.

It's a good job I'm sat down!

At almost £8k more than a Focus ST, they are having a serious laugh, who in their right mind would pay that much for a Vauxhall that will be worth half that in 12 months, and I suspect on the right road the ST is by far the better car, and a better all rounder for every day use, not everyone lives at the Nurburgring.

Not only is this the most capable, it is also the most handsome car in the pack, good job V. Only the ST's price and Scirocco's image are a threat to it although I find the looks of the Focus hideous, especially when I think back at how it used to be the best looking car on the market, a decade ago.

Must dash to my nearest Vauxhall dealer.

I'm actually glad the looks of this model are toned down compared to the previous model, the old VXR model managed to make what was a fantastic looking 3 door in to something very chavvy.

Is it worth £5k over the Focus ST? (I would not specify the Aero pack which looks like cheap plastic bolt-ons) Possibly - it's faster 5.9 secs to 62 compared to 6.5 for the Ford, but the Ford beats it in economy and emissions.

However with the Ford ST you get more plasticky interior - I appreciate this is subjective but the interior of the Ford does not do it for me at all, especially the busy-looking steering wheel, which in no way suggests sporty intentions to me. So yes, I would cough up the extra £5,000 for the Vauxhall.

What are you doing Vauxhall? £20k for a corsa and now nearly £30k for an Astra, no wonder sales are looking rather grim. Where do you get the prices from? People will buy BMW or Audi at them prices. As for the 0-62 in 5.9 sec for the Astra, ford were building cars this quick over 20 years ago. Best to limit the numbers as I don’t think many people will be ordering one.
The dude

Another car that will be racing around the nearest estate with Police Camera Action following!

Personally I think it's better looking than the Ford however saying that I agree with the other comments over priced and Ford have been there done it.

GM trying to recoup all their losses with the sale of one car?

the Focus is on to a winner
cant see why anyone would pay such a premium
in the real world the ford will be just as capable
and popular

If only Opel/Vauxhall would realise that they are not Volkswagon and price their cars accordingly.
The interior of all their cars ( and i own 2) are boringly black.
Get some style and colour in to your range.
Even Kia and Hyundai are passing you by.

The Astra VXR looks good to me. Unfortunately they are up against the Focus ST, and Ford look like they have really done their sums, and put a huge amount of work into the car, bringing it to market at a price that looks like it is going to cause waves... particularly in the present economic climate.

Definitely a striking looking car and practical too but Fords aggressive pricing on the ST are making it look rather pricey. Have to see what the on-line brokers are offering.

I think Vauxhall/Opel have done a fine job with the new VXR. The old one was all power and tack, forgettable, boring interior and royally slaughter for it. Now we have the VXR, power, great looks, real effort with the interior and... royally slaughter again! Mostly out of presumption and preconception. It's a more sophisticated proposition than it's predecessor and those who've said it won't sell are basically wrong.
Yes the ST is cheaper but the no one will pay list price for either car but, it's £21k list price seems to be grabbing all the headlines when in reality most buyers won't want the poverty spec model. There's a way smaller gap between the fully loaded ST and the well specced, more powerful, faster and IMO better looking VXR.
The ST IS undoubtedly a great car and will have it's loyal followers because 'it's a Ford' and they would rather die than even think or admit the VXR is any good but... There are plenty on Ford forums who love the mk1 & 2 ST but are saying they'll give thus latest one a miss because of it's look, interior and no 3 door.
Although they occupy the same segment I'd say the VXR is closer (note I said CLOSER) to the Focus RS than the ST. Vauxhall will have no problem finding homes for 1200 cars. For the real enthusiast both will be up against the Megan 265, the best of it's type out there.
It never fails to amaze me how biased and closed off posters are. I love cars and have an open mind. I'm not in the market for any of these type of cars, done the whole hot hatch thing back in the day and moved up a tad to something else many would probably feels unworthy lol. If I was in the market... I would definitely be getting a VXR & ST test drive and my gut is saying the VXR would edge it. Impressive though the ST price is, it's aesthetic appeal, 5 doors... It just wouldn't be for me. But then I'd try the Megan and.... Who knows.

I think Vauxhall/Opel have done a fine job with the new VXR. The old one was all power and tack, forgettable, boring interior and royally slaughter for it. Now we have the VXR, power, great looks, real effort with the interior and... royally slaughter again! Mostly out of presumption and preconception. It's a more sophisticated proposition than it's predecessor and those who've said it won't sell are basically wrong.
Yes the ST is cheaper but the no one will pay list price for either car but, it's £21k list price seems to be grabbing all the headlines when in reality most buyers won't want the poverty spec model. There's a way smaller gap between the fully loaded ST and the well specced, more powerful, faster and IMO better looking VXR.
The ST IS undoubtedly a great car and will have it's loyal followers because 'it's a Ford' and they would rather die than even think or admit the VXR is any good but... There are plenty on Ford forums who love the mk1 & 2 ST but are saying they'll give thus latest one a miss because of it's look, interior and no 3 door.
Although they occupy the same segment I'd say the VXR is closer (note I said CLOSER) to the Focus RS than the ST. Vauxhall will have no problem finding homes for 1200 cars. For the real enthusiast both will be up against the Megan 265, the best of it's type out there.
It never fails to amaze me how biased and closed off posters are. I love cars and have an open mind. I'm not in the market for any of these type of cars, done the whole hot hatch thing back in the day and moved up a tad to something else many would probably feels unworthy lol. If I was in the market... I would definitely be getting a VXR & ST test drive and my gut is saying the VXR would edge it. Impressive though the ST price is, it's aesthetic appeal, 5 doors... It just wouldn't be for me. But then I'd try the Megan and.... Who knows.

Remember that Top Gear where JC tested the Aston DBS? (if not check you tube). Well he (rightly) said that a big problem with that car was the cheaper and better looking DB9 - BUT you'd still get the DBS! Because, if you ended up at a set of lights in a DB9 and someone pulled up in a DBS next to you, lets face it , it wouldn't help your ego would it! Scale that down to where us mere mortals live and I see the same issue with the new ST Vs GTC VXR - except I think in this scenario the VXR is by far better looking car! lol

Come on VX.
30 Grand for a tarted up 2 door Astra.
You know the car supermarkets will be selling these under 20k within 6 Months.

Jeezzz, sweeping statement... It's not £30 grand let alone £26 for an Astra anymore than anyone is going to pay £22k for a poverty spec ST. For cleverly major on £22k. 1, no one will pay list price. 2, the base ST, no options will be the one difficult to sell on. The top spec ST is around £25k so the prices aren't so different.
On various Vauxhall sites fully loaded VXR's are being quoted at less than £25k. Yes the Ford is cheaper but even Ford lovers are acknowledging the VXR is more of a rival to the Focus RS, than the lesser ST. And... You and kiss goodbye to a hefty wedge of cash on most cars as they drive away from the dealer so nothing clever in your simplistic statement.

To keep this short and simple.... The newest Astra is a good looking car. In fact, the GTC should just be a Vauxhall GTC, drop the Astra name. Anyway the VXR looks even better, the best looking of the hot hatches without a doubt for me. The price though, wow. I'm sure it's quick and with decent kit, but £27k is a lot, especially if you'd consider the Focus ST.

Without a doubt the best looking car in the class and will probably remain so unless Alfa give us a really really hot Giulietta but as everyone says at £30k its just too much. I guess a lot will go look and test drive it just to end up buying a Focus or Megane.

As for the links to VW pricing, its about time people realised VW's are massively over priced for the dull bland motor you end up getting, just like this VKR is over priced but no one seems to mind, same goes for Audi and BMW. In every single way but one the Mondeo is better than a 3 series (the one been RWD) and an A4 but the badge snobs still run to them as I'm sure the loyal Vauxhall owners will flock to this one.

is either a fan of german cars, a german or a german car sales man?
Nice car the Astra is the only vauxhall built in Endland

its all getting very much out of control, is'nt it? nudging 300bhp in small badly blinged up, grossly overpriced chavmobiles. could anyone honestly answer me, just when & where in the real daily choked up livng world, would you use all that surplus power? power like that needs proper expert driver training & is far too easily accessible to inexperienced drivers, i think manufacturers are being very irresponsible with this latest 'max power frenzy' ?

Having owned a vauxhall in the past (which was terrible) I wondered if anyone actually drove these cars before releasing them. Perhaps now they have or more likely they have just "happened" to build something decent..

megane rs is king of all hothatch and it will be until new rs comes on the road,no one has that mix of handling,brakes,sped in corner and owerall package ,no one remember that.

Absolutely absurd, £30k for a Vauxhall, agree with above, it'll be worth 1/2 that come 1 year down the line.

Would it sell? Vauxhall offers zero deposit and 0% APR with payment terms to suit the buyer, no prize for guessing the type of customer thats aimed at.

5 stars AE? Yeah what ever! The blue colour has chav factor though, as they say “ainnit”.

Are you insane? Who in their right mind would buy the Renault? They can't even make the standard Megane reliable! It will be worth under £10k next year, the warranty package is a joke, service intervals and service costs are murderous, not to mention insurance. No wonder Renault have pulled most are their models from these shores, they are losing sales faster than you can say va va voom!

On the point of the VXR I agree it looks good and sound like it goes well but's too pricey. And they should drop the Astra name on this model.

Sorry Bud, the Astra is not the only Vauxhall built here, the Vivaro Van is too. And the Astra GTC that this VXR is based on is in fact built in Poland! Ellesmere Port currently build the Astra Sport Tourer.

And if toycollector is a fan of ze german marques as you state then he shouldn't mind most Vauxhall's as they are all pretty much designed and developed in Rüsselsheim Germany by Opel. Opel/Vauxhall just manage to be less repetitively boring in their design than the likes of VW.

While it's true a big chunk of cash can be (very) easily talked of the list price of a new Vaux, making them price competitive, you need to get people into dealers to ask the question in the first place! As already mentioned, the silly high advertised price is clearly going to put people off...

...just not me! Didn't much care for the last VXR Astra (far too under-engineered), but I'd love one of these new one's ;o)

just got my astra vxr yestoday, amazing handling on country roads doing 120mph felt like you were going in a straight line, worth every penny i think! just found out they can be tuned up to 500 bhp according to another website

Key specs

* Vauxhall Astra VXR
* Price: £26,995
* Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo petrol
* Power: 276bhp
* Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
* 0-62/top speed: 5.9 seconds/154mph
* Economy/CO2: 34.9mpg/189g/km
* Equipment: Air-con, 20-inch alloys, sports seats, DAB, electric windows, FlexRide suspension
* On sale: Now

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