Vauxhall Astra VXR review
The Vauxhall Astra VXR has plenty of attitude but lacks the finesse of the class best
When Vauxhall set out to design the latest generaion of its VXR flagship it wanted to build the fastest hot hatch around and with 276bhp and plenty of development time at the fearsome Nurburgring ciruit in Germany they came close to succeeding. The VXR is far more than just its raw performance figures though as it also one of the most practical cars in its class and with the adaptive dampers set to 'comfort' mode it can even be quiet and comfortable. Add into the mix its stunning extrovert looks and the VXR begins to look like a compelling package but despite this range of talents - and truly volcanic performance - it falls short of the standard set by the SEAT Leon Cupra and Renaultsport Megane Renaultsport. The Astra is fast and grippy but lacks the same pin-sharp responses or playful chassis as its best rivals.
Our Choice: Astra VXR
Using the pretty three-door GTC as its base means the VXR is one of the best looking hot hatches around. The swooping lines of the bodywork are given an extra dose of aggresion via a deep front spoiler and wide grille, huge 19-inch alloys and a pair of squared-off exhuasts. For those who want to really stand out there is also the option of an Aero pack that includes wider side skirts, even larger alloy wheels and a double decker rear wing. Inside the VXR has heavily bolstered sports seats and a chunky leather wrapped steering wheel and the cabin uses the same high quality materials as the standard Astra hatchback.
The VXR uses a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine that produces a staggering 276bhp and 400Nm of torque. To help the chassis cope with all that power going through the front wheels it also gets a host of mechanical upgrades inculding bespoke hydraulic steering and front suspension, Brembo brakes, Sachs adaptive dampers and a mechanical limited-slip differential. All this technology means its blindingly fast around a race track and the tyres provide incredible traction even on a wet surface. However below 2,000rpm the VXR suffers from turbo-lag which means it never feels as quick as its rivals on the road and in the stiffest 'VXR' setting there is a lot of torque steer and tramlining as the front wheels seek out cambers in the road.
The Astra recieved very high scores in its Euro NCAP crash tests with 91 out of 100 for adult protection helping contribute to a full five star safety rating. The VXR gets six airbags as standard and ISOFIX mounting points for child seats in the back. ESP traction control is also standard and its powerful brakes mean it will stop much quicker than the standard Astra GTC. Most of its mechanical parts have been tried and tested in other cars so it should be reliable and like all Vauxhallls it comes with a seven year or 100,000 mile warranty for the first owner.
For a three-door hatchback the Astra VXR is surprisingly roomy inside. It offers a decent amount of head and legroom in the rear seats and would accomate even tall passengers with ease. There are useful storage cubbies dotted throughout the cabin and the boot vast - offering 380 litres of space with the seat backs in place. Fold them flat and that carrying capacity increases to a whopping 1,165 litres however the narrow boot opening and high loading lip do limit the size of objects you would be able to load into the back. There is no spare wheel either - instead you get a foam puncture repair kit stored underneath the boot floor.
Most performance models are expensive to run as servicing, insurance and fuel costs are higher than normal but the VXR is particularly costly. Despite being fitted with start/stop technology as standard the claimed fuel economy is just 34.9mpg and in our experience if you drive it with any intent then expect to return closer to 18-19mpg. As for C02 emissions at 189g/km the VXR is on a par with its rivals but insurance and servicing will be more expensive and weak residual values mean it will depreciate faster as well.