Blisteringly quick, yet with the style, comfort, quality and grace of a luxurious executive saloon, Vauxhall’s classy Astra VXR points the direction hot hatches should be taking.
It can show the proverbial clean pair of shoes to almost anything bar a supercar yet is pleasant and placid to drive round towns and in traffic.
Be it a motorway haul, a dash round the lanes or a city commute, here’s a well thought out vehicle that’s truly fit for purpose.
There’s lots of strong competition from the likes of Volkswagen’s Scirocco R, the Renault Megane Sport 265 and the forthcoming Ford Focus ST but the Astra VXR, with its highly responsive 2.0-litre turbo-charged engine offers better performance and a much lower price when comparing like for like in equipment terms.
At £26,995 on the road, it is more than £2,000 less than the Megane offering and a whopping £4,000 cheaper than the Volkswagen.
For your money you get the highest maximum power and torque in class, with an impressive 0-62 mph sprint time of just 5.9 seconds and a top speed of 155 mph.
That’s all thanks to a substantially revised powerplant that has now been given an appropriately rorty note, thanks to a bespoke engineered exhaust system.
Designed in the UK – which is expected to be its biggest market, with a projected annual sales’ level of 1,200 units, the Astra VXR offers such goodies as 19-inch alloys – with 20s optional – a smaller diameter, flat-bottomed steering wheel; hip-hugging and lightweight front seats, mounted low in the car and with a choice of trim; a unique-in-class limited-slip diff; beefed up suspension and brakes; FlexRide adaptive damping, and special VXR branded cabin trim.
85% of buyers are expected to take up the £995 VXR Aero Pack option, which includes 20-inch wheels, extended side skirts and a biplane spoiler.
My royal blue test car came with such worthwhile options as leather seats, sat-nav and intelligent adaptive forward lighting.
The VXR brand has gone from strength to strength since the first car – a VXR220 Turbo – went down the line in 2004.
Buoyed by the success of Vauxhall’s British Touring Car Competition racing programme, the VXR badge was applied to a wide range of models, from the potent V8-powered Monaros to the Corsa, Vectra, Zafira and even the humble Meriva. The original Astra VXR joined them in 2005 and instantly became the best-seller in the VXR range.
More recently, the range has been rationalised and now extends to just four ranges: the Corsa VXR/VXR Nürburgring, new Astra VXR, Insignia VXR and the VXR8 family, which includes the VXR8 GTS, Maloo and the Sports Tourer.