Vauxhall Astra VXR

This hot hatch deserves all the attention it gets

Price: £26,995
Engine capacity: 2.0-litre turbo
Power output (BHP @ rpm): 276 @ 5,500
Top speed (mph): 155
0-62 mph (seconds): 5.9
Fuel economy (mpg): 34.9
CO2 emissions (g/km): 189

Everywhere I drove last week people stopped and stared, children pointed and baseball cap-wearing men pretended not to look. One young lady even took the time to roll the window down of her battered Renault and holler at me. "Is that car new? Looks mint," she screamed, oblivious to the red light at the junction in front of us. This is all very odd, because I wasn't bombing around in a bright red Ferrari or cruising along in a stately Bentley – I was pootling along in a Vauxhall Astra.

This is no ordinary Astra though, and you don't exactly pootle in it. The familiar Griffin badge (well made, affordable, family friendly) still sits on the front grille, but car buffs will also notice the letters VXR emblazoned across its bulging wings and aggressively styled interior. To most people this unsubtle branding will mean little, but to a sub-culture of hot-hatch-driving men and women who gather in shopping-centre car parks on a Friday evening, this means an awful lot.

They come together to strut and peacock around their modified hatchbacks and talk meaty sub-woofers and bling bodykits. And in hushed voices they ask, "who'll be the first to get hold of the new Vauxhall Astra VXR?" That's right, in the right circles, this car is seriously desirable.

It costs just under £27k – pricey but not totally unaffordable – but gets a 2.0-litre turbo direct-injection engine, enough tech bolt-ons to take flight and spoilers, sports seats and 20in alloys that would make a Nascar driver blush. It's incredibly fast too, packing 276 brake horsepower, which is enough to send it barrelling to 60mph in less than six seconds.

That's almost as quick as a Porsche, which is madness when you realise that the VXR is on sale for less than half the asking price of a 911. It would be easy to be snobbish about it – after all this is the sort of car that in the wrong hands is used to terrorise high streets with booming tunes and collects speeding tickets like a young footie fan collects Premiership stickers – but that wouldn't be fair.

It wouldn't be fair because the Astra VXR is a very good car indeed. Its aggressive wings, bright alloys and sharp spoiler may be an acquired taste but, for my money, it's one of sexiest looking hot hatches of the year. And on the road it's simply stupendous. It's the most powerful car in its class – it has 29 more horses under its bonnet than its arch rival, the Ford Focus ST – and all that grunt runs through the two front wheels (unlike most performance cars, it isn't rear or all-wheel drive).

The result should be an unmanageable mess, but Vauxhall has succeeded in adding enough technical wizardry to create a driver's dream, not a death trap. Yes, there's a fair amount of torque steer – the feeling that the wheel is tugging in your hands as you accelerate – but this, along with some body-shifting cornering attributes, is all part of the fun.

Of course, it isn't perfect; the suspension is too firm for everyday life, the fuel economy dire in the real world and there's an unforgivable amount of vibration through the steering wheel at sensible motorway speeds. None of these niggles really puts me off though. The Astra VXR, like the soon-to-be-launched Ford Focus ST, is a performance brawler for the masses, not a racing stallion for the global 1 per cent. For that alone it should be celebrated.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
Travel
travel
Life and Style
The veteran poverty campaigner Sir Bob Geldof issues a stark challenge to emerging economies at the Melbourne HIV/Aids conference
health
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and John Malkovich talk Penguins of Madagascar at Comic-Con
comic-con 2014Cumberbatch fans banned from asking about Sherlock at Comic-Con
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
filmGuardians Of The Galaxy should have taken itself a bit more seriously, writes Geoffrey Macnab
News
Sir Chris Hoy won six Olympic golds - in which four events?
news
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    SAP Data Migration Lead

    competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Experienced Lead SAP Data Manager Requir...

    Trainee Recruitment Consultants - Banking & Finance

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

    Graduate Recruitment Resourcers - Banking Technologies

    £18000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: Huxley Associates are looking...

    Implementation Engineer

    £150 - £200 per day: Orgtel: Implementation Engineer Hampshire / London (Gre...

    Day In a Page

    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform