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.

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.

SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Sales and Marketing Executive

    £19000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

    Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

    £40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

    £35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

    Day In a Page

    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
    10 best PS4 games

    10 best PS4 games

    Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
    Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

    Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

    Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent