Vauxhall Astra VXR hatchback
Price: £17,635 - £27,260
- Blisteringly quick
- Stunning looks
- Comfortable for this class
- Expensive to run
- RS Megane is marginally sharper
"The most powerful car in its class, the Vauxhall Astra VXR also has the handling to match the incredible amounts of performance on offer."
At the very top of the Vauxhall Astra range sits the Vauxhall Astra VXR hot hatchback. Focused on delivering driving thrills and fun, everything from the design tweaks to the engine tuning is all about the need for speed. Admittedly at the expense of just about everything else. Its 2.0-litre turbocharged engine is very powerful, producing 276bhp, which makes it the most powerful car in is class, able to accelerate from 0-62mph in only 5.9 seconds. To achieve this, the handling and suspension have been tweaked to firm up the ride and develop as much traction and grip as the car can. However, despite its extreme nature, the VXR does still work as an everyday car, as well, with only the firm ride likely to cause any problems, especially a bit of discomfort over long journeys.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Powerful engine is thirsty
Vauxhall has worked hard to try and keep running costs as low as possible, but there's only so much you can do to a hot hatchback to make it efficient. So, yes, stop-start comes as standard, but you’re going to see between 28.8 and 39.8mpg in fuel economy and CO2 emissions of 189g/km. That means a hefty road tax bill for an Astra, plus our own experience of economy was nearer the 25mpg mark. You can also assume that insurance will be pretty expensive, given the performance ability of the VXR, plus you’ll probably find yourself replacing your tyres on a fairly regular basis.
Interior & comfort
Suspension is very firm but other cars in this class are worse
When you make the decision to shop for an affordable performance-focused hot hatchback, you’re not looking for supple, comfortable suspension, let's be honest. So, the VXR has the kind of extremely stiff suspension set-up that is fantastic for handling but not so good at absorbing the bumps and potholes in the UK's ever-worsening rough roads. Inside the car, the seats are comfortable enough to begin with, but spend more than an hour in them and you’ll begin to feel a few aches and twinges. It is worth pointing out, however, that the VXR's ride does compare favourably with other models in this class, such as the VW Scirocco R and Renaultsport Megane 265. There's also the option to firm up the suspension even more with a Sport and a VXR mode, which will really shake your nerves and rattle your brain.
Practicality & boot space
Despite the stylish looks, the VXR is surprisingly practical
As the VXR only comes in a three-door body style, its practicality is reduced somewhat from the standard Astra, with passengers likely to find it a bit difficult to squeeze into the back seats. They’ll probably find it a little cramped once they’re in there, too. But despite that issue, and its compact dimensions and sloping roofline, the VXR does remain a reasonably practical car. You get 380 litres of boot space with all the seats still in place, which expands to a decent 1,165 litres when you’ve folded down the back seats. But if you’re in the market for a VXR model of the Astra, you are probably willing to compromise somewhat on overall practicality, we would imagine.
Reliability & safety
Astra GTC on which VXR is based proved to be reliable
Vauxhall had been marching up the manufacturers rankings in the Driver Power customer satisfaction rankings over the past few years – until the 2013 poll saw a heavy 13-place tumble back down to 26th place. The Astra itself didn’t make it into the top 100 cars either, ranking 103rd, but it still better than the previous model in almost every respect. All of the parts used have been tried and tested across the Vauxhall line-up and have been part of a joint-engineering task between teams in both England and Germany. And you do also get Vauxhall's lifetime warranty to help give you peace of mind – at least until you hit the 100,000-mile mark. Plus, it should be safe, too, because although the VXR model hasn’t been individually tested in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests, the Astra GTC that it's based on has and secured the maximum five-star rating. All Astras come fitted with six airbags and electronic stability control as standard equipment.
Engines, drive & performance
Extremely quick, involving and focused
If you’re looking for an extreme hot hatchback version of a mainstream car, then the VXR is most definitely for you. It produces 276bhp from its 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, so it can accelerate from 0-62mph in only 5.9 seconds. It also feels very home on twisty, winding roads thanks to its huge levels of grip – so much so that it's actually difficult to trouble the Astra at legal road speeds. The steering is also suitably precise and responsive, with lots of feedback coming back to the driver through the steering wheel. All of these aspects work together to help cement the Astra VXR's place as a car for those who enjoy driving quickly.
Price, value for money & options
One of the most expensive cars in this class
The good news is that VXR costs less to buy than a Volkswagen Scirocco. The bad news is that it costs more to buy than either a Ford Focus ST or a Renaultsport Megane 265, both of which are arguably better cars that are more fun to drive. You do get a relatively generous amount of technology and accessories, with electric windows, air-conditioning, DAB radio, FlexRide and a limited slip-differential that improves grip out of corners all included as standard equipment in the price. Plus, there's an optional Aero pack that costs £995 and that Vauxhall believes 85 per cent of of VXR buyers will specify for that bit of extra oomph.
What the others say
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.
"It is a hot hatch that can also do the boring stuff and let us not forget, comes with Vauxhall's "Lifetime" (100,000-mile) warranty. If only it covered tyres..."
Keep the engine on the boil, though, and you can cover ground at an astonishing rate. What's more, the VXR soaks up bumps and broken tarmac in a way that you simply wouldn’t credit given our test car's huge 20in wheels and 35-profile rubber.
Last updated: 8 Feb 2014