The Vauxhall Astra VXR is like an Astra, but mad

Vauxhall's VXR department has been at it again, this time making the Astra foam at the mouth. It's bright, it's fast and it's fun. What more do you need?

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To say that Vauxhall is an exciting brand would be a barefaced lie. It's like saying that rice cakes are fun, or that a Bic biro is a well-crafted writing tool. I've never met anyone who, waking up one morning, has gone: "Oooooh, I really dream of owning a Vauxhall." It's nothing Vauxhall has done, either. It makes great cars, that do their jobs day in, day out. Sadly, their jobs are the same as the middle management reps that buy them. In all, Vauxhall gives off the image that only carpet salesmen are exciting enough to buy them.

That is, to flog a dead horse and use a hideous cliché, until now. Well ... 2012, actually, when we shot this film, but stick with me.

Vauxhall's gone and thrown a stupidly powerful engine in its mid-size family hatch, the Astra. Bear in mind that the last Astra VXR had a comparatively sane 240bhp under its angular hood and it couldn't really handle the 2.0-litre turbocharged engine's 238 lb. ft. Torque steer was the order of the day. So how will a new one with 277 bhp do? I won't lie, I thought it would do appallingly.

I was wrong. It's a well sorted hot hatchback. With 277 bhp and nearly 300 lb. ft, you'd expect the Astra VXR to want to spit you off the road at any give moment, but no. It's not too bad at all. Yes, it can get a touch torque-steery but it's nothing you can't manage.

To keep you going in a straight line Vauxhall has used two shiny toys. The first is the firm's HiPer Strut front suspension -- which helps normal Vauxhalls handle incredibly well as it is -- and a proper mechanical front differential. Combined, the two allow the VXR to behave quite pleasantly.

A 2.0-litre didn't used to be too much to put under a bonnet. It would provide decent power and be comfortable. Then turbo chargers got involved and all of a sudden things became silly. The power on offer in the Astra VXR is quite something. You're pushed back in your seat, wondering what has just happened to you. As experiences go, it's one to try.

The Astra VXR is a Vauxhall that gets the blood pumping, your mind focused and your right foot exercising. It's a desirable Vauxhall. Who'd have thunk it?

Specs
Engine 2.0-litre turbo
Power 277 bhp
Torque 295 lb. ft.
0-62 mph 6.0 seconds
Top speed    155 mph
 

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