2014 Vauxhall Astra VXR 2.0 turbo petrol from UK and Ireland
An everyday supercar
Being older than God's donkey, I had a raft of classic hot hatches as company cars back in the day: R5 GT Turbo, Clio 16v, Pug 206 GTi 1.9, even a Nova GTE, but I haven't had a fast FWD car since I got rid of my Integra Type R back in 2006.
Almost by accident I found myself swapping my beloved Sunday car, a VX220, for a six four plate VXR. It's been eye opening.
The whole thing is better built and appointed than Vauxhalls ever were. 2% better quality plastics would make the interior a match for any German car, but as it is there are no squeaks or rattles, and all the contact points feel very nice.
If I had spent time driving a regular Astra I might feel short changed by the GTC, sharing as it does the interior layout of the humbler models, but as I haven't it seems just about spot on to me. Lots of buttons, but hey there's a lot of kit and you gotta control it some way!
The front seats are works of automotive art, being comfortable and grippy at the same time.
Moving off, the electronic handbrake seems a bit pointless to me, but no harm done. The car fires up with a lovely hollow thrum. Clutch, throttle both beautifully weighted. First gear is pretty low, and the engine wants to thrash all the way through it. It takes a bit of practice to drive this sensibly.
Snick up though the gears and the VXR's balance becomes apparent. A lovely action, perfect throw and good ratio spacing. The ride in standard form is pretty stiff over broken urban tarmac, but on anything more reasonable this is a surprisingly comfortable and un-tiring car. A fine motorway and A road companion in fact.
Drop a gear and floor the throttle and everything snaps into stiffness and eagerness immediately. The power comes in like an unending tsunami, yet the helm stays pretty unaffected by the deluge. It's easy to wheelspin in the first four gears in the damp, but you can also make spectacularly fast progress.
The chassis remains compliant and composed even at speed. The handling is good enough to not only use the point-and-squirt capability of this car, but keep up momentum through bends. The handling is at least as good as the Integra Type R, even if the power is less progressive.
The brakes are amazingly subtle when used carefully despite being humongously powerful in hard use.
I am struggling to get the car to deliver over 28 MPG despite many of my miles being on the motorway at seventy-ish, but I will learn the trick with time. 33 on a motorway cruise is easy though.
Downsides? Visibility isn't good, the black cabin is a tad gloomy and... erm... that's about it.
Thoroughly enjoyed my first six months miles, off to Ipswich and back often in my new job, and this is the perfect car for it.
This is a Vauxhall that needs no "but"s. It is beautiful, well built, wonderfully engineered and faster than almost anything. I love how it offends 320d and A4 drivers just by existing...
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Don't Know
Review Date: 16th September, 2016
17th Sep 2016, 13:57
Nicely written review! I remember times just like yourself circa early 90s when a manufacturer like Vauxhall made run of the mill cars and only the top end models got attention such as the Senator 24v and Lotus Carlton models.
There was no doubt these cars were able to cut it with the premium German rivals at the time, despite what some badge snobs might say.
Nice to know Vauxhall can still make above average cars when they try.