Vauxhall Astra VXR | Spotted

Vauxhall Astra VXR | Spotted

01/21/2021

Cars like the Astra VXR won't be part of any fast Vauxhall future – so is now the time to try one?

By Matt Bird / Thursday, January 21, 2021 / Loading comments

The storied history of fast Vauxhalls is an intriguing one. Once upon a time its quick saloons and hatches made a fair bit of sense – the SRIs were moderately sporty, the often turbocharged GSIs really quick – and then it all went a bit berserk in the 21st century. Brilliantly berserk, it should be said, with everything from the VX220 to the Monaro getting a VXR flagship, with the Zafira and Meriva thrown in for good measure. But you never quite knew what you were going to get: it could be a decent VXR, as the Corsa was, or it could be a stinker like the Vectra.

Still, we'd all prefer a wayward fast Vauxhall strategy than none at all, as now seems to be the case. Rumours abounded for a time about a hybrid future for VXR, including the SUV line up, but with the wider issues thrown up by the manufacturer's new (possibly somewhat tenuous) position in the Stellantis collective, any progress in that direction seems unlikely. Which would be a shame in any situation, but particularly so when cars like the new Corsa have delivered such a promising foundation to work with.

Among the most recent back catalogue, both Astra and Insignia VXR presented a more mature approach to performance Vauxhalls, with chassis hardware that better ensured power could actually reach the road. The extra kit made them both quite heavy, though they at least ensured VXRs were less lairy, more rounded offerings in their respective segments.

The Astra was particularly good, receiving plenty of positive reviews at its 2012 launch: "If you want a head turning hot hatch that promises real driving thrills, this is it", reads one; "A very impressive all-rounder" said another; "Mature but with a raucous side, this fast Astra is still a VXR at heart" sounds pretty good, does it not? With the sort of power (280hp) and technology (adaptive dampers, limited-slip diff, the HiPerStrut-equipped front end) that would still be relevant today, the VXR was a competitive hot hatch.

But it wasn't class leading, and that might have been what dampened its success a tad. At £26,995 the VXR was a lot of money, but a Megane still offered more excitement and less powerful, lighter alternatives like the VW Scirocco R were just as fast. It was launched just before a wealth of new rivals, too, cars like the Ford Focus ST and Mk7 Golf GTI stealing the limelight very soon after.

Perhaps the Astra would have been remembered more fondly if the Extreme had made it to limited production, or if different bodystyles had also been offered. That said, times are changing pretty quickly in the automotive world right now; less than a decade after launch and the notion of a handsome, fast, three-door, manual hot hatch seems almost daft. Yet here the Astra is. For just £10k now, too…

Less than that can be paid for a VXR, but this particular one appeals with its low 45k odometer reading and condition to back that up. The interior dates it somewhat, though anyone clamouring to have buttons back in car interiors should find plenty to like. As will those nonplussed by hot hatches that look no different to the base car, or those cars that make changing gear as enjoyable as using the TV remote. It won't be to all tastes – because fast Vauxhalls never are – but if anything, the attributes that made it likeable in 2012 only serve to make it more appealing now. One thing is for certain, though: after generations of 2.0-litre, turbocharged fast Astras, any future VXR will be very different to this one. And that seems a bit of a shame.


SPECIFICATION | VAUXHALL ASTRA VXR

Engine: 1,998cc 4-cyl, turbocharged
Transmission: 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Power (hp): [email protected],500rpm
Torque (lb ft): [email protected],400-4,500rpm
MPG: 34.9 (NEDC combined)
CO2: 189g/km
First registered: 2013
Recorded mileage: 45,000
Price new: £26,995 (before options)
Yours for: £10,750

See the original advert here.

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