• Unbeatable price-performance ratio
• Chassis tuned for UK roads and drivers
Can you stand the heat? With the type of power and performance figures which were reserved for supercars just a few years ago, the Astra VXR is set to redefine the boundaries of the hot hatch sector.
Here are the critical figures – 240PS, 320Nm, 0-60mph in 6.2 seconds and a top speed of 152mph, all in a car that costs from only £18,995 on the road.
Put simply, the VXR is the ultimate expression of New Astra. A performance flagship that brings to light all that’s great about the current Astra line-up, building on its already enviable reputation for striking looks, great handling and impressive performance.
But VXR means more than that. Taking the name of the VX Racing Astras, four-times winners of the British Touring Car Championship, the badge is only given to models with race-bred DNA.
But VXR isn’t just about the power. The VXR badge is only applied to cars that take performance and driver appeal to new extremes, with a chassis that can excite and stimulate on the daily drive to work, not just on track days.
Designed and tuned in the UK, Astra VXR has been created with the needs of British buyers firmly in mind. The chassis was jointly developed between Vauxhall’s engineers and experts at Lotus, and unlike some rival performance models its set-up is uniquely tailored for our roads, rather than a pan-European compromise.
It’s a car that has been built to reward you, with all of the major development decisions being made from the driving seat and not the boardroom. The only thing Astra VXR doesn’t take to the max is its price, which leaves some rivals looking embarrassingly expensive.
As with the uncompromising Monaro VXR and VXR220, the Astra stands for unrivalled excitement, class-leading performance, stunning styling, superb handling and, above all, incredible value for money. After all, what’s the point in having dreams if they’re unattainable?
Safety and Quality
• ESP and curtain airbags as standard
• High-class materials and build standards
Having a carefully developed chassis, tremendous brakes, electronic safety systems and dynamics which make sure the driver feels in control are major contributors to avoiding an accident in the first instance, but Astra VXR has been designed to provide the best in safety should the unthinkable happen. After all, it’s based on the New Astra – a car that scored the maximum five stars for occupant protection in stringent Euro NCAP crash testing.
As a result, it comes equipped with twin front airbags, seat-mounted side airbags and overhead curtain airbags as standard, as well as seatbelt pre-tensioners and sensors that automatically switch on the hazard warning flashers and release the central locking in the event of an airbag deployment.
Yet despite the impressive safety package, Astra VXR has been designed with real world running costs in mind, and this contributes to its lower than average 17E insurance grouping. Sensors measure collision impact forces, and the occupant restraint systems and airbags are activated depending on the nature and severity of the incident. This means that in a low-speed shunt, they’re unlikely to need repair.
Similarly, the body has been designed to allow ease of repair after minor accidents. The front end panels, for example, are in three sections so that each can be individually replaced or straightened, cutting the cost of repair significantly. The light lenses are also lifted away from the normal ‘impact zone’, reducing the likelihood of them picking up damage in low speed car park knocks or similar.
All of this shows the attention to detail in Astra VXR’s design, and it’s no more evident than in the cabin. Not only is the car generously equipped, but it’s also trimmed in top quality fabrics. The dashboard plastics and switches exude an air of quality normally found in much more expensive cars, adding further to the VXR’s amazing value for money appeal.
• Astra style taken to the extreme
• Unique bodykit, colours and wheel designs
• Special VXR interior
First impressions count. And your performance car should excite you as much when it’s standing still as it does when you are behind the wheel. Luckily, the VXR bites you straight away, then slowly sinks its teeth in.
The VXR’s designers had it easy to start with, not least because New Astra is the best-looking car in its class, and the three-door Sport Hatch took Astra’s sleekness even further.
For VXR, Vauxhall wanted a car that matched that beauty with aggression. The stylists created a car which in the manner of the truest greats, went from the 2004 Paris motor show’s HPC concept car to reality with no compromise.
Available in a choice of four distinctive colours – Flame Red, Star Silver, Arden Blue and Black Sapphire – the VXR’s profile is unmistakable, even from a distance. The fat wheelarches, 15mm lowered suspension and unique styling kit make it appear glued to the road surface, giving a look that screams poise, agility and style – three of the Astra VXR’s key features.
The close-up styling cues give VXR an even more imposing look. The sports front grille, deep air dam and fog lights leave you in no doubt that this is a performance flagship, while the theme is continued around the car with extended side sills, a tailgate roof spoiler and a unique rear bumper, housing a centre-exit trapezoidal exhaust.
Look even closer and you’ll notice the huge ventilated brake discs, colour-coded Arden Blue callipers and ultra-low profile tyres. Beefy 18-inch alloys are standard, while even meatier 19-inchers – unique in this class and rare on any car outside the realms of exotica - are a £500 option.
And the dynamic look continues inside, too. Unique Recaro sports seats with leather-trimmed side bolsters, a three-spoke leather-covered steering wheel with a VXR logo, an alloy gear knob, racing-style instruments and carbon-fibre door inserts all help mark the VXR out as something very special.
• UK specific chassis tuning developed in conjunction with Lotus
• Massive 321mm front brakes
• Standard ESP and 18-inch wheels
Astra VXR isn’t a car that’s only fast in a straight line. Vauxhall’s engineers understand that a true performance car has to be able to cope with the power under its bonnet, and that’s why it has a bespoke, uniquely-tuned chassis that’s more than up to the job of coping with 240PS being fed through its front wheels.
As a result, both Vauxhall and Lotus have spent the past 12 months tuning and refining the VXR’s suspension set-up to deliver the best in grip, feedback and steering feel, in the process creating a perfectly-honed driver’s car.
Starting with New Astra’s already much-lauded dynamics package, the Astra VXR is fitted with a spring and damper system developed by Lotus’ Gavan Kershaw - the man behind the VX220’s chassis. This ‘passive’ set up is designed specifically for the UK, and consequently feels perfectly at home on a British B-road.
The requirement was for a ‘fast road’ package that the committed sports driver would enjoy but would not intimidate the less aggressive driver. As with all real performance cars, comfort took second place to driver enjoyment – although by tuning the car on UK roads the refinement and ride are remarkably composed compared to rivals. This isn’t a car which will leave you with a headache at the end of a long drive.
Describing the changes made to the standard Astra’s chassis, Gavan said “Imagine you could place a pole through the car to demonstrate the yaw point. The VXR pivots around the gearlever whereas the standard Astra SRi pivots around the front axle point. This gives the VXR a more immediate turn in response, much like some acclaimed 1980’s hot-hatches - but without having the potentially dangerous snap oversteer which can catch drivers out.”
Spring and damper rates are increased by 40 percent and 50 percent respectively, while rebound springs have been added to the damper units to improve on limit control. The front roll bar is now thicker, and the ride height is reduced a further 15mm over the SRi versions. New steering linkages also raise the roll centre at the front by 30mm.
With the suspension hardware sorted, the software which controls the power steering was also retuned – and again the ‘mapping’ is specifically tuned to match UK roads for effort, turning speed and overall feel.
Vauxhall’s pioneering IDS-Plus chassis technology, an option costing just £400, upgrades the passive set up with electronic Continuous Damping Control, which adjusts damper setting to react instantly to road conditions, eliminating unexpected pitching and body movements.
A specially tuned Electronic Stability Programme is also standard, but enthusiastic drivers who wish to do without the safety net of technology can switch the system off to explore the limits of the car’s adhesion. However, as a final back up, the system will still intervene in exceptional circumstances where the sensors detect that the driver has lost control and an accident is likely – even when the ESP has been switched off.
Equally important for safety and performance driving, the Astra VXR uses the biggest brakes fitted to any Vauxhall other than the V8-engined Monaro. The front discs are a massive 321mm, while the rears use 278mm rotors. The system is equipped with ABS, EBD and Brake Assist for extra peace of mind.
Value for money
• Exceptionally low list price
• High standard equipment
• Long service intervals, group 17E insurance.
A genuine performance car needn’t break the bank – as the Astra VXR proves. Costing only £18,995 on the road, no other hot hatchback can offer as much performance per pound.
But it’s not just power that you get for the money, as Astra VXR has a standard equipment list that’s pretty comprehensive before you’ve even looked at the options list. Features such as air conditioning, 18-inch alloys, electric windows, a remote control ultrasonic alarm system, heated electric mirrors, front fog lights and a CD MP3 player are included in the price – an important factor to consider when comparing the VXR to some of its stripped-out rivals.
There are several great value options too, including a leather pack at £1,000, along with innovative features such as Vauxhall’s highly praised Adaptive Forward Lighting (AFL), incorporating bi-Xenon headlights and high-pressure washers.
Stunning 19-inch alloy wheels are just £500, while upgrading the air-con to full electronic climate control adds £250. Cruise control (£200) rear parking sensors (£350) and a CD 70 CD MP3 player incorporating CD-ROM sat nav and seven speakers (£1250) are also available.
If a class-leading sticker price isn’t enough, Astra VXR is also one of the less expensive performance cars to run. It falls into insurance group 17E, while many of its rivals are in groups 19 or 20, and its combined fuel economy figure of over 30mpg, rising to almost 40mpg on extra-urban routes, means it’s impressively frugal for a car with this level of performance.
Residual values are expected to be steady, too, in line with the rest of the Astra range, which has a retained value after three years of almost 10 per cent higher than the previous generation car.*
Despite the highly-tuned nature of the engine, Astra VXR requires no specialist servicing, unlike some turbocharged performance cars that need a trip to the dealer every 6,000 miles. Instead, it benefits from Vauxhall’s 20,000-mile annual health check and 40,000-mile/24 month servicing programme, making it easy for owners to calculate their annual running costs.
Vauxhall’s Complete Motoring Plan can also be specified, allowing owners to pay for their routine servicing by direct debit from as little as £15 a month, including breakdown cover and safeguarding VXR drivers from all expenses other than tyres, exhausts and windscreens for the duration of the cover (up to four years from purchase).
An unlimited mileage first year warranty is included in the price, along with a second and third year retailer warranty up to 60,000 miles.
* Source, Glass’s Guide.
Engine and Performance
• 240PS from a 2.0-litre ECOTEC turbo.
• Supercar like 152mph top speed
• Six-speed close ratio gearbox
It’s all very well having a car that looks the business, but what if it’s all show and no go? The Astra VXR certainly couldn’t be accused being “all mouth and no trousers”.
Beneath that sharp-looking bonnet beats the heart of a true performance car. Based on the already punchy 2.0-litre, 200PS turbocharged engine that powers the top Astra SRi, the VXR uses an uprated turbocharger and fuel injection system, coupled to revised inlet and exhaust manifolds to produce an incredible 240PS at 5,600rpm – that’s over 40PS more than rival hot hatches costing at least £1,000 more.
It delivers an equally impressive torque output of 320Nm, available between 2,400rpm and 5,000rpm to ensure that the power is delivered evenly and flexibly, rather than in one frantic blast.
That gives the VXR enough poke to sprint from 0-60mph in a neck-jerking 6.2 seconds, and on to a top speed of 152mph – the sort of performance which was previously the preserve of supercars.
Power is fed to the front wheels through a specially-developed six-speed manual gearbox. The close-ratio transmission has been specifically tuned to suit the characteristics of the turbocharged engine, and has a light yet positive action, while the unique VXR gearknob is trimmed in leather and alloy to further heighten the pleasure of each shift.
What’s more, Astra VXR sounds as good as it goes. As well as ensuring they got the best performance out of VXR, Vauxhall’s engineers tuned the exhaust for sound optimisation, meaning the engine sounds sporty - a real rarity for a turbocharged car.
For those who want an even louder soundtrack to their driving adventures, a range of optional VXR sports exhausts will also be available.
Astra VXR technical specifications
1998cc 16v ECOTEC 4-cylinder turbo
Max. power: 240PS (170kW) @ 5,600 rpm
Max. torque: 320Nm (236 lb.ft.) @ 2,400 rpm
Compression ratio: 8.8:1
Max. turbo boost pressure: 1.2 bar
> Front wheel drive, six-speed close-ratio manual
PERFORMANCE (manufacturer’s figures)
0-60mph (secs): 6.2
Top Speed: 152mph
FUEL ECONOMY mpg (litres/100km)
Urban: 21.6 (13.1)
Extra-urban: 39.8 (7.1)
Combined : 30.4 (9.3)
CO2 emissions: 223g/km
Front discs: 321mm
Rear discs: 278mm
WHEELS AND TYRES
> 18-inch five-spoke alloy 8Jx18
> 225/40 R 18 (optional 19-inch with 235/35 ZR19)
VXR sports front grille with body-coloured ‘V’ and larger air dam/bumper
VXR front fog lights
VXR side sills
VXR rear roof spoiler
VXR rear bumper with centre cut-out for tailpipe
Trapezoidal centre exit visible exhaust tailpipe
Recaro sports seats with leather-trimmed side bolsters
Unique three-spoke leather-covered sports steering
wheel with VXR logo
Unique VXR aluminium-effect gear knob
Unique VXR instrument panel with stepper motor speedometer and tachometer
VXR carbon fibre-effect inserts on facia and doors
ESP with traction and understeer control, ABS and brake assist.
Multi-function trip computer
Front, side and curtain airbags
OPTIONS AT EXTRA COST
Leather pack (including heated seats)
Electronic Climate Control (in lieu of Air Con)
Interactive Driving System-plus with Continuous Damping Control
Adaptive Forward Lighting with bi-Xenon headlamps and dynamic bend beams.
Rear parking distance sensors
Integral six-disc CD multichanger
Bluetooth mobile phone system
Prices as at release date (2005)
Astra VXR option and accessory availability
Leather Pack (Leather seat facings, heated sports front seats with tilt and lumbar adjustment, Indirect door night lighting, centre rear seat head restraint: £1,000
Smoker Pack (Cigar lighter and front ashtray) :£50.00
Electronic Climate Control (ECC) incorporating air-conditioning: £250.00
Cruise control: £200.00
Interactive Driving System-plus with Continuous Damping Control: £400.00
Adaptive Forward Lighting inc. bi-Xenon headlights with dynamic beam and high-pressure washers: £750.00
19-inch multi-spoke alloy wheels: £500.00
Rear parking distance sensor: £350.00
Two-coat metallic or pearlescent paint: £335.00
CDC 40 stereo radio/integral six-disc CD autochanger/graphic information display/steering wheel mounted audio controls/seven speakers: £400.00
CD 70 stereo radio/CD/MP3 CD player/CD-ROM-driven satellite navigation system/colour information display/steering wheel mounted audio controls/seven speakers: £1,250.00
Mobile phone system with Bluetooth (does not include phone): £300.00