2012 Vauxhall Astra VXR review

* New Vauxhall Astra VXR hot hatch driven * 276bhp; 0-62mph in less than six seconds * On sale now, priced from 26,995...

2012 Vauxhall Astra VXR review

The new Vauxhall Astra VXR is a faster, sharper and even more striking version of the three-door Astra GTC. It arrives at the same time as one of its key rivals, the new Ford Focus ST.

At almost 27,000, the Astra VXR is an expensive choice, but its turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine pumps out 276bhp and Vauxhall has overhauled the chassis in an attempt to help you make the most of all that power.

Whats the 2012 Vauxhall Astra VXR like to drive?
Acceleration is as brutal as youd expect, with the 0-62mph sprint taking just 5.9 seconds.

True, the VXR doesnt pull as strongly from low revs as some rivals, but the mid-range punch is monumental, and its accompanied by a loud and addictive whoosh.

The steering is also quick and Vauxhall has fitted a traction-enhancing limited-slip differential. Unfortunately, this is nowhere near as effective as the one in the rival Renault Megane Renaultsport 265 Cup.

Acceleration is brutal, thanks to 276bhp engine

The VXR feels like it wants to follow every contour in the road and the steering wheel squirms in your hands under hard acceleration as the front wheels fight to turn torque into forward motion.

The fact that the steering is rather vague doesnt help, and while you can give it a meatier feel by pressing the VXR button on the dash, this also makes it that much harder to drag the car back onto your intended line.

Steering is rather vague and the wheel squirms under hard acceleration

The VXRs unruly handling is all the more disappointing when you realise how impressive it is in other areas. It comes with adjustable suspension, which soaks up bumps surprisingly well particularly when you leave it in the softest setting and the VXR is also pretty good at shutting out wind- and road noise.

Suspension soaks up bumps surprisingly well

Whats the 2012 Vauxhall Astra VXR like inside?
The VXR gets figure-hugging sports seats and a small sports steering wheel as part of its sporty makeover. These are hugely adjustable to help the driver get comfortable. Unfortunately, over-the-shoulder vision is awful, because of the thick rear pillars.

The dashboard also disappoints, because its covered in so many buttons that it can be difficult to find the one you want at a glance.

Dashboard is rather busy; figure-hugging sports seats

Still, unlike some rivals, the VXR has loads of head- and legroom in both the front and the rear. The only thing that frustrates when you use it as a four-seater is the fact that you have to reset your driving position every time you let someone in or out of the back.

The boot is large and well shaped, with room for 370-litres of luggage.

Astra VXR is expensive, at 26,995

Should I buy one?
The new Astra VXR is a surprisingly comfortable and spacious car, but it has so much power going through its front wheels that the chassis struggles to cope.

A Volkswagen Golf GTI is easier to live with everyday, while the Megane Cup is both faster and more enjoyable to drive in real-world conditions.

For prices and specs read the What Car? Vauxhall Astra GTC review

What Car? says

Steve Huntingford