If you think the VXR Astra looks a touch familiar then you are correct as the last time it was seen in Australia it was wearing Opel badges, I can remember standing there at the Opel stand at the Sydney International Motorshow a few years ago watching it get unveiled and thinking I really want to drive this car.
This time it’s back wearing the more familiar Holden badge and Holden is better off for it.
To say I’m a bit of an Astra fan is an understatement specially if you are familiar with adventures with my Astra.
So you could imagine that I was touch excited when Holden gave me the keys to a VXR Astra for the week.
Although the VXR has been around for a couple years it still looks great on the outside I’ve never been a massive fan of red cars but the VXR looks damn good from any angle.
It’s low slung aggressive 2 door stance, wicked body kit and massive 20inch alloys wrapped in sticky Michelin rubber and covering brembo brakes the VXR looks like it’s going fast when it’s sitting still.
Steeping inside and the sports theme is continued, the front leather sports seats have full electric adjustment as well as electric adjustment for the lumbar support and bolsters and have a heating function for those cold days.
While being extremely supportive specially when cornering hard I found them a touch on the snug side.
The leather bound steering wheel was comfortable to hold and the perfect thickness for me.
Now for the not so good things, the instrument panel while being easy read in all light is looking a tad dated the monochrome lcd screen nestled between the gauges looks a little bland and reminds me a lot like the one in the Cruze.
While dash still looks rather nice the centre stack in home to the Mylink infotainment system, now I really like the Mylink system and think it’s one of the best on the market. But in this case I found it extremely annoying and fiddly.
As instead of the usual touch screen in most Holdens this is controlled by a knob instead, which can be downright painful to use specially when using the sat nav and other functions.
Apart from the inconvenience of the rotary knob the Mylink system worked a treat, although normally I use the inbuilt apps like Pandora but this time I just couldn’t be bothered because of knob.
Leg room is rather good for a 2 door coupe although head room in back might be a little tight for tall people but I had no complaints from the family during the week and boot space was rather good at 380 litres.
Yeah I can hear you know enough of the fluff this is a hot hatch what’s it’s like on the road.
From the press of the start button your with sensors engulfed in the deep sounding exhaust note you know you’re in for something special.
The VXRs 2.0L turbo 4cyl puts out 206kW and a stump pulling 400Nm of torque which means that the VXR will easily just lope around in the morning traffic on the way to work or cruise around effortlessly on the speed limit on the highway.
Fuel economy was rather good indeed the VXR comes with an Eco setting and start stop which did help save fuel specially when sitting in heavy traffic, during the week I ended up averaging 10.5L/100 which was roughly the same I averaged with the GTC Astra. On the freeway saw it go down into the 6’s.
It’s really a bit of Jeckle and Hyde kind of car being all meek and respectful until you exercise your right foot a little bit and then all hell breaks loose.
To say the VXR is quick is an understatement, more like it’s damn quick there is a touch of lag off the mark but that could of been me being a little nice to clutch as well but in 2nd gear the 110kph posted speed limit comes up rather quick. Backing the wonderful turbo 4 cyl is a 6 speed manual which I found very slick indeed, the shift was easy and a relatively short throw, the clutch is light and easy to find the friction point.
On the road and the VXR is surprisingly compliant given it’s sporty nature, the ride is smooth but as you would expect a little on the stiff but it seems to absorb the bumps rather well indeed.
The VXR comes with Opel’s HiPerStrut front suspension which offers you 3 distinct settings normal, sport and VXR.
Which adjusts the damping, steering and throttle which means you can adjust it depending on your mood. I spent the week sampling each setting but found surprisingly that normal was the best for every day driving (who’d of thunk it).
The steering is direct and well weighed so when you throw the VXR at some corners it really comes into it’s own, to say the handling is good is a huge understatement the VXR sticks like it’s on rails.
I took it down my test loop on Wisemans Ferry road and couldn’t believe how well it went, twisty corners, off camber bends the VXR gobbled them up and asked for a double helping.
As you would expect with this much power going through the front wheels getting on the accelerator too early coming out of a corner will induce torque steer but it’s easy to drive around especially when you expect it.
Wisemans Ferry Rd is a mixture of slow, tight, fast, corners mixed with a straight bits and it can be rough in spots. But the adjustable suspension made it easy some bits normal was the right setting, other parts sport or VXR mode were the right ones.
Being a hot hatch you expect it to stop as well as it handles and VXR stops rather nicely thanks to the Brembo brakes.
Safety wise the VXR has received a 5 star safety rating and comes with a long list of safety features including tyre pressure monitoring, daytime running lights, speed limiter, ABS, ESC, 6 airbags, it gets bonus points for rear parking sensors but then looses some for not having a rear view camera available at all something that should be standard on car worth this much and is a standard features on cars worth half the price.
After a week I was more than impressed with the VXR Astra, it is exactly what you would expect a hot hatch to be, fast, nimble, corners like it was on rails and stops just as quick.
There was a couple things I didn’t like no push button start, I thought the centre stack and instrument panel looks a little dated, the lack of touch screen made the audio system a pain to use and the lack of rear view camera made it a pain in the butt to reverse park.
But and it is a big but you do start to forget about all its short comings the moment you push the start button and hear that wonderful raspy exhaust note and by the time the VXR gets a sniff of a corner they are a long forgotten distant memory.
If you’re looking for a hot hatch that will put a smile on your face every time you go around a corner then you should definitely have the VXR Astra on the list.
For more info on the VXR Astra check out Holden’s website http://www.holden.com.au
Thank you to Holden for use of their stock pics the weekend I planned to take pics of the car I forgot to charge my camera.
2016 HOLDEN ASTRA VXR
Price: From $39,990 (plus ORC)
Engine: 2.0L 4 cylinder turbo petrol engine, 206kW 400Nm
Transmission: 6 speed manual
5 star safety rating, ABS, ESC, 6 airbags, DRL’s, tyre pressure monitoring, 20″ Forged Alloy Wheels, Sports Body Kit, Halogen Projector Head Lamps, LED Tail Lamps, Rain Sensing Wipers, Intelligent High Beam Head Lamps, Holden MyLink Infotainment System with 7″ Colour Information Display, Dual Zone Climate Control, HiPerStrut Suspension, FlexRide Chassis, Front Brembo® Brakes.