If you consider it by the standards expected of a compact family hatchback, it is tempting to be critical of access to the back seats and general convenience.
Ride and Handling
When a front-wheel-drive car has this much power being delivered to the same wheels through which it is steered, the worry is whether it will be unwieldy. High-powered front-drive cars have a tendency to suffer from ‘torque steer’, where the power surge seems to snatch at the steering and make the car feel twitchy. Not this one, though. What could be a beastly tendency is well-tamed with clever engineering.
The car feels beautifully poised, grippy and balanced, with exceptional handling. Vauxhall has upgraded the standard GTC chassis and made some significant alterations to handle the much higher VXR level of performance. A limited slip differential calms the risk of wheel-spin. The suspension’s stiffness is increased by 30 per cent and has other amendments to beef up its behaviour, and the ride height is dropped 10 mm lower. Instead of the electrical steering system used on other Astras, the VXR has been given hydraulic steering for more feel and faster reaction.
The car sits on standard 19-inch wheels, and the ride is sports car-firm. It is not uncomfortable, though, helped by Vauxhall’s variable FlexRide system. The 20-inch alloys that come with an optional body kit give an even meatier look of tightly-filled wheel arches, but firm up the ride a little more.
Ease of Use
How easy you judge this car to be in everyday use really depends on how you choose to categorise it. If you consider it by the standards expected of a compact family hatchback, it is tempting to be critical of access to the back seats and general convenience. But if you gauge its practicality relative to its sports car level of performance, it certainly trumps a typical fixed-top two-seater.
Rear seat access is not too bad, just a bit of a clamber. The rear seat-back folds, hatchback-style, and the luggage capacity extends from a standard 380 litres of boot space to a maximum 1,165 litres.