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White hot Astra Nurburgring

Rafay Ansar

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If you've got even the tiniest drop of petrol running through your veins you'll certainly be aware of the track this Nurburgring Edition VXR Astra is named after. The 13 mile ribbon of tarmac is famously tortuous, car manufacturers using fast lap times around it as a badge of honour. So the 835 Astra Nurburgrings being built is significant, that number referring to the 8 minute 35 second time that the VXR recorded around the notoriously tricky circuit. Changes over the standard and already rapid VXR include those lightweight alloys - which like the rest of the car are painted white - deeply sculpted Recaro bucket seats, a smattering of fake carbon-fibre trim bits, a Remus sports exhaust and more Nurburgring badges inside and out than a souvenir shop beside the track.



What are its rivals?



Anything with three doors and a hot engine under the bonnet is a direct rival for the Astra VXR Nurburgring Edition. Alternatives include Ford's Focus ST, the Golf GTI, Mazda's 3 MPS, Honda's Civic Type-R and a handful of other big engine, sports car performance rivalling hatchbacks. The VXR in standard guise delivers 237bhp, though the addition of the Remus sports exhaust is claimed to add around 14bhp to that. If that increase is to be believed the Astra VXR Nurburgring Edition is among the very most powerful of the front-wheel-drive hot hatchbacks, its output eclipsing everything but Mazda's silly-power Mazda 3 MPS.

How does it drive?

With all that power it's unlikely to come as a surprise that the VXR Nurburgring Edition is very rapid. Zero to 62mph officially arrives in 6.2 seconds, and that's before the additional power from that Remus exhaust is taken into account. Of all the additions to create the Nurburgring Edition it's that exhaust that dominates, its sport pipe giving the VXR a soundtrack that's pure racecar. It blares on acceleration, crackles and fizzes when shifting gears, and sounds like an anti-lag equipped rally car when backing off the throttle such is the banging and popping from the large centrally-mounted exhaust.



It's fun, in a slightly anti-social way. The only thing is that it's fairly intense all the time; so you'll either have to learn to live with the constant blare, or buy some earplugs for longer journeys. Riding on a slightly wider track than the standard car the Nurburgring feels a bit sharper to turn in, though there's still precious little feedback through the chunky steering wheel's rim. The ride, though firm isn't overly unsettled on our roads, the figure-hugging Recaro seat holding you in firmly in any case. The gearshift is quick and precise despite Vauxhall's attempt to hinder quick shifting with quite the most preposterously large and clumsy gearknob on any car, anywhere. The brakes are strong, though the pedal is difficult to modulate, making heal-and-toe shifting a sometimes jerky affair.



What's impressive?

The performance is the defining element of the VXR Astra and the changes on this Nurburgring, however slight, make it an even more focussed, intense experience. Arguably one of the best-looking hatchbacks on the market the VXR certainly looks like it has just escaped from the racetrack. The CO2 emissions of 221g/km from such a highly-strung, focussed car is rather impressive, and although Vauxhall claims a combined consumption figure of 30.7mpg it's unlikely you'll ever get anywhere near that. The ride is remarkably compliant given the firm suspension, that perhaps thanks to the 3kg per corner those lightweight alloy wheels remove from the unsprung weight.



What's not?

The interior is starting to show its age in the Astra, the etch-a-sketch graphics on the heinously expensive optional sat-nav are laughably old school. The operating system for the infotainment system isn't very intuitive, either. The body-hugging Recaro seats do the job holding you in, but they're sat way too high, giving the Nurburgring a driving position that feels more like a lofty people carrier than a apex-seaking hot hatchback. The exhaust is rather too extreme for everyday driving and those chequered stickers over the bonnet and roof are a little bit over the top. The steering needs more feel and the gearknob desperately needs replacing, too.



Should I buy one?

If you want the most intense Astra experience out there then the Nurburgring Edition is worth considering. It rides well despite the low, taut suspension, is wickedly fast and sounds fabulous - when you're in the mood. We reckon you'd be better saving the £1,500 or so this special adds to the price of the standard car, as it's less of a compromise as a daily-driver. Unless, of course your drive to work takes in 13 miles of Germany's finest tarmac.




SPECIFICATIONS


Manufacturer Vauxhall
Model Astra
Type Hatchback
Trim VXR Nurburgring Edition
List Price 21,295 on-the-road £
Length wheelbase 4,290/2,614mm
Height width 1,415/1,753mm
Insurance Group 17
Engine Capacity 1,998cc
Fuel Petrol
Transmission Manual
Doors 3
Nil to sixty 6.2 seconds
Top speed 152mph
WARRANTIES

Manufacturer Vauxhall
Model Astra
STATISTICS

Manufacturer Vauxhall
Model Astra
Miles per Gallon 30.7 miles/gallons
C02 221 g of C02/km
FEATURES

Standard Optional
Alloy Wheels Yes
Air Conditioning Yes
Front Electric Window Yes
Rear Electric Window £##dcs_Rear_Electric_Window##
Satellite Naviga £No
Bluetooth £No
Stereo System Yes
Tinted Glass Yes
Leather Yes
Leather Interior Yes
CD Player Yes
Central Door Locker Yes
Cruise Control £No
Electric Door Mi Yes
Manual Sunroof £No
Electric Sunroof £No
Power Steering Yes
AntiLock Brakes Yes
Anti Theft Device Yes
Driver Air Bag Yes
Passenger Air Bag Yes
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