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First Drive - Vauxhall VXR 220 – on sale now



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The performance philosophy of VXR is not about top speed; it’s about maximum acceleration and ‘real world performance’ through sheer in gear grunt.

That’s how Vauxhall describes the limited edition VXR220. And with a 2.0-litre engine, a power upgrade to 220bhp thanks to a free-flow air filter, a hybrid turbo and a reprogrammed ECU, combined with an overall weight of just 900kg, it’s easy to understand why.

This is a single-minded car built for single-minded drivers. All ‘luxuries’ have been sacrificed in the name of speed – no stereo, no aircon, no electric windows, not even central locking. Squeezing through the tiny doors into the low cockpit requires extremely supple joints. Getting out is even more tricky – and often very undignified.

But once out on the roads all that is forgotten: the stripped out VXR just loves to be driven hard. It rockets to 60mph in just 4.2 seconds, will hit 150mph, and the big Yokohama A048R tyres are virtually impossible to unstick in the dry.

But there are downsides. The lack of aircon is frustrating – fans blow warm or hot air, the Yokos that are so perfect for hard dry driving are nothing short of scary in the wet, the carbon fibre around the interior is fake and having to manually lock the doors is neither convenient nor cool.

Overall the VXR is a double- hard, uncompromising driver’s car built for that track experience, and it does that excellently. But this is not a machine for everyday driving. It’s an indulgence.

Strengths: Acceleration, driveabilty, looks
Weaknesses: Impractical, Spartan
Opportunity: Customers after a weekend and track car
Threat: It’s stripped a little too bare
The USP: The Lotus that beats the Lotus
Price (OTR): £29,995
Engines : 2.0 16v turbo 220bhp@5,800rpm
Transmission: 5spd man, rwd
Performance: Efficiency: 33.2mpg combined, 202g/km CO2 emissions
Std equipment: Alcantara, alarm-immob, driver bag, ABS, alloys
Service intervals: 10,000 miles/one year
CAP RV (3yr/30k): £9,825 (33%)
Rivals: Lotus Elise, Toyota MR2, Caterham, Ariel Atom

Driven: Vauxhall Astra GTC 2.0 CDTi SRi

Two door handles and a roof aerial are the only bodywork items the GTC has in common with other Vauxhall Astras.

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