RE: Vauxhall Astra VXR: PH Used Buying Guide

RE: Vauxhall Astra VXR: PH Used Buying Guide

Wednesday 22nd August

Vauxhall Astra VXR: PH Used Buying Guide

The Astra VXR is from the old school. Find out the difference between star pupil and PH staffer



The Vauxhall Astra VXR was the most powerful hot hatch you could drive out of a showroom in 2005. Today, 240hp seems perfectly normal for this class of car, but back then it was pretty daring and the VXR quickly divided opinion.

That ability to split views remains. For those that get it, though, the Astra VXR offers an entertainingly old school branch of hot hatch fun thanks to 0-62mph in 6.2 seconds, a 152mph top end, and torque steer aplenty when you put your toe down. So, it's still pretty quick and there's plenty of scope for tuning the turbocharged 2.0-litre motor to rival the best of the current hot hatch crop.

But don't expect the VXR to be as refined or broadly able as today's hot hatches. In 2008, this Astra hustled its way around the Nurburgring in 8 minutes 35 seconds in the hands of Manuel Reuter, which was a record for a hot hatch at the time. This stunt was inspired by the VXR Nurburgring Edition which had unique white paint and alloy wheels, exterior graphics and embossed seats. There were also carbon fibre-effect door mirrors and trim on the B pillars. More interesting with this model is the Remus exhaust that freed up an extra 15hp, and the wider track for improved handling.


Throughout its life, you could add Driving System Plus for £400 that came with Continuous Damping Control. It helped ease the VXR's firm ride, but it couldn't mask the torque steer that could make the Astra a handful on any road that wasn't perfectly dry and smooth. There's also less feel through the steering than in a Ford Focus ST, which added to the sense the Vauxhall required your full attention at all times. However, there's little lean in corners and the brakes are strong by the standards of the period.

Yet it's the engine that still dominates the Astra VXR's driving experience. It needs considered input to avoid butting up against the traction control from a standing start, but the broad spread of torque makes it flexible in-gear. There's a Sport button on the centre console that sharpens throttle response, but some find this makes the car too sensitive and jerky when coming on and off the accelerator pedal.

So the Astra VXR continues to polarise opinions. Yet, with prices for decent, clean examples starting at £3,000, it's one of the most affordable ways into a 150mph hot hatch.

Buyer's checklist


Bodywork and interior

Rust can take hold around the rear arches.

The front bumper can come away where it joins the wings.

The steering wheel's leather wears more than many contemporary rivals'.

Recaro front seats are comfortable but the driver's bolster will look shabby in all but the most pampered Astra VXRs. The seats can squeak on their mounts - new brackets are needed to cure this.

Check for fault codes by pressing the throttle and brake pedals at the same time then turning the key till the dash lights illuminate. Any fault codes will then be displayed.


Engine and transmission

The Borg Warner K04 turbo's vacuum lines can detach and they perish with age. Listen for signs of this with a tell-tale warble when the engine is off boost.

Look for smoke and listen to the turbo for grumbling bearings. A new turbo is £750 fitted.

Turbo actuator arm can fail and costs £200 to replace.

Smoke when starting from cold points to worn valve stem seals.

Ticking hydraulic tappets are common.

Check the service record to see if the cambelt has been changed more regularly than the official 80,000-mile intervals - specialists reckon 45,000 is the safe distance before a new belt is needed.


Tuned engines can throw con rods, so be wary of anything with more 320hp without evidence of uprated engine internals.

Vauxhall replaced the turbo's oil return pipe gasket under warranty. Rocker cover gasket can also weep oil.

The Getrag six-speed manual gearbox is the VXR's weakest link. First and sixth gears are prone to failing, so make sure the lever doesn't jump out of these gears. A replacement 'box will be around £800. Changing the transmission fluid annually is a sensible precaution.

A remap and exhaust will improve the engine to 270hp and many owners report improved fuel economy and smoother throttle response with these mods.

An uprated intercooler should be the first step before any more serious tuning to deal with the VXR's high under-bonnet temperatures.

Suspension and steering

Standard droplink bushes will fail sooner rather than later, so budget to upgrade to polybush items.

Wheels, tyres and brakes

Check the inner edges of the rear tyres for wear caused by worn hub bearings.


SPECIFICATION: VAUXHALL ASTRA VXR

Engine: 1998cc 4-cyl turbo
Transmission: 6-speed man
Power (hp): 240@/5,600rpm
Torque (lb ft): 236@2,400-5,000rpm
MPG: 30.7
CO2: 221g/km
Price new: £18,995
Price now: £3,000+

Author
Discussion

howardhughes

Original Poster:

251 posts

140 months

Wednesday 22nd August
quotequote all
I always had a soft spot for these. I think the shape has lasted very well too. Great looking car.
Not sure on the dashboard instrument cluster/Heater panel though - very bland.

DoubleD

6,297 posts

44 months

Wednesday 22nd August
quotequote all
I drove a mates one once, the car felt like it was trying to fight you under hard acceleration.

Toaster Pilot

11,940 posts

94 months

Wednesday 22nd August
quotequote all
Can you really pick up a palatable one for three grand?

Wacky Racer

30,180 posts

183 months

Wednesday 22nd August
quotequote all
Mrs WR has a VXR Arctic limited edition from new since 2010, It has just touched 20,000 miles and is mint and as new.

It is covered by the 100,000 mile warranty to the original owner that Vauxhall offered at the time, so theoretically, it should be good for the next forty years. biggrin

It has been 100% trouble free.

Alex_225

2,915 posts

137 months

Wednesday 22nd August
quotequote all
howardhughes said:
I always had a soft spot for these. I think the shape has lasted very well too. Great looking car.
Not sure on the dashboard instrument cluster/Heater panel though - very bland.
Exactly the same here, I remember when these were new out and always thought it was a tidy looking car. Interior is a bit bland and I wasn't overly impressed with that even at the time. Always preferred these in terms of looks to the Focus ST although I bought (and still own) a Megane 225 which was a rival to this back in 2006. smile
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Bright Halo

493 posts

171 months

Wednesday 22nd August
quotequote all
We had a look at one of these new but the sales staff attitude put us off and we ended up with a Leon Cupra instead.
They knew nothing about the car and were only interested in talking about the finance deal.

Never even got as far as a test drive which was a shame as probably a good steer.

DoubleD

6,297 posts

44 months

Wednesday 22nd August
quotequote all
Bright Halo said:
We had a look at one of these new but the sales staff attitude put us off and we ended up with a Leon Cupra instead.
They knew nothing about the car and were only interested in talking about the finance deal.

Never even got as far as a test drive which was a shame as probably a good steer.
For me the sales staff are just there to hand me the key

ST Ford

291 posts

18 months

Wednesday 22nd August
quotequote all
Just never appealed to me that generation of VXR. Just think the Focus ST225 was better in every way apart from being around 0.3 seconds slower to 60 although VBH on 5th Gear managed to get the ST round the track quicker. They sound awful imo aswell they just give off a really loud droning noise like a 1.0 Costa with a fat bean can exhaust on.

Toaster Pilot

11,940 posts

94 months

Wednesday 22nd August
quotequote all
I quite fancy one - they were all the rage when I passed my test in 2008. Looks hard to find a tidy unmodified one though

warch

1,031 posts

90 months

Wednesday 22nd August
quotequote all
Proper council estate motah, just like the GTE was in the 80s. That naff information screen looked old hat when they were new.

I'd rather have a GTE to be honest, mainly because I still adore that ludicrous font size 72 digital speedometer.

Toaster Pilot

11,940 posts

94 months

Wednesday 22nd August
quotequote all
https://m.ebay.co.uk/itm/2008-Vauxhall-Astra-2-0-i...

Looks tidy and remarkably not fked with although the mention of a rusty arch on the MOT and Birmingham location put me off a bit

PixelpeepS3

5,429 posts

78 months

Wednesday 22nd August
quotequote all
Mrs Peep has often stated our mapped VXR was her least favourite car.
I loved it, it sounded like a Jet fighter under hard acceleration - it was a hooligan smile

Torque steer was a complete bh, there was a road i used daily which had an odd camber and a dipped valley, if the front wheel found it (which it would) it would fight you and try and kill you, every time!

The Golf R that replaced it and current S3 are much more refined and on paper would murder it performance wise, but the VXR 'felt' faster.

it's all about the user experience i guess smile

Numeric

450 posts

87 months

Wednesday 22nd August
quotequote all
Had one as a company hack back in the day and it was great - straight out of the box (2 days old) got 152 out of it on Sat-nav in Germany so the performance claims were very realistic (though at those sort of speeds the small sized for diesel or a 1.4i fuel tank would soon stop play) . Also lasted well with no issues and we had 5 or 6 on the fleet which were also robust.

A really enjoyable time, the JCW which followed was more fun but more fragile.

As for the inevitable 'it'll fight you all the way' comments - I really didn't ever have an issue, I guess don't take your hands off the steering wheel would be my advice!


WCZ

6,004 posts

130 months

Wednesday 22nd August
quotequote all
good value but a ball ache to put the power down properly, probably better with the LSD nurburgring edition?

rb_89

50 posts

6 months

Wednesday 22nd August
quotequote all
Drove my friends one of these when he had it, was pretty fun but sooooo much torque steer - entertaining if you like that I guess!

His gearbox went at 90k miles and cost a pretty penny to sort out... other than that he said it was quite reliable.

tril

140 posts

10 months

Wednesday 22nd August
quotequote all
I wouldn't say needing uprated internals past 320hp means the car is decent for tuning, the VAG EA113 engine of the time would go a lot further than that and so will the current EA888 unit.

Car never really appealed to me either, bit naff and a pain to drive. No coincidence that the ones you see on the road now are mostly driven by bovva boys and have uncomfortably loud exhausts

Quhet

1,772 posts

82 months

Wednesday 22nd August
quotequote all
I just can't get past the image of these. One of the few cars I'd not touch, I'd be happier driving my dad's battered old Berlingo I'm afraid....

nicfaz

234 posts

166 months

Wednesday 22nd August
quotequote all
Test drove one of these when they were new and the engine was mega. Didn't buy one because the steering was completely numb and the gearknob was square, which might look good but was awful to use.

RyanTank

2,751 posts

90 months

Wednesday 22nd August
quotequote all
Has not aged well IMHO and is uglier now than when it was new, especially the interior, although not as ugly as the current crop of VXR's.

Hard to tell lately which is a genuine VXR and which is a diesel rep. could be a thing just round my way but I seem to encounter more of these things chucking great big clouds out of the ridiculously loud exhaust, I hope its only diesel reps doing that! yikes

Jonny_gti

131 posts

16 months

Wednesday 22nd August
quotequote all
These have aged pretty well, engine makes a cracking noise when a decent exhaust has been added.