VXR has always been a brand of hits and misses. The Corsa VXR, for instance, always had a place alongside the Ford Fiesta ST and Renaultsport Clios as a rorty, boisterous hot hatch that flipped a middle finger to its rivals' more focused demeanour. On the other hand, there was the Vectra. A car I’m sure many will have of weird soft spot for but, let’s be honest, it was a load of rubbish. And the less said about the Meriva VXR, the better.
Yet, here we are in 2023 and Vauxhall’s performance arm seems like a distant memory. Now under the Stallantis umbrella, which has gone all-in on electric power, the likelihood of seeing a new VXR with blistered wheel arches and a farty exhaust are zero. Granted, it has tried to warm the range up a bit with the GSe plug-in hybrid, but that’s hardly going to get the next generation of boy racer fired up, is it? Not that they’ll be able to afford them, because an Astra GSe will set you back over £40,000. Good thing you can relive VXR’s glory days for a fraction of the price, then.
Arguably the car that absolutely nailed the VXR formula was Vauxhall’s beefed-up Astra GTC. Swollen wheel arches and a small roof spoiler upped the aggression over the standard car, while 20-inch wheels and shiny trim on the front bumper added a touch of sophistication. It was a more cohesive design, too, rather than the bolt-on body kit look of most other VXRs (which, admittedly, does appeal in its own right). Vauxhall did offer a non-aero kit variant with smaller wheels, but that appealed to practically no one and hardly any were sold.
Not only did the Astra GTC VXR look more sophisticated, Vauxhall put the time in to make sure that most of the 280hp from the car’s 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo engine reached the tarmac – rather than lighting up the front tyres. A Drexler mechanical diff helped pull the GTC VXR out of corners and did a fairly good job of eliminating torque steering. You’d still get the odd tug at the wheel under acceleration, but nowhere near the extent of previous VXRs. Three-way FlexRide adaptive dampers seemed space age at the time and provided a mix of ride comfort and precision that, again, was unlike anything we’d seen from VXR.
Naturally, people went crazy for them. Vauxhall sold thousands of them, keeping used values at bay and the classifieds well stocked. There’s the usual mix of blue, black, red and white examples, but this particular car is finished in ultra-rare Emerald Green. It’s not obvious whether that was down to a lack of popularity or if it was a limited-run colour (PHers, do your thing), but what is for certain is the GTC VXR looks mighty fine in green.
Now, I’ve been on the lookout for an Emerald Green Astra GTC VXR on the classifieds for months and, all of a sudden, two have recently become available. This particular car is box fresh with just 11,000 miles on the clock, though it carries a hefty premium at £18,900. Alternatively, there’s this 54,000-mile car for £12,979, but the red brake callipers suggest some work has been done. Either way, you’re grabbing arguably one of VXR’s greatest creations in less-arguably the best colour available for less than half the price of the new Astra GSe. It may not have been one of the greatest hot hatches of the era, but that’s a bargain that’ll be difficult to ignore...
SPECIFICATION | VAUXHALL ASTRA GTC VXR
Engine: 1,998cc four-cylinder, turbocharged
Transmission: six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Power (hp): 280@5,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 295@2,400rpm
Year registered: 2017
Recorded mileage: 11,000
Price new: £26,995
Yours for: £18,950
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