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Shed of the Week | Vauxhall Astra Turbo cabrio

200hp? Check. 140mph? Check. Drop-top four-seater? Check. Vauxhall Astra? Er, check...

By Tony Middlehurst / Friday, October 18, 2019

When is a coupe not a coupe? When it's ajar. No, sorry, that's the wrong joke. When it's a convertible, is what Shed should have said.

When is an Astra not boring? When it's got the thick end of 200hp up its chuff, and that's no joke.

In the realm of high-power Astras, the letters that normally come to mind in a shouty, up-yours type way are VXR, but a full five years before the 240hp Astra VXR hatch pool-bombed into our showrooms in 2005 you could get the far more socially acceptable Astra Coupe Turbo. In SRI spec this offered a very respectable 189hp, or 200hp in GSI spec.

So, considering how much even flea-bitten Astra Coupe 888s go for these days, this open-topped version of the 200hp Astra Coupe Turbo looks like a pretty smart purchase at £1,495.

Luxuriantly and some would say more elegantly rolled in Bert One's designer glitter than the Coupe, these gen-four G model ragtops began life as Astra Convertibles and were re-designated as Astra Coupe Convertibles for a while until everyone quietly agreed that the Coupe part was a bit redundant.

Gentle-engined open-topped four-seaters were of course aimed at the second car/little lady at home market which at that time was dominated by BMW, Audi and to a lesser extent Volkswagen. Presumably these rapid Astra Turbo Convertibles were aimed at suburbanite cougars who, when they weren't hosting slightly suspect daytime parties, were putting men to shame on the sweaty leisure centre cross-trainer.

The 2.0-litre motor is a cambelt design whose replacement schedule was halved at some point from 80,000 to 40,000 miles. Despite that off note, the 2.0 was in many ways a more robust engine than Vauxhall's other performance lump, the chain-driven 2.2 which suffered from camchain lubrication and ignition control unit problems. The 2.0 turbo wasn't perfect, mind: some found it a bit laggy, and the traction control did struggle to keep the car pointing in the right direction in bad weather, but for many powerfully-forearmed PHers these will be positive attributes rather than demerits.

This particular car has just 79,000 miles on the clock, with two owners (the last one for 13 years) and a very clean leather interior. The steering wheel seems to have suffered from a touch of HRT-fuelled cougar grip, or possibly bra-clasp abrasion, and the white clocked/silvered central panel doesn't stand up all that well in 2019, but when all's said and done this is a genuine performance car with a low-seven second 0-60 time and a 150mph top end. It just happens to be (a) a convertible and (b) a Vauxhall, both of which keep it nicely under the radar for the stealthy speed freak.

What we need to know about any ageing convertible is, will the top conk out in the half-open position that was so successfully popularised by Peugeot in the 2000s? Well, quite possibly is the honest answer. Some owners report pressing the button and hearing a bleep but witnessing nothing in the way of hood movement. Others report it sticking open. One owner reported not being able to open the boot on the remote, only on the key. The diagnostics reported the roof to be in an 'invalid state'.

After the account-busting threat of new looms being required, it turned out that the roof simply needed to be recalibrated, which in this case was achieved by lowering and raising it manually using an Allen key. On your own head be it, though. In the manual it says something to the effect of "after manual closing, the folding top must not be opened again... consult a workshop for repair help." Vauxhall dealers were famed for charging up to £200 just to check it.

Talking of looms, Vauxhall issued a bulletin on voltage spikes from the alternator damaging the camshaft sensor, which was sorted by unpicking the loom and rerouting the cam and crank sensor cables ahead of the airbox, so it's definitely worth checking that's been done. Rear springs have a reputation for snapping on G Astras, though not so much on the sportier models. Bosch-calipered rear brakes can seize and anti-roll bar bushes can dry out, causing squeaking, a noise you may also hear from the driver's seat. The rear-view mirror might fall off too. Plus all the usual suspects, i.e. coil packs, ECUs, fuel pumps, the odd cat sensor. Rust, obviously, as it's a 15-year old car, but nowt structural has popped up on the MOTs thus far. It did have rust on both rear springs this March and it will need new tyres, and possibly new brake lines, sometime soon.

This is a dealer car. Brilliantly, one of the guys who works at the dealership rejoices in the name of Del, but going by the eighty-odd almost entirely positive online customer reviews you should never judge a car dealer by his Christian name because it seems that buyers are looked after very well there. Nice one Del, cushty etc.

For many, this car's worst features will be the £325 road tax and that griffin badge. If it was a German car with this sort of spec and performance you'd probably not flinch at paying quite a bit more than £1,500. And even then, if it's a 3 Series, you might well find that the hood doesn't work. If there's one thing Mrs Shed can't stand, it's a hood that doesn't go up and down like it used to. Ah, more forgotten pleasures.

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