By Alisdair Suttie 14 June 2012
It may seem a little lopsided to compare Vauxhall’s new GTC VXR with a BMW M3, but bear with me. A mere 15 years ago, the M3 was the cutting edge of tin top sports cars, putting out 286bhp and covering 0-62mph in the low five second mark.
Look at the Vauxhall GTC VXR and it puts in a very spirited time of 0-62mph in 5.9 seconds, punts out 276bhp and tops out at the same limited 155mph max speed as the BMW.
Granted, this is apples and pears we’re comparing here, but the point is that in 15 years what was once extraordinary is now well within the reach of hot hatch drivers. It is remarkable progress in such a short space of time.
On top of that, progress also means the Vauxhall offers 34.9mpg average economy and 189g/km carbon dioxide emissions. Have a gander at the figures for a 15-year old BMW M3 when it was in the prime of its life and you’d be paying top whack road tax and company car insurance today.
So, we’ve made the point the new GTC VXR has masses of power, but equally impressive is the spread of torque from 2450- to 5000rpm. All 295lb.ft of shove available in the thick mid-rev spread helps make this three-door Astra derivative incredibly quick across country.
There may be a little scrabble from the wheels when exiting quickly out of junctions, but plant your foot as you leave a slippery roundabout and the Vauxhall just grips and goes. A little tug at the steering wheel lets you know all of that power is being sent through the front wheels, but it’s not uncontrollable or feisty in the way a Mk1 Ford Focus RS was. Nope, the Astra is simply very quick.
Helping to make the GTC VXR so rapid over twisting roads, or any other type of tarmac for that matter, is the superb quality of the ride. The suspension is much more compliant than a Renault Megane RS265’s, which means in the real world the Vauxhall can deploy its power earlier and harder. As any Formula One armchair pundit can tell you, this means the GTC gets out of corners with more authority and it also helps the VXR overtake slower traffic with ease.
Another benefit of the sumptuous ride quality is the VXR is easy to live with. Where a Megane requires some considerable commitment to put up with the mediocre refinement and stiff ride, the VXR asks no such questions. Yes, the Megane is ultimately the more rewarding car on a cross-country strop, but for the other six and a half days of the week, the Vauxhall is the better friend.
This is not to say the VXR lacks in the handling or entertainment stakes. It’s just the Megane is so lively when you’re in the mood, very little else this side of £40,000 can compete. A little more sensitivity in the steering feel of the GTC VXR and it would be wholly alongside the Megane.
As it is, the GTC VXR makes a serious bid for hot hatch supremacy thanks to its huge array of all-round talents. It’s massively quick, handles brilliantly, sounds the business when the engine’s pushed harder and yet it can still cope with mundane everyday driving without so much as a cough.
The Vauxhall is a slightly different take on the hot hatch theme to its rivals from Renault, Volkswagen and Seat. Whether it’s better is as much down to personal tastes as performance figures.
One thing’s for sure, though, and it’s we can’t wait to see what a hot hatch looks like in 15 years’ time when it has the same 440bhp power as the current BMW M3. Now that really would be progress.