The engine management system has been changed to release 160bhp in normal mode; 195bhp in Sport
There will only be 100 888s
The Vauxhall Astra is one of the best-looking hatchbacks, but average dynamics and performance hamper its overall appeal
First DriveFrugal 1.6-litre diesel Astra estate has the zest to match its decent chassis and good looks
First DriveDespite a raft of tweaks aimed at achieving impressive frugality, this Vauxhall Astra 1.7 CDTi Ecoflex Exclusiv still offers an engaging driver experience
Vauxhall’s VXR brand doesn’t do diesels. However, Lincolnshire-based dealer group Thurlby Motors has set out to prove that there’s potential for a fast and entertaining oil-burner by producing the Astra 888.
The dealer is offering 100 examples of a specially-tuned 1.9-litre CDTi Astra, which has been developed by Vauxhall’s British Touring Car Championship racing team, Triple Eight Motorsport. Each one features bespoke springs and dampers, BTCC-style 18in alloy wheels and massive 335mm front disc brakes with four-pot callipers. The cars will also wear Vauxhall’s VXR styling kit, and will be available in red, silver, metallic black and white.
What's it like?
Thurlby has fitted a two-stage engine management system to the 1.9-litre turbodiesel, upping its power output from 149bhp to 160 in normal mode, and to 195bhp when you hit the car’s Sport button. In that mode, the engine also produces 300lb ft of torque.
You’d expect that much muscle to obliterate any hope of holding the road with the car’s front wheels, but in practice it’s not so. Sure, there’s plenty of torquesteer just as there is with the petrol VXR, and you need to be judicious with the throttle to hold a tidy line through tighter corners, even in the dry. That said, this is still a very fast hatchback, reaching 60mph in just 6.8 seconds and capable of a claimed maximum of 145mph.
Should I buy one?
Vauxhall will be offering the 888 modifications as part of a performance upgrade available on its Astra Sport hatches, but you’ll pay more than £3500 to fit all of them to a £17,875 Astra 1.9 CDTi 150 SRi. Thurlby is asking just £120 extra. Expect these cars to sell very quickly indeed.