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Can the hottest Astra thrill in the right ways, or is it too unruly - and have other hot hatchbacks got the edge in terms of handling and sheer driving enjoyment?

The car you see here, the Vauxhall GTC VXR, is fairly typical fare for the unusual VXR performance sub-brand. It is identifiable not by its common theme of focused, high-revving pace, startlingly sharp handling or race-derived engineering nous.

It is rather more straightforward: if you can stick a Vauxhall badge on it, and it’s a little bit bonkers, it could just make the grade.

On paper it is sufficiently pokey to qualify as a true VXR

Outwardly, it looks wild. It also seems like quite good value for money. And on paper it is sufficiently pokey to qualify as a true VXR, because it makes 276bhp. And if you think that’s quite a lot to be pushing through its front wheels, you wouldn’t be alone, which is why the VXR has a mechanical specification to back up the power and not inconsiderable 295lb ft of torque. Still, it sounds, to us, quite raucous.

The truth is that fast Vauxhalls in general, and fast Astras in particular, have always been a slightly unruly bunch. Not necessarily in a bad way, either. Traditionally they’re loud, quick and capable of entertaining on a shallow but enjoyable level. Is this VXR more of the same?

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