Inside, it's not unlike other Astra GTCs: it feels solid, not overtly flamboyant or special, but there are a few flourishes like (at times) red backlit dials, the seats are fine and there's a sound driving position.
And, there's no denying, the Astra VXR is a fast car. Vauxhall reckons it's the quickest-accelerating hot hatch currently around, ducking under the six-second barrier in a sprint to 62mph, and with a fulsome 295lb ft at 2450-5000rpm to back up the power at the higher end.
In regular driving, I think you can feel its German influence; it steers positively, with good weight and much stability around straight ahead. You could imagine driving it at proper autobahn speeds for hours at a time. There’s a touch of turbo lag at low revs - it really gets going about 3000rpm or so. But it's pleasingly accomplished.
The VXR gets magnetorheological dampers with three settings. In standard form the ride is good, while there’s a halfway Sport setting too, which has slightly firmer dampers but leaves the throttle response in ‘ordinary’ mode. Then there's a VXR button that stiffens them further but also sharpens the throttle. All three are usable settings; to their great credit Vauxhall/Opel has resisted the temptation differentiate too much between. There's something for all occasions.
And so in faster driving? Well, it makes an extraordinary noise: lots of whooshing and sucking and a bizarre but compelling high-pitched whistle as the revs wind around. It’s quick, too, there’s no denying. It wouldn’t surprise me if, over a lap, it had the measure on all of its rivals over a lap. The steering is quick and the Astra fairly dives at a corner; there’s precious little roll but what there is comes fast, and from that point on the VXR is poised and capable.
But its steering isn’t overtly talkative and neither is its chassis responsive to changes in throttle position. From the moment you run fast through a single corner or two, you begin to sense that there’s less interaction between man and machine allowed here than in the best in the class. There’s less finesse than, say, in a Renaultsport Megane with a Cup chassis.
Up to a point (with VXR mode engaged to get the sharpest throttle response), you can use the accelerator to tuck the Astra’s VXR's nose towards a corner as you approach the limit. Give it just a touch too much though and it runs wide at the front and, even if given a lift, or what’s affectionately known as “the send” on the way in, it’s the front end that makes the rules. There's more throttle adjustability, and engagement and neutrality, in a Scirocco R or a Megane.