Parkers overall rating: 4 out of 5 4.0

Vauxhall Astra VXR performance is impressive thanks to a heavily developed 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine. It outputs 276bhp and 400Nm of pulling power, allowing for rapid acceleration both from a standstill and in gear. The 0-60mph sprint is dispatched in 5.9 seconds, while the Astra’s top speed is quoted to be 155mph. A precisely tuned exhaust system means that the VXR sounds as potent as the figures suggest, delivering a satisfying soundtrack that makes the Astra’s intentions quite clear – even at low speeds.

As with the GTC, the six-speed gearbox has a shift action that’s slightly too heavy and imprecise. You quickly acclimatise to it so it’s not a major issue, but it does blunt the driving experience somewhat. Despite the power on offer the petrol engine in the VXR is claimed to return an average 34.9mpg, although if you regularly drive the Astra hard you can expect fuel consumption to increase considerably.

It’s all too tempting, particularly at motorway speeds when the Vauxhall surges forward with a gentle stab of the throttle. Even though the VXR is heavily turbocharged the throttle response is keen and it can be sharpened further with a single press of the VXR button on the dashboard. With its punchy delivery, engaging exhaust note and smooth power delivery the VXR proves capable and fun.

Thanks to a range of modern systems and components Vauxhall Astra VXR handling is both controllable and enjoyable. Front-wheel-drive cars with lots of power typically suffer from a condition known as torque steer, where the steering wheel fights back and the car weaves as you accelerate hard. Vauxhall has worked hard on the engineering and design of the VXR to prevent this and the effect isn’t as noticeable in the Astra, partly due to a clever limited-slip differential.

Only under hard acceleration on bumpier roads do you feel that characteristic kickback through the steering. Unlike the GTC the VXR has hydraulic power steering which is well weighted and delivers plenty of feedback. It’s easy to position the car where you want it, body roll is minimal and there’s plenty of traction and grip on offer. With the suspension set to the firmest “VXR” mode the Astra can become a little wayward on rough surfaces but a range of safety systems help keep it in check.

The brakes are excellent and resist numerous fast stops with ease, although it does take a while to acclimatise to the pedal feel. Overall it’s a rewarding and engaging car to drive.