STRIKING APPEAL: Holden has sharpened the pencil and added some kit to its Astra VXR to undercut key rivals with a starting price of $39,990.
STRIKING APPEAL: Holden has sharpened the pencil and added some kit to its Astra VXR to undercut key rivals with a starting price of $39,990.

Holden Astra VXR road test and review

THINGS got somewhat kinky this week.

It wasn't the leather-clad sports seats nor the hot hatch's sensual good looks. It was, in fact, the behaviour inspired by the Holden Astra VXR.

You see this hot hatch likes being treated tough. We can't help but think the VXR may have been the vehicle better suited to Christian Grey than the super-slippery Audi R8.

This Astra VXR is Holden's new European pin-up that leads a rejuvenated charge from Holden as it progresses toward becoming a full importer post the end of local production in 2017.

When it comes to halo models, the VXR is a pretty good option. Starting from just under $40,000, it boasts some outstanding technology and trumps most others in raw speed in the genre - and makes it competitive with some of the best from Europe.

Comfort

Ensconced within the Recaro sports seats, the cabin feels racy. Aided by the flat-bottom steering wheel with flashes of chrome on black the interior certainly looks the part.

Showing its age somewhat is the array of buttons across the dash which can take some analysis to find your way through the various locations.

Holden's European pin-up, the Astra VXR.
Holden's European pin-up, the Astra VXR.

The 17.7cm colour screen offers some clarity to operations, it's just finding the shortcuts to menus and trimming through the menus which requires some thought.

Being a hot hatch things can get cramped in the back, although adults can fit.

But the best place to be is in the front where the heated seats have eight-way adjustment with power bolsters and lumbar.

Getting inside can be challenging for those lacking nimbleness due to the high bolsters, and the doors are heavy, so you need to be mindful when parking on inclines. Reaching back for the seatbelt can also be a challenge for those vertically challenged.

On the road

This thing's angrier than a sauced-up bogan at the Melbourne Cup.

Laying down a hefty 206kW and adding 400Nm of twist over a wide 2400-4800rpm, the VXR is pure weaponry. Just putting that power into perspective, it's the same figure generated by the circa $60,000 Golf R and only 4kW shy of the latest 3.6-litre V6 found in the Commodore.

Yet all that mumbo is pushing through the front wheels and propelling a lithe three-door shell.

You'd think that would have the VXR darting off into the bushes with every prod of the accelerator, but the hatch maintains focussed direction courtesy of various GM derived magic, such as a front suspension system called HiPerStrut and a mechanical limited-slip differential.

Without delving into the engineering hocus pocus, it all works in tandem and there is only a hint of scramble up front when you plant your foot in an attempt to achieve the claimed 0-100kmh sprint time of six seconds.

CAPTIVATING: 2015 Holden Astra VXR
CAPTIVATING: 2015 Holden Astra VXR

With electro-hydraulic power steering, it walks the line between drivability and athleticism, aided by Flexride. Three dash buttons enable selection between eco, sport and VXR modes, which incrementally see the hot hatch get madder and stiffer, along with quicker throttle response and more direct steering.

It grips, dodges, weaves and brakes with gusto, and all accompanied by a gravelly exhaust soundtrack which sings loud and proud from start-up but especially above 3000rpm.

The primary complaints come via the six-speed gearbox, with reasonably long throws between cogs. A nice compact shift would complete the package.

What do you get?

The VXR goes without little, and standard items include Nappa leather seat trim, dual zone climate controlled air-con, sat nav, CD stereo with full bluetooth integration and digital radio, rear parking sensors (but no camera), performance brakes with Brembo front callipers along with a full body kit.

Other options

Sitting within three-door hot hatch territory, you could also consider the Renault Megane RS265 ($43,990), Volkswagen Scirocco R ($45,990), or the Kia Proceed GT Tech ($34,990).

Running costs

Some easy highway journeys saw our average fuel consumption finish just shy of 10 litres for every 100km. That's nearly two litres heavier than the official figure, but to be fair we were often on the accelerator like an organ grinder's monkey.

Holden's European pin-up, the Astra VXR.
Holden's European pin-up, the Astra VXR.

Practicality

In front of the shifter is a great spot for phones and audio devices near the USB and power jacks, while there are also cup holders in the console.

There is a brilliant deep boot, and with the 60-40 split fold seats you can fit some gear within the cargo area.

Funky factor

While we first saw the VXR wearing an Opel badge, the design and allure of this car hasn't changed. It's an arresting looking hot hatch which is emphasised by the beautifully sleek lines in profile and those monstrous 20-inch alloys.

The lowdown

When first launched here with an Opel badge a few years back it had a heftier price tag, but Holden has sharpened the pencil and added some kit to undercut key rivals.

For those wanting to do the school run by day and tackle the track on weekends, the VXR is certainly capable. There's ample bang for your buck… and it's fun you can have with your pants on.

 

Vital statistics

Model: Holden Astra VXR.

Details: Three-door five-seat front-wheel drive hatchback.

Engines: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol generating maximum power of 206kW @ 5300rpm and peak torque of 400Nm @ 2400-4800rpm.

Transmission: Six-speed manual.

Consumption: 8.0L/100km (combined average).

CO2: 193g/km.

Bottom line plus on-roads: $39,990.

Holden's European pin-up, the Astra VXR.
Holden's European pin-up, the Astra VXR.

What matters most

What we liked: Gravelly exhaust soundtrack, super-sharp cornering ability, timeless design.

What we'd like to see: Easier seatbelt access for short front passengers, reversing camera, fewer dash buttons.

Warranty and servicing: Three-year/100,000km warranty with one-year roadside assist. Servicing is at 15,000km or nine month intervals. Average price for the first six services is $249, but like all Holdens it has lifetime capped price servicing.

The verdict

Driving experience 18/20

Features and equipment 16/20

Functionality and comfort 15/20

Value for money 18/20

Style and design 18 /20

Total 85/100



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