Piers Ward02 July 2012

Astra VXR driven at Goodwood

Is Vauxhall's hot hatch as good as we remember? Piers Ward finds out at this year's Festival of Speed

Vauxhall Astra VXR

Nothing sums up the variety of another epic Goodwood Festival of Speed better than TopGear's final Sunday drives. In the morning, a run in Baby Bertha, Gerry Marshall's fire-breathing Vauxhall Firenza. And in the afternoon, a punt in the new Vauxhall Astra VXR.

It's amazing how Goodwood can make normally impressive cars feel a bit... well, weedy. There we were, lined up for the start in our Astra hot hatch, sporting an impressive 277bhp and 295lb ft. More power than the last gen Porsche Boxster S. And yet up ahead was a Ford Mustang GT500, doing its best to destroy its rear tyres with a huge burnout.

The crowd watched, waiting with baited breath to see how the Astra would respond to the challenge. A bit squeakily, if I'm honest. There was a slight chirrup from the front tyres as we fired up the water table, and that was it. Not quite as manly.

But never mind, because the Astra was still impressive up the rest of the hill. The brakes were strong enough to avoid any incidents with the straw bales, and the natural balance in the chassis meant that it turned in well. And after Bertha, this was a relaxed, and quiet, way to go about tackling the track - no fire popping out of the exhaust, comfortable air con, power steering.

Torque steer? Not too evident thankfully. The Goodwood hill has quite a bit of ‘crown' in places, but the Astra didn't fight too much and the steering stayed stable in my hands.

And the best news? Because of all the Mustang's showing off, the Astra had caught it by the top of the hill.

Photo credit: Barry Hayden 

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