If any car didn’t need a performance upgrade it was the Corsa VXR. But it’s got one anyway. Richard Aucock finds out what’s new…
ONCE the lubricants had warmed through, I did as instructed – not change gear until I met the rev limiter. Until then, the Corsa VXR had been, frankly, pretty surprising. The standard VXR is a blinding bit of kit – at last, a small Vauxhall hot hatch that’s almost up with French rivals for handling and entertainment.
But the 888’s fitment of an aftermarket exhaust had totally transformed the standard car’s somewhat mild aural demeanour into one that burbles, splutters and rasps in direct relation to your right foot on the throttle.
The exhaust was always there, always throbbing away. And to me, this was a Good Thing. The ride was a tad harsh in places, but generally tolerable, despite the 888’s lower suspension and 225/35 ZR18 tyres (yes, 35-profile. On a Corsa). Shame they couldn’t do something about the floppy gearshift, slightly grabby brakes and rev-hold between gearshifts, I was thinking, when I remembered what I’d been told…
Right: hard on in second. Blimey! What’s that? A ferocious roar from the exhaust, throatier than a fan after an Iron Maiden gig. The VXR hurtled forward, front wheels scrabbling a touch but reigned in well by admirably discreet (and standard) ESP. The wheel squirmed just enough to let me know all’s alert at the front end, but it wasn’t unruly. Not like the noise. Is something this loud actually legal?
Then, finally, just past 7,000rpm, the rev limiter cut in – and I saw what he meant. Fuelling to the 1.6-litre turbo was cut: and the whapwhapwhap from the exhaust was pure, pure Motorsport. It’s outrageous! So I slammed another gear in – and more noise, as a truly explosive crack snaps from the exhaust. This thing is madness! I lift off to do it all again, and burbles, pops and splutter from the central pipe give it further edge. This thing is hardcore, alright. It’s also pretty damn fast with it.
It’s all part of the 888 kit Vauxhall offers from its Performance Centre. There’s no such model as a ‘VXR 888’, but there are VXRs treated to the various upgrade options the centre offers. Like our test car’s exhaust, wheels and suspension. Dealers sell the bits (for a suitable mark-up) or owners can take them to the Oxfordshire centre, to have the same job carried out.
There’s even an ECU remap. That takes power up to 217bhp – which is pretty amazing in a supermini hot hatch. No performance figures have been released, but the standard 189bhp car is already rapid (0-60mph in a sportscar-humbling 6.8secs and on to 140mph). But this thing feels another league.
Superbly huggable Recaro seats from the standard model remain, as does a cool steering wheel, BMW M door mirrors plus ample VXR detailing to make you feel special. Our test car creaked and groaned a bit over bumps, but it had done 15,000 hard miles in the hands of hacks. And if they had half the blast I did, they’d have had a whale of a time.