REVIEW DATE: 05 Mar 2009
Vauxhall is seeking to translate its success on the race track to sales in the showroom with its Corsa VX Racing models. Steve Walker reports.
Motorsport is a fiendishly expensive business, particularly at the top level where monumental levels of investment are necessary even to compete. It's hardly surprising then, when a manufacturer that has pumped millions into its racing team wants to make the most of any success that's forthcoming. After winning the British Touring Car Championship for two years in succession, Vauxhall has certainly earned the right to take a deep breath and issue a mighty blast on its own trumpet and part of the accompanying promotional drive is the Corsa VX Racing special edition we examine here.
The VX racing team and, more specifically, star driver Fabrizio Giovanardi won the British Touring Car Championship in 2007 and 2008. It was a formidable performance and to celebrate, Vauxhall has launched VX Racing editions of its Corsa VXR and Astra VXR hot hatchbacks. The championship winning BTCC race car was actually a Vectra VXR but with the long serving Vectra having been superseded by the Insignia, it misses out on a VX Racing party that looks like being quite a lively one.
The VX Racing Corsa is based on the standard Corsa VXR. That means it has the same 1.6-litre turbo charged engine with BorgWarner turbo unit and the same 189bhp maximum power output. Like the best modern turbocharged engines, power and torque are served up in a progressive fashion from low in the rev range with no discernable lag. The 230Nm maximum torque output is available from 1,980rpm to 5,850rpm but a clever overboost facility actually gives the driver 266Nm for a period of five seconds when full throttle is deployed. It all helps the VXR generate searing pace with rapid responses to throttle inputs. The engine doesn't reward excursions into the upper rev range vocally in the way that the normally-aspirated powerplants of some rivals do but it's got serious shove down low where you want it and there's the added bonus of strong refinement on the open road.
".a sound buy for anyone seeking a small, fast hatchback"
VXR takes a firmer line than standard Corsa models and the VX Racing editions follow suit with suspension springs that are 12mm lower at the front and 19mm lower at the rear as well as specially-tuned gas-pressure shock absorbers. Information about the road surface is transmitted to the driver more effectively with the car staying flat and planted in corners but the ride remains highly compliant, making the VXR a perfect companion for blasts down Britain's poorly-surfaced B-roads.
VXR products don't tend to be shrinking violets and true to form, there's very little that's low key about the Corsa VX Racing. The bodywork is riddled with scoops and vents with much of the styling addenda taking triangular form. There's triangular mesh in the grille with its body-coloured V-bar and under bumper, while each of the fog lights is housed at the end of its own vaguely triangular chrome funnel. The fetching wing mirrors have a triangle hole beneath and at the back of the car there's a triangular exhaust finisher as a final retort to those left in the VX Racing's wake.
Some of the detailing both inside and out is exquisite and Vauxhall has certainly pulled out the stops to differentiate its hot hatchback from humbler Corsa offerings. The cabin is dominated by the specially-designed shell-backed Recaro seats which offer outstanding support and comfort and are finished in leather on the VX Racing models. The flat-bottomed steering wheel is another upmarket feature that will set the enthusiast's heart aflutter and you have the general build quality of the standard Corsa which is as good as anything in the segment.
The differences between the Corsa VX Racing models and the standard Corsa VXR run to the black leather Recaro Sports seats, tinted glass, a black rear diffuser plus black bump strips and door mirror housings that contrast with the striking red paintwork. The cars also get a set of 18" alloy wheels finished in black. The cost of the package over and above the normal VXR is around £1,500.
Including both the Astra VX Racing and the Corsa VX Racing models, only 888 VX Racing cars will be made available to UK buyers in homage to Triple Eight Engineering who build and prepare the firm's BTCC race cars. Vauxhall is also keen for buyers to personalise their VX Racing models by dipping into the Vauxhall Performance Centre range of parts and accessories. If you buy a VX Racing Corsa, you'll be offered discounts on these parts including the Remus exhaust system which for £410 can add significantly to the car's horsepower output.
Once you've got your hands on one, running costs for a VX Racing Corsa should be reasonable for a car in this class with a combined average of 35.8mpg and 190g/km CO2 emissions. Insurance is group 16 which will give some prospective buyers pause for thought.
Vauxhall's exploits in the British Touring Car Championships deserve recognition and what better way than with a pair of hot Vauxhall models that we can all get our hands on? The Corsa and Astra VX Racing edition models offer searing pace and a little more individuality than the standard VXR hot hatchbacks with further scope for personalisation available through the Vauxhall Performance Centre range of parts and accessories. The Corsa model featured here looks a sound buy for anyone seeking a small, fast hatchback.
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