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  1. #1
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    14th December 2005

    Default What the Press say about the Astra VXR
    Date: August 4th, 2005
    By: Tom Ford
    "Leg of lamb! Just clip one and we can have a bleedin' barbeque," shouts my eager passenger, as yet another dim-witted sheep wanders out in front of our alarmingly red Vauxhall Astra VXR. It's hard to cross the North Yorkshire moors at any kind of speed these days, unless you fancy the grille of your shiny new motor becoming an impromptu abattoir. And it's all because the sheep are playing chicken.
    We're forced to rock gently over the rolling crests and dips of this James Herriot landscape, only going fast and really leaning into the custom Recaro bat-wing seats when we have plenty of sightlines - oh, and extra mint sauce on board.
    I'm surprised the local ewes are quite so eager to wander about in front of the car, to be blunt. This new Astra VXR is the ultimate iteration of Vauxhall's cooking hatch - the first of the Vauxhall 'base' cars to get such a treatment - and it's not exactly subtle. It's got some serious hardware too.
    A 238bhp four-cylinder turbo engine with 236lb ft of torque, a chassis set-up tuned for the godawfulness of British roads, and 18-inch alloys are standard. It even has a stonking bodykit, including a very lovely centre-exit exhaust - which is just the thing to get the 'modder' generation scratching at its collective baseball cap. Yes, it's certainly a dramatic-looking thing.
    But of more interest is the fact the VXR is travelling at serious velocities without any kind of particular drama. Given these badly cambered and dreadfully wobbly moorland roads, that's no mean feat.
    There's not too much torque steer, surprisingly; there's very little camber-chasing given our test car's 18-inch alloys; and it has a tendency to soak up bumps rather than bounce. Go faster and the power-assisted steering is pretty accurate, the turn-in is surprisingly deft and body roll is almost non-existent.
    What this equates to is road-going confidence - and buckets of it. This hottest Astra really does feel playful and calm; there's not much that's going to suddenly bite you on the **** here, even if you go pretty stupid with the entry speed.
    It's one of the benefits of using torsion-bar rear suspension when everyone else has moved on to (infinitely more complicated) multi-link. It may be old tech, but Vauxhall knows how to deploy it to best effect.
    The spring and damper rates are all custom-designed by people seemingly knowing what's really important: reliability of vital information to the driver and the ability to keep the bloody wheels on the floor. And the tricks Vauxhall uses aren't exactly new. Damper and spring rates are increased, the car sits lower and the roll bars are thicker. Rebound springs were added to the dampers (like an engine spring inside the unit), which improve on-the-limit control without affecting the damper's ability to extend into potholes in the road surface.
    So we're talking about turning an Astra into something you actually enjoy driving, without making it into an 1980s GTE that would give you the kind of lift-off oversteer last seen exiting stage left through a thick hedge.
    There's a continual damping control (CDC) system available, but it's really not that necessary in this car. And you're really better off hitting the 'Sport' button for five seconds as soon as you get in; it switches off the traction control (ESP).
    The car really doesn't need such heavy-handed interference - it copes admirably without - though you can never really knock it off totally because there's still an emergency 'crash' mode on permanently, for when the car senses impending doom. I never triggered it, so it's probably safe to assume it only really kicks in under serious, God-help-me duress.
    It's not just a suspension overhall, either. The turboed two-litre from the SRi gets a bigger blower and a new injection system, as well as some tweaking to the inlet and exhaust manifolds to produce its 238bhp. It still takes a while to get the turbo-hit, but when it does, the shove is nicely linear and pretty thorough in every gear.
    It should mince most current hot hatches, though it's not the most involving or emotional of engines. It doesn't sound very good on-boost, either, with induction noise resonating like a bag of gravel being dragged behind the car. It's amusing for the first five miles, irritating after that. But someone at Vauxhall obviously thinks the same: dealer-fit sports-exhaust packages are available too.
    Inside it's pretty much standard Astra, but with excellent Recaro seats, a spattering of carbon-effect inserts and nice touch-point detailing. The steering wheel is extra thick and the gearknob is 'sporty' in a slightly affected way, but it all works in such a pugnacious little car.
    As with the sport hatch, you'll lose small counties in the rear, gain blind spots, and get precious little reversing sight - but sacrificing that for such a lovely coupe roofline is a small hardship, don't you think?
    Overall, it's a cracking little hot hatch. It's relatively cheap, carving out a shouty little niche below the too-grown-up Golf GTI, but above the Honda Civic Type-R. I reckon, though, the VXR brand has room for being more hardcore and still getting sales. Hmm... Is this Astra VXR, then, VXR enough?

  2. #2
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    14th December 2005

    Default Astra H, 2.0iT (Z20LEH),, 30/8/05
    Date: August 30th, 2005
    Itís a good time to be a hot hatchback fan. The Volkswagen Golf GTi is back to its thin-Elvis best, Renaultís Clio 182/Cup/Trophy is excellent and the arrival of Fordís five-pot Focus ST is just around the corner. But Vauxhall reckons that the market can handle even more excitement, so has launched a 237bhp Astra thatís so dramatic-looking it couldíve just rolled off a motorshow stand. Better still Ė at £18,995 itís a full £1000 less than the Golf GTi.
    All of which is good news for the enthusiast. For the more superficial, the Astraís rakish looks Ė virtually unchanged from the Astra HPC concept unveiled at the Paris motor show last year Ė will be convincing enough. But for keener drivers, the way it goes down the road will determine whether or not itís worthy of a place in their driveway.
    We were certainly impressed when we first drove the Astra VXR, pitching it against its Golf and Megane rivals in Germany last month (Autocar 19 July). We reckoned that the Astra blew Ďcars as sensible and complete as the new Golf GTi into the weedsí. Yes, we had to concede that the Golf was the best package overall, but the Astraís wild-child enthusiasm won us over.
    Question is, does our enthusiasm for the Astra VXRís talents relate to everyday, real-world UK driving? Is its dynamic excellence enough compensation for living with its shortcomings day in and day out?
    Design and Engineering
    Developed from the 2.0-litre unit in the 198bhp Astra SRi, the VXRís engine has received a new turbo and injection system, as well as revised inlet and exhaust manifolds. Power is up to 237bhp at 5600rpm, while peak torque of 236lb ft is developed from as little as 2400rpm, right through to 5000rpm.
    Powerful as the VXR may be, however, we didnít manage to match Vauxhallís acceleration or top speed claims at the test track. Rumour is the claimed 0-60mph time was achieved on optional 19-inch alloys, which let the VXR hit 60mph in second gear. On the 18-inch wheels of our test car, we needed to change to third, and so couldnít better 6.4sec over a two way average, with a best of 6.3sec. Meanwhile, we topped out at 143mph rather than the claimed 152mph on our high speed circuit, though this was recorded on a banked track which robs a few mph.
    We couldnít match Vauxhallís economy claims, either. The combined official figure of 30.4mpg remains some way above our average of 18.9mpg, though our touring figure of 22.3mpg ran it a little closer. Granted, we drive cars hard there, but even we were surprised to nearly drain the tank just completing our performance tests, at a rate of 7.3mpg. If youíre planning a track day, expect a range of anything between 80 and 100 miles between fills.
    Regardless of the fact that it doesnít quite match the claims, weíre still impressed with the Astraís overall pace. In fourth gear it posted a 50-70mph time of 4.0sec, compared to the Golf GTiís 4.4sec over the same benchmark. And although the rapid Clio 182 matches the Astra over the 0-60mph sprint, it canít match the VXRís broad spread of power, taking 5.6sec for the 50-70mph time in fourth.
    Certainly, if you own an Astra VXR, every day it will remind you that itís equipped with a highly boosted turbocharger. And when the front wheels attempt to deliver that torque to the road, boy, do you feel it through the steering wheel.
    On the Road
    Itís not Astraís power and torque per se that give the front wheels a problem, itís the throttleís response. The smallest applications of throttle get the turbo spinning and delivering a big gob of power and torque. And if you think itís difficult to modulate normally, wait until you hit the Sport button that sharpens both steering and throttle response.
    Once the pace picks up and you want as much power as the VXR can deliver though, things improve greatly. The spread of torque thatís an affliction at low speeds is welcome once youíre pressing on, allowing the Astra to be punted along at a heck of a pace. Leaving the six-speed Ďbox, which is actually slick and smooth shifting, in third or fourth gear is fine for most B-roads, letting the engine do most of the work.
    The Astraís VXRís ride and handling are probably its finest assets. Despite rolling on 225/40 R18 tyres it deals with crests and dips well, with excellent body control. Vauxhall sent the Astra VXR to Lotus for UK-specific suspension tuning so the Vauxhall differs from Opelís HPC in this respect. The VXR gets rebound springs on the dampers, which probably helps the primary ride, but it copes with potholes and surface imperfections adequately, too.
    In addition to the ride, the VXR is astoundingly agile. It turns into corners with real enthusiasm and accuracy, and once settled into a turn, retains a feeling of poise and adjustability. It responds to throttle inputs with real speed and vigour. Oversteer and understeer movements feel pitched around the driver, making you feel at the centre of the action, and this immediacy and intimacy with the carís movements makes it feel even more alert than it probably is. Lotus tells us that it has engineered the centre of yaw (the point around which the car feels like it pivots) at the gear knob, rather than at the front axle like in a conventional Astra - and thatís certainly how it feels.
    Living with the Car
    Recaro seats are one of few highlights unique to the VXR Astraís interior. Theyíre superbly supportive, particularly around the shoulders, although they limit headroom for taller drivers. Pedals are well spaced, but heel-and-toe downshifts can be slightly tricky because of the brakes. The brakes stop well (60-0 in 2.9sec), but the pedalís decent initial modulation isnít quite as progressive as it should be when you want more deceleration.
    Other interior changes unique to the VXR are the steering wheel, dials, some carbon-effect inserts and a new gearknob. The steering wheel lacks quite enough reach adjustment, but the wheel itself has a pleasingly chunky, soft-rimmed rim. Pleasing isnít a word that applies to the gear knob, itís edged in a hard stitching thatís pretty unpleasant to hold. Plus thereís still only a fuel-gauge, speedo and rev-counter - on such a sporting car itís odd that thereís no water or oil temperature gauge.
    The interior's fit and finish is generally good, although there are a few harsh edges on the steering column cowling. However, the large front seats limit rear legroom a little, while the boot lacks sufficient width and length to comfortably take a regular set of golf clubs. The height of the rear window also limits rear visibility somewhat.
    At £18,995, the VXR comes fairly highly equipped. Standard specification includes electric windows, manual air-conditioning, six airbags (it also has five EuroNCAP stars, incidentally), electronic stability control, 18-inch alloys. Sat-nav is an option (at £1250) but it is not entirely intuitive to use. The orientation is always in the direction of travel whilst driving, and can only be set to north during browsing, which is somewhat infuriating.
    We expect for most owners, the Astraís interior foibles will only be petty niggles. More serious, for us, is the engineís lack of subtlety and adjustability, which makes it a sometimes irritating car to live with on a daily basis.
    Verdict: 4 Stars
    Weíve been critical of some aspects of the Astra VXR, but still like it a lot. At times, its handling response and dynamism are so breathtaking that weíd happily drive it even if it had no doors. But the fact remains that it would be a better car, and an easier one to drive, if it the engineís response was more manageable. Nonetheless, on its day, itís a hugely entertaining machine.
    Sometimes tiresome, sometimes brilliant, always eventful.
    How much?
    Price when new £18,995
    Price as tested £21,245
    How fast?
    0-30mph 2.7 sec
    0-60mph 6.4 sec
    0-100mph 16.4 sec
    0-150mph no data
    0-200mph no data
    30-70mph 5.7 sec
    0-400m no data/no data
    0-1000m no data/no data
    30-50mph in 3rd/4th 2.9/4.9 sec
    40-60mph in 4th/5th 4/5.8 sec
    50-70mph in 5th 5.3 sec
    60-0mph 2.9 sec
    Top speed 143 mph
    Noise at 70mph 72 dbA
    How thirsty?
    Test average 18.9 mpg
    Test best/worst 22.3/7.3 mpg
    Govt figures
    Combined/urban 30.4/21.6
    CO2 emissions 223 g/km
    How big?
    Length 4290 mm
    Width 1420 mm
    Height 1092 mm
    Wheelbase 2616 mm
    Weight 1393 kg
    Fuel tank 52 litres
    Layout 4 cyls ,1988 cc
    Max power 237 bhp at 5600 rpm
    Max torque 236 ftat 2400 rpm
    Specific output no data
    Power to weight no data
    Installation F
    Bore/stoke 86x86 mm
    Compression ratio 8.8:1
    Valve gear no data, no data
    Ignition and fuel Unleaded
    Type 6-speed Manual
    1st 3.82/5.1
    2nd 2.05/9.5
    3rd 1.3/15
    4th 0.96/20.3
    5th 0.74/26.3
    6th 0.61/31.9
    Final drive 3.83
    Front no data
    Rear no data
    Type no data
    Lock to lock 2.5
    Front 321mm ventilated discs
    Rear 278mm ventilated discs
    Wheel and tyres
    Size Front 8.0Jx18 in
    Size Rear 8.0Jx18 in
    Made of alloy
    Tyres Front 225/40 R18
    Tyres Rear 225/40 R18

  3. #3
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    14th December 2005

    Default Astra H, 2.0iT (Z20LEH),, 1/11/05
    Date: November 1st, 2005
    By: Richard Aucock
    That youíll struggle to fit two fingers into the wheelarch of this hot Vauxhall is telling. Porsche is the master of the infinitesimal wheelarch gap, but such wizardry on an Astra Sport Hatch? Strong messages
    Step in and youíll dirty your trousers on the thick side skirts, then marvel as you sink deeeep into the squared-off bolsters of the Recaros.
    The steering wheel is equally full-fat, while the stubby gearlever is topped by a bizarre rectangular knob, not dissimilar to an upturned Ď80s pager in its leather pouch. ĎVXRí badges abound while high shoulders, shallow windows and a uniformly black cabin give a feel moodier than a grounded teenager. But itís when you flick the ignition that boldness hits hyperdrive. For the instrument needles light up (in red, of course) then zap round in a full arc, before shooting back to normal. Blink and you miss it, like the red eyes at the window in The Amityville Horror. It canít be. Ho hum. Now fire 2.0-litre turbocharged four-pot, which burbles uneventfully despite its 240bhp and ability to hit 60mph in 6.2 seconds and 152mph all-out. Be in no doubt, they are big numbers, but all is currently calm. The gearbox shifts cleanly if distantly into first and, after shooting far too many revs on thanks to the over-sharp throttle, weíre away. The Astra rides firmly, stiffly, jiggling over bumps and crashing into potholes. This is expected, as is steering thatís quick but lacks a Focusí feel. It can be weighted further by engaging the ĎSportí button, but the difference isnít huge. Besides, Sport makes that trigger-happy throttle act rather like a firework thatís just been lit Ė itís intolerably snatchy. By now, the oil should be warm (as there are no water or oil temperature dials, we have to guess Ė do they not consider the mechanically sympathetic at Vauxhall?).
    Press on and thereís little below 2,000rpm. Then? Those red needles come alive again and shoot round as something not dissimilar to an incendiary device appears to go off in the engine bay and channel all its might to the front wheels, which by now are trying to fight the steering wheel out of your hands and repel the car across the road. Brief respite as the car hits the rev limiter, you change gear, wait for the turbo then it all happens again, and youíre travelling at four times the speed you were and youíre not quite sure how. All of this is done to the sinister soundtrack of what sounds like a demonic cat hissing angrily, until your brain catches up and you realise itís the rushing turbo and howling centre-exit exhaust
    But, as your head jiggles in frequency to bumpy British B-roads, youíll wonder what on earth just happened. Slow using the rather soft, snatchy brakes and do it all again, which reinforces that low-rev lethargy, and the monumental hysteria when itís operating, and the sheer difficulty the front wheels have in dealing with the shove it produces. It is true, then Ė evil forces are at work behind those spiralling dials...
    Cornering delight
    But no time to consider this as a corner is approaching. At first you always have to shed more speed than youíd imagine, but luckily the 225-section 18-inch tyres summon plenty of grip in the dry. Turn in and Ė now hereís a surprise. Despite feeling ultra-stiff on straights, the Astra does exhibit some softness in corners. Not extreme, but appreciable if youíre accustomed to the unyielding ride. Plough through a sequence and the grippy, wide-tracked feel oozes point-Ďn-squirtability, but the tightly-controlled finesse isnít quite there. Itís safe but not sports car supreme. Agile, whose direction can be changed with the speed of a computer game, but then the sensations youíre missing are somewhat digital too.
    But still your heart will be racing, we guarantee it. The VXR certainly thrills and thereís no doubting its speed. Nor its colossal torque, which translates into diesel-like shove sustained to the redline. Merely trickling the throttle has it whumphing forward. And this lack of subtlety is why we should, when sanity prevails, actually celebrate the Astra. The chassis lacks the finesse of a Focus ST, but Vauxhall could never infuse it so as itís constrained by its lower-tech rear suspension. So why not take a completely different approach, neglect subtlety and go all-out for punch-in-face thrills? Yes, it torque-steers monumentally, the throttle is Taser-like and corners are merely instances where you manhandle it down to a speed sufficient for the tyres to grip, before another Eurofighter exit.
    Realise this and itís not so evil. Stare those red dials out because they canít hurt you. This is simply a very fast, very taught Astra that excels at going quickly with little effort. The way this speed creeps up on you is terrifying but know itís there, learn to reign it in and youíll travel very quickly and be thrilled along the way. You wonít be treated to Stirling Moss-like finesse but Gilles Villeneuve was just as exuberant as the VXR in his evil-handling but so-rapid red Ferrari, and how the crowds loved him because of this. The Astra isnít evil but is fast, and as such oozes character.
    And it does humdrum pretty well, too. It exudes showroom appeal, with its race-spec, jut-right bodykit, superb paint quality and clean, high-quality interior that mimics BMWs. The boot isnít as big as a Focus (despite space efficiency being one reason for retaining the old twist-beam rear suspension) but the cabin is roomy and, fiddly heater and maze-like stereo display apart, easy to live with. Certainly the driving position is fine (the seat feels a little high but most do nowadays) and itís a nice place to sit as it swallows motorway miles with little effort. Only the engine note intrudes at speed, a legacy of Vauxhallís close gearing. Oh, and if youíre driving hard, donít mention fuel economy.
    It thrilled us, so we liked it. Weíd still take the Focus as to us itís the more rewarding drive. But weíll completely understand if the bombastic brawn of the Astra bowls you over. Stick your fingers into the wheelarch with confidence. It wonít bite.

  4. #4
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    14th December 2005

    Default Astra H, 2.0iT (Z20LEH), Pictures - Action

  5. #5
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    Default Astra H, 2.0iT (Z20LEH),, 1/1/05
    Date: January, 2005
    By: Craig Cheetham
    It's been a long time coming, but Vauxhall's most exciting hot hatch ever is nearly ready for production. The scorching 240bhp Astra VXR goes on sale this summer - and Auto Express is the first magazine in the world to hit the road in the newcomer.
    We were granted exclusive access to the Luton-based firm's multi-million-pound star - first seen at last year's Paris Motor Show - to take it out on British tarmac for the first time.
    Buyers will have to wait until August to get their hands on the new sizzler that company bosses hope will give the Volkswagen Golf GTI a good clubbing - but with a claimed 0-60mph sprint time of around six seconds and a top speed in excess of 150mph, it promises to be well worth the delay. The VXR recalls the spirit of the 1989 Astra GTE 16v, which transformed the small Vauxhall's image from that of a worthy but dowdy family model to race-bred performance car overnight.
    In its day, the GTE 16v was a hot hatch legend. With 156bhp available from its 2.0-litre engine, it had the ability to cover the 0-60mph sprint in 7.6 seconds and go on to a maximum speed of 132mph - figures that would look impressive even in today's market. Once again, Vauxhall is aiming to set trends that others must follow, offering a previously unseen power output from a four-cylinder engine in this sector.
    And what a stunner it is! Few models we've tested have ever turned as many heads as the VXR, a car which proves that the company is serious about changing its image. Such is the macho stance of the newcomer that other motorists stopped in their tracks to get a look at it. And the good news for potential buyers is that the VXR will be virtually identical to the car we tried when it goes on sale. The only visual differences between the production model and the prototype will be a single centre-exit exhaust in place of the show version's twin pipes, even more purposeful bumpers and a larger rear spoiler. The 19-inch 10-spoke alloys on our car will be an optional extra - the standard wheels will be less aggressive 18-inchers. Whichever option you choose, you'll get red VXR-branded brake calipers, similar to those fitted to the facelifted Monaro.
    Inside, the Recaro seats are supple yet supportive. The bright red leather on the concept isn't likely to see production, as it will be replaced by black hide with embroidered VXR logos, but the design of the interior will otherwise be identical, all the way down to the piano black centre console, sporty drilled pedals and brushed trim strips.
    The cabin is identifiably that of an Astra, but VXR logos inside the dials and red stitching around the leather steering wheel will remind buyers that the car is something special.
    This is also the first time we have been behind the wheel of a three-door Astra, as the VXR is based around the new Sport Hatch, due for launch in the spring. The good news for customers is that access to the rear is easy, and there's plenty of legroom in the back for even the tallest of passengers.
    Visibility isn't as good as in the five-door model, thanks to a narrow rear window aperture and wide C-pillars, but the Astra is easy to place on the road, and the view forwards is unimpeded. The driving position in the VXR is no different to a standard Astra's, which means you sit fairly high for a performance model. The controls are well placed, though, and apart from Vauxhall's often criticised electric indicator switches, the driving environment is comfortable and the switchgear easy to use.
    While the company was keen to point out the prototype model we took for a spin was nowhere near production ready, even in concept form the VXR was an exciting machine on the track, with a stiff ride and sharp steering.
    Final production models will have chassis settings developed by Lotus engineers, so expect a firm but not overly stiff ride and incredibly agile handling Ń Ń to rival that of the much vaunted Golf GTI. The brakes should also be among the best in class, with a Brembo package being set up by Vauxhall's tuners.
    Where the VXR is expected to pull right out in front of rivals, though, is in terms of value for money. The firm has already said the hot model will cost less than £20,000 when it arrives here - but sources have more recently suggested it could be cheaper than £19,000. That would mean the VXR would undercut the base Golf GTI by nearly £1,000, yet it will get standard leather trim, 18-inch alloys and a host of other goodies that VW buyers would have to pay extra for.
    And although not as cheap as the Honda Civic Type R, the VXR delivers almost 50bhp more power. That news is nearly as exciting as the car's styling - because if the production model drives half as dramatically as it looks, then Vauxhall will have an affordable performance car to be proud of.
    First Opinion
    We can't wait to try out a production version of the Astra VXR, as we think it could become the hot hatch bargain of the decade. As well as offering masses of power, it promises to be well equipped and highly desirable. All Vauxhall needs to do is make sure the Astra chassis can handle the power - and that's the part engineers at Lotus are perfecting at the moment. With sensational performance, a dramatic three-door bodyshell and a price that's set to represent amazing value for money, you might want to think twice before adding your name to the Golf GTI waiting list...

  6. #6
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    14th December 2005

    Default Astra H, 2.0iT (Z20LEH), Pictures - Static

    Pre-production, known as the Astra HPC (High Performance Concept). First shown in the UK at Autosport International show, 2005.

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    14th December 2005

    Default Astra H, 2.0iT (Z20LEH), Pictures - Interior

  8. #8
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    14th December 2005

    Default Astra H, 2.0iT (Z20LEH), Pictures - Exterior Details

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    14th December 2005

    Default Astra H, 2.0iT (Z20LEH), Pictures - Engine

  10. #10
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    17th December 2005

    Default Astra H, 2.0iT (Z20LEH), Specifications/Press Release

    Technical Specifications


    1998cc 16v ECOTEC 4-cylinder turbo
    Max. power: 240PS (170kW) @ 5,600 rpm
    Max. torque: 320Nm (236 lb.ft.) @ 2,400 rpm
    Bore/stroke: 86/86mm
    Compression ratio: 8.8:1
    Max. turbo boost pressure: 1.2 bar
    Front wheel drive, six-speed close-ratio manual
    PERFORMANCE (manufacturerís figures)
    0-60mph (secs): 6.2
    Top Speed: 152mph
    FUEL ECONOMY mpg (litres/100km)
    Urban: 21.6 (13.1)
    Extra-urban: 39.8 (7.1)
    Combined : 30.4 (9.3)
    CO2 emissions: 223g/km

    Front discs: 321mm
    Rear discs: 278mm

    18-inch five-spoke alloy 8Jx18
    225/40 R 18 (optional 19-inch with 235/35 ZR19)
    Length/height/width: 4290/1092/1420mm
    Kerbweight: 1393kg
    Fuel tank capacity 52
    Bootspace 302/1,270
    Service intervals 20,000
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