Thorney Motorsport Vauxhall Corsa VXR-R hatchback (2007 – ) first UK drive
Saturday 24 January 2009
You get out of first gear as fast as you can move your hand, second is over in the blink of an eye and third gives you a serious and prolonged push back into the racing seat.
And all this without even using full throttle. The Thorney Motorsport Vauxhall Corsa VXR-R is surely the fastest supermini ever to be offered with a warranty.
Normally we don’t mention performance figures until later, but the set of numbers attributed to this little hatchback are so shocking we need to get them out in the open now.
From its small 1.6-litre turbocharged engine the VXR-R develops more than 230bhp (Thorney Motorsport told us the car we tested was currently producing around 250bhp) and 260lb/ft of pulling power.
Fastest hot hatch we’ve ever driven
These forces are all laid onto the road through the front tyres, and if you have enough skill with the gearbox, clutch and throttle Thorney claims 0-60mph takes 5.4 seconds.
That’s quicker than any hot hatch we’ve ever tested, and to put it into perspective, a 2.9-litre Porsche Boxster takes 5.9 seconds.
Head out on track and 160mph is possible. In a SUPERMINI. This incredible figure makes it faster than a whole collection of exotic machinery including the 414bhp BMW M3, 572bhp Audi RS6 and 237bhp Lotus Exige S.
So how is this possible? Thorney Motorsport has fitted a Milltek Sport exhaust and a performance intercooler to improve the efficiency of the engine.
After fitting the car with its new modifications, the engine’s electronic brain has been remapped to take full advantage of the new pipe work.
And, alongside the extensive garage fettling and dyno testing, the knowledge required to extract the VXR-R’s startling on-road performance has also come from the racing track.
After a successful season racing in the Dunlop SportMaxx Championship, Thorney Motorsport has learnt a great deal about making the front-wheel drive Corsa and Astra hatchbacks fly.
Accelerate from a standstill and the throttle response is smooth and progressive – because this level of driveability is essential in making a racing car competitive.
So metering out the right level of power with your right foot, and avoiding doing a burnout when you just want to pull out of a junction, is second nature.
Stiffer springs and uprated dampers sit the Corsa VXR-R 40mm lower than the standard car and give it an extremely taut response.
When the road quickly changes direction the VXR-R is pointy and has a lack of inertia about its movements.
View the official Corsa VXR-R slide show
You can practically think the Vauxhall Corsa through bends, so small are the steering inputs required, and it flows with the road rather than fighting it.
The suspension is not rock hard, compressions and bumps are dealt with nicely and it’s no more uncomfortable to drive than the standard VXR.
It’s a well resolved car, in the same vein as the excellent Ford Fiesta ST Mountune, but much faster than the 185bhp Ford.
We spent some time on the motorway, as well as A and B roads, and it dealt with the delights of the M1 pretty admirably too. The ride wasn’t too fidgety and sixth gear makes cruising fairly relaxed.
The exhaust resonates and hums, but it’s easily drowned out by the stereo, and not as loud as most cars we’ve driven with aftermarket exhausts.
Monumental mid-range shove
Acceleration out of bends is phenomenal for such a small car, especially in third and fourth gear. You just have to concentrate as the steering wheel tugs slightly as the front wheels and limited slip differential take care of the job in hand.
This is one small hatch which is too fast to explore to its full potential on road, and we know if we had our names on the order books for one of the 25 models which will be built, we’d be eager to book its first track day to find out how it handles on the limit.
From what we discovered on a country lane blast, the brakes should stand up to track abuse with little fuss. On the road they are full of feel and eye-wateringly powerful.
It’s obvious from the option list for this car it’s not shy of the track, as it includes a full race livery (£999), roll cage (£1499), racing suspension (£899), Dunlop Direzza 03G track tyres (£499) and Recaro racing seats (£1499).
At £22,495 on-the-road the VXR-R might seem expensive for a Corsa. But then you consider the amount of development work which has gone into making it happen, and its unbelievable performance and the figures start to add up.
The Corsa VXR-R is available from Thorney Motorsport Performance Centres, located within Vauxhall’s extensive dealer network.
Model tested: Thorney Motorsport Vauxhall Corsa VXR-R
On the road price: £22,495
Date tested: January 2009
Road tester: Andy Goodwin