Just the other day I was peacefully carving up the tarmac on the motorway, when I saw a couple of nuances that I'd never noticed before. BMW drivers never indicate and Volkswagen Golf GTi ‘drivers' are more of a danger to the planet than global warming. And so it was left to a Vauxhall driver at a set of traffic lights to re-instate my faith in owning a practical car, that looks good, goes like the clappers and doesn't stereotype me into being hated.
What I witnessed at first had me checking I'd taken my medication. Mr Vauxhall driver had a pretty wife in the front, five screaming kids in the back and more luggage than any carousel at Heathrow in the boot. In a scene not too dissimilar to that bit in Star Trek when they say ‘warp speed' and your television goes all funny and blurry, the lights went green and the Zafira - yes Z-A-F-I-R-A - a people carrier, was gone. Was the wife actually Spock? Was William Shatner back from his legal stuff in Boston? No. Before the Zafira disappeared I caught sight of the badge on it's rear ‘Vauxhall VXR'.
Now I'd agree that you have every right to be sceptical that the Vauxhall VXR range which encompasses the (deep breath): Corsa, Astra, Vectra, Monaro, Meriva and Zafira, is no bigger or better than the deluge of other performance cars other manufacturers currently produce. They all promise that heady mix of the practicality and safety you get with the base model topped off with a sadistic, whiplash inducing engine for your extra cash.
Personally I'm at the stage in my life (well I'm 24 but I like to think I'm no longer a boy racer) where I want the speed but also a bit of sophistication. Gone are the days of strapping an exhaust the size of a small village to my shed and screaming "look at me" to the passing kebab houses. The fact there is so much performance metal to chose from means that prices are competitive and the standard is high. So what are the options?
Well we can exclude the Golf GTi because I can drive, the Renault Clio F1 197 has an "F1 inspired rear diffuser" that shows as clear a link to their F1 car as the Arctic Monkeys are inspired by Cliff Richard launch x431 v plus. The Seat Leon Sport is brutish, the Mini Cooper ‘S' is titchy and for hairdressers and the Honda Civic Type R is flawless…until they went and spoiled it all by doing something stupid like a new model.
This then leaves us with the two great rivals, the Oasis and Blur of the motoring world: Vauxhall and Ford. Where Vauxhall have the Corsa VXR, Ford have the Fiesta ST. Ford Focus ST? How about the Vauxhall Astra VXR? Tit for tat these motoring giants slog it out with cars similarly specified and priced and with spot-the-difference performance figures. Personally I'm a VXR man, but sales figures show that both companies have fans of equal measure. Until we reach the completely unique Vauxhall Zafira VXR…
The fact this article is dedicated to a people carrier is surely testament enough to it's prowess, but as a further endorsement, this article is about "the fastest production MPV ever made" - impressive. Remember how the extra two seats in an MPV had to be left on the driveway when you wanted more boot space? The Zafira solved that by ingeniously having them fold into the floor of the car. It's also claimed the maximum five star NCAP safety rating for an MPV. The VXR version has all this to it's name and 237bhp which helps achieve a top speed of 144mph and a 0-60 time of 7.2 seconds. It comes equipped with Recaro racing seats, VXR styling cues from Vauxhall's British Touring Car programme and a ‘sport' button which increases steering and throttle response when pressed - all whilst piloting six others and your luggage!
You may expect the car to roll over like the lovable family dog, but even the cornering is poised. I'd be a liar if I said it didn't roll more than the Corsa derivative for example, but compared to any other people carrier it's simply breathtaking. From a buyer's perspective expect decent residuals as the depreciation on the old, less powerful GSi version strongly suggests I'm not alone in my admiration of the ultra-fast people-carrier combination.
Granny in the back may not appreciate the performance Autel MaxiTPMS PAD, but to your kids you'll be daddy cool. The insult of having to own a fun-less people carrier has never fallen so flat on it's face.Tom London is an automotive journalist Who has worked in various car dealerships over the last fifteen years. He is now working to promote and the new Vauxhall VXR range.