Holden will relaunch and rebadge the current hard-core Astra VXR hot hatch, sold here during Opel’s failed foray last year, in early 2015, but Wheels can reveal work has already begun on a successor to hit the new Honda Civic Type R, Renaultsport Megane and Ford Focus ST where it hurts.
Smaller and up to 150kg lighter, the next-gen Astra VXR (or OPC, short for Opel Performance Centre, in Germany and several other European markets) will also be offered as a five-door only – meaning no more Astra GTC – and produce more grunt from a smaller 1.6-litre turbo four-cylinder.
The current Astra VXR churns out 206kW and a hefty 400Nm from Opel’s 2.0-litre turbo four.
“Work is well underway on the next Astra VXR,” said Wilfried Diehl, Opel’s performance manager and the brains behind the OPC/VXR brand. “And it’ll be five doors only, there won’t be a three-door available like the current car.”
Diehl said the decision to drop the three-door option reflects the market trend in Europe towards roomier, five-door models with easier rear access. It also points to Opel streamlining its product range to reduce costs.
“We won’t stick with the 2.0-litre turbo either,” Diehl said. “In Europe we have strict regulations for CO2 output and downsizing is one of the best measures to reduce your CO2 drastically.
“So for the new Astra, we will go with a 1.6-litre engine which will produce around 250hp m [184kW], but the main target is 300hp [221kW].”
Diehl confirmed torque from the smaller engine will match the current car’s 400Nm, meaning performance will increase.
“The car will be lighter, it will be a little bit smaller because the platform has been modified and the performance will be slightly better,” he said.
Based on the next-gen Astra, which is guaranteed to be a volume seller for Opel and a likely import for Holden, Diehl’s predictions of a 150kg drop in weight means the next VXR could hit the scales around 1325kg, around the same heft as a DSG-equipped five-door Golf GTI.
“The successor to the standard Astra will launch in August next year, but we will continue to produce the current three-door until the end of 2017,” said Diehl. “We will then launch the OPC/VXR version of the next five-door Astra in early 2018.”
The current-generation Opel Astra VXR last sold for $42,990 in Australia but Holden remains tight lipped as to whether the car will take a price cut when it returns as part of the local brand’s range in 2015.