24 Sept 2013

Vauxhall Astra VXR vs Subaru BRZ - shoot out

I've spent a few days and driven a good few miles with each of the Vauxhall Astra VXR hot hatch and the Subaru BRZ coupe.  It's time for a face-off.  It's time for Astra vs BRZ.

Round 1 - Is it a sports car?

This is a tough one.  The Subaru looks like a sports car, but the Astra is faster and outperforms it on the track.  The BRZ gives away 76bhp to the Astra, however it's also 150kg lighter.  Both have limited slip differentials with the Astra's on its front driven wheels and the Subaru's at the back, because it's rear wheel drive.  Both have 6-speed manual gearboxes but the BRZ's is better.  The winner is the BRZ because it feels more like a sports car.

Winner - BRZ

Round 2 - How fast does it goes Mister?

The Astra has 276bhp and does 0-60mph in 5.9 seconds.  It also has a top speed of 155mph.  The BRZ has 200bhp and does 0-60mph in 7.6 seconds.  Its top speed is a measly 143mph.  The Astra's turbo makes sure it outperforms the BRZ's naturally aspirated boxer engine in every speed and acceleration test.  Both cars LSDs ensure they get away from the line like a scalded cat.

Winner - Astra VXR

Round 3 - Can you drift in it?

The Astra sticks to the road like glue.  It has torque steer in the first 2 gears but otherwise its front wheel drive, slightly nose heavy configuration, allied with decent tyres, mean it refuses to oversteer unless pushed very hard.  The BRZ will oversteer if you ask it even very quietly.  Sure it doesn't have enough poke to hang its tail out in anything above 3rd gear but at lowish speeds the BRZ makes even a rubbish driver look like a drift king.

Winner - BRZ

Round 4 - Would it be any good as a race car?

In my review I said the Astra VXR is so planted to the road and so damn fast it felt like it could compete in a BTCC race in standard trim.  Obviously it would get slaughtered but it really does feel super-fast.  It doesn't waste any effort in getting up to speed and getting round corners.  The BRZ would be a bit of a comedy effort - it's light but its engine would need beefing up to race, and the tyres would need swapping out for a set of sticky slicks.  The Astra wins, but the BRZ's gearbox is better.

Winner - Astra VXR

Round 5 - Do people stop and stare at it?

Both cars attract stares, but from different crowds.  Petrolheads stare at the Astra because they know it is such a potent, but slightly unfashionable car.  Most 'normal' people don't give it a second look.  The BRZ is such a pretty little thing, and it's a coupe.  It gets stared at by most people with a passing interest in cars, and people with an eye for beauty.  The fact it almost looks like a smaller Maserati GranTurismo doesn't hurt its chances.

Winner - BRZ

Round 6 - Does the engine sound any good?

The Astra VXR engine has an inline-4 and a turbocharger. It emits a low wuffle at idle and low revs which disappears on the go.  The BRZ engine is a naturally aspirated flat-4.  The Astra stands no chance.  The Subaru's engine isn't loud but it sounds great, as all boxer engines do.  Add in the fact the BRZ has a sound pipe which comes into the cabin just beside the clutch pedal and we have a clear winner.

Winner - BRZ

Round 7 - Is it practical?

The Astra is a hatchback with decent sized rear seats, lots of cubby holes and a big boot.  The Subaru is a coupe with a normal boot that's quite shallow because it's rear wheel drive, and tiny rear seats.  The Astra has an armrest and the Subaru doesn't.  Basically the Astra can carry 4 in comfort and you can put your dogs in the boot (although the lip is quite high and narrow) whilst the Subaru is strictly a 2+2 with space in the boot for a couple of squishy suitcases.

Winner - Astra VXR

Round 8 - What's the interior like?

These cars come from different philosophies, and from different continents.  The Astra's interior is European high quality and feels refined, but lacks a decent touchscreen.  The Subaru's interior is Toyota-spec and feels pretty cheap but has a touchscreen that does everything (bar DAB radio).  The Subaru's seating position, and seats, are better than the Astra's compromised hatchback position.  Ultimately though the Vauxhall floors the Subaru.

Winner - Astra VXR

Round 9 - What are the stats?

Astra VXR - Price £26,995, 0-60mph in 5.9 seconds, 276 bhp, 295 lb ft, 34.9 mpg, 189 g/km CO2, 1475kg
BRZ - Price £24,995, 0-60mph in 7.6 seconds, 196 bhp,  151 lb ft,  40.9 mpg, 181 g/km CO2, 1202kg

Winner - Subaru BRZ

Round 10 - Which one would you buy?

I drove the Astra first.  Once it had gone back to Vauxhall I asked myself that question and thought it was almost as good as the Renaultsport Megane 265.  Having driven the Subaru I've come to realise it wipes the floor with all the hot hatches because it was specifically designed for a purpose rather than adapted from a standard car.  The Astra is very good, but I'd prefer the BRZ as a daily driver and as a fun car - even though it's not as fast.  It's just more fun.

Winner - Subaru BRZ

The result

Vauxhall Astra VXR 4 points, Subaru BRZ 6 points

Subaru BRZ wins