THIRD TIME'S A CHARM (Vauxhall Corsa VXR 888 Edition)

2007 Vauxhall Corsa VXR

WHEN THE Vauxhall Corsa VXR was launched in 2007 much ado was made of its impressive power and torque reserves. 189bhp and 170lb/ft (across a roughly 4000rpm band) was enough to make it a lively little blighter, and was certainly worth shouting about from advertising billboards across the land.

It seems those figures weren't enough for many Corsa VXR fans, however. By proving so popular with younger drivers and Griffin badge aficionados, the VXR brand made a rod for its own back. It seems more power was needed to satiate the appetites for those demanding a special version of the special car, hence the two officially sanctioned special editions.

The Corsa VXR Arctic Edition benefits from some extra kit, a bespoke paint job and roughly 15bhp liberated by a Remus sports exhaust. The Corsa VXR 888 Edition is a more involved affair, however, with a chassis overhaul to match the up-rated exhaust and 217bhp engine management re-map.

The fine-tuning is performed by Triple Eight Race Engineering. The Banbury-based outfit was set-up in 1996 primarily to build and race Vauxhalls for the then owners General Motors and will be a familiar name to BTCC fans. Every now and again, Vauxhall commissions the firm to fettle one of its road going cars for its performance loving customers. The Corsa VXR 888 is one such vehicle.

The list of improvements is comprehensive, but also quite expensive. An engine software upgrade and Remus sports exhaust provide the extra power; lowering springs drop the ride height and tighten up the chassis responses; a four-pot AP Racing brake setup with ventilated discs increase stopping power and heat treated 18-inch wheels lessen the chassis' un-sprung weight.

The cost of these VXRacing additions; £4310, pushing the initial £17,000 Corsa VXR asking price past £21,000 - more still if you specified any of the many options available for the standard car.

Clearly, that's a considerable amount of money for a car in the Corsa's segment, but the Triple Eight Race Engineering improvements make it a considerably more impressive car.

With its focus on performance it’s one for the hardened fan only, and the firm ride courtesy of the large wheels and stiffened suspension will require a hardened derriere, but the chassis responds very positively to the improvements feeling altogether more nimble than the already sprightly standard version.

One issue that hasn’t been cured is that of torque steer when accelerating hard from low speed. The tendency for the engine to pull at the steering wheel means careful metering out of the power is required when overtaking a wide tractor on a country lane or passing in the wet. However, the Corsa VXR 888 really comes alive at speed where the punchy power delivery, measured brakes and potential for sharp changes of direction prove endlessly entertaining.

The taught chassis feels genuinely racy, allowing itself to be provoked in going light at the rear but remaining highly communicative and easy to manage when it does. As a track day car that can be used every day, the Corsa VXR 888 rates very highly.

Yes, the Remus exhaust will require sympathetic neighbours if you’re prone to early starts and is hardly the height of refinement on a long distance cruise, but at least it has a charismatic and tuneful roar. The interior remains unmolested from Corsa VXR status, meaning room for four adults, a respectable boot with a two tier floor, adjustable rear back rests and chunky, well-bolstered Recaro bucket seats in the front.

Some will find the piano black finish on the centre console, bright orange backlighting and thick, flat-bottomed steering wheel with metallic inserts a little garish, but with its loud exhaust, VXR bodykit, 18-inch wheels and ground-hugging profile the rest of the model is hardly discreet.

There’s little doubt that drivers will need to be dedicated fans to want to meet the cost of this exclusive little hot-hatch, but they will not be disappointed.

FACTS AT A GLANCE Model: Vauxhall Corsa VXR 888 Edition, £21,505.

Engine: 1.6-litre petrol unit producing 217bhp and 170lb/ft torque (torque figure from standard Corsa VXR).

Transmission: 6-speed manual gearbox driving the front wheels.

Performance: 0-62mph in 6.8 seconds (figure from standard Corsa VXR). Top speed 140mph (figure from standard Corsa VXR).

CO2 emissions: 190g/km.

Economy: 35.8mpg