Vauxhall's VXR performance sub-brand has been with us since 2004, earning respect for its no-compromise approach in turning the Astra, Corsa and even the Vectra into lairy front wheel-drive, turbo-charged beasts. They even produced Vauxhall's halo car, the now-dead VXR8.
Since 2017, VXR has been quietly put to bed by Vauxhall as the performance part of the brand in favour of refreshing GSi. But is this just a change in name-only or something more significant?
On the face of it, it looks like petrolheads might feel shortchanged by the GSi replacement. Take the new Corsa GSi for example. With 148bhp, it's down on power to the VXR by a whopping 57bhp. So if you're looking for an alternative to the similarly priced Fiesta ST, this isn't it. Instead, Vauxhall has targeted the 'warm' hatches like the Suzuki Swift Sport and Mini Cooper. The Corsa GSi does retain some VXR traits, an incredibly firm ride and sharp steering give you an involved (if a little frantic) handling experience.
The Corsa GSi gets some VXR exterior trim. Spoiler, skirts and wheels add a veneer of sportiness. Credit - Car Magazine
VXR was available across most of the Vauxhall range, with even the Meriva and Zafira getting VXR versions. There's already an Insignia GSi which according the Vauxhall, can lap the Nürburgring Nordschleife faster than the old Insignia VXR. An impressive feat considering it has 69bhp less than its VXR predecessor. There's an incoming Astra GSi too, with power and handling which will likely match the Ford Focus ST-Line and Seat Leon FR. With sporty SUV more popular than ever, don't be surprised to see a Grandland X sporting a GSi nameplate either.
So why is there such a lack of power from GSi in comparison to VXR? Naomi Gasson, Vauxhall's product manager, has explained: "With the strict rules on emissions now, we've gone with the middle ground for GSi." This might sound like the end for VXR, but it could return. Gasson explained in an interview last year that VXR could come back with electrification. "There’s a lot of talk with electrification and hybrid, (VXR) could still get the higher power but without the emissions and CO2 being affected."
In the meantime we'll have to make-do with GSi, and it certainly feels like a 'make-do' kind of brand. It's difficult to understand when Ford seem to get by with their 197bhp three-cylinder turbocharged Fiesta ST. GSi might not be the performance sub-brand we want from Vauxhall, but it's one they've decided we need.