Vauxhall Astra tuning.

"Truly ASTRAnomical power"

The Vauxhall Astra was introduced way back in 1979 known across europe as the Kadette.

Today it has become very popular car as it is cheap to run with many parts available.

Vauxhall provided a wide range of engine options from a base engine of 1200cc up to a lively 2.0 turbo engine.

The Astra later gave inspiration for a GTC sports coupe, based on an all new design and spec.

Popular with young drivers we see an ever growing parts catalogue of aftermarket parts, some are very impressive and others leave much to be desired.

It was very popular in the UK and enjoyed success in Europe under the Opal badge.

Tuning tips and articles

Engine tuning Transmission tuning Care care Intake & exhaust mods Improve handling Forums

The original mark 1 was much smaller than the modern Astra, being similar in size to the current Corsa. The 1.3 engines were lively and cheap to insure but the SR and GTE were the models of choice.

The Mark 2 model in 1984 saw a complete restyle which was radical. Rear visibility has been criticised but overall was a good package and the 2.0 GTE still outperforms many modern cars.

The Mark 3 and 4 models looked very similar as Vauxhall decided that they shouldn't change a winning formula. The hot hatch of choice was now badged SRi and GSi where in 1995 the suspension received attention from Lotus.

The Mark 6 was launched in 2009 and ran until 2015, it enjoyed strong sales and met with good reviews.

The Mark 7 launched in 2015 which was lighter than the previous models by around 200 kg's improving handling, performance and economy. The noteworthy model is the stunning 280bhp Astra VXR,

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Best Engine Mods for your Astra

  1. Engine Tunes - engine tuning/remapping provides the most advantage in terms of cost savings,  aftermarket ECUs, and piggyback ECUs are all alternatives.
  2. Fast road cams are one of the most significant mechanical changes, but they must be installed by someone who knows what they're doing and they are not always easy to source but you might find a local firm to regrind a stock camshaft.
  3. Intake and Exhaust - Note that on their own these mods will NOT ADD POWER in most cases, but they can help enhance power after other mods by removing the restriction.
  4. Upgrades to turbochargers - forced induction is the most efficient approach to increase air supply, allowing you to burn more fuel and make more power. It is one of the most costly upgrades but provides the best gains.
  5. Suspension and Braking upgrades - Improve the handling performance of your Astra, especially if you have worn old suspension. And don't add power without improving your Astras stopping performance.

Astra Tuning Stages

Typical stage 1 mods often include: Lighter flywheel, Sports exhaust, Alloy wheels, Suspension upgrade (drop 30-40mm), Panel air filter, Remap.

Typical stage 2 mods often include: high flow fuel injector, Fast road cam, fuel pump upgrades, Ported and polished head, Power/Sport clutch.

Typical stage 3 mods often include: Adding or upgrading forced induction (turbo/supercharger), Internal engine upgrades (pistons/head/valves), Engine balancing, Competition cam, Sports gearbox.

Can you tune an Astra?

Vauxhall Astra tuning tips, a great little car and base for a tuning project.

Which are the best Astra Engines?

The recent Astras, and those with Turbo engines are fantastic and there are many tuning options for them. But sadly there is no easy way to increase the performance of the very early carb fed 1.4 and smaller engine sizes.

The later fuel injected 'hi torque version' was built for economy and will feel very under powered so you would certainly want to change the intake,cams and exhaust on that model).

Astra Tuning Advice

Most Astra engines will benefit from a fast road cam, mated to an induction kit and free flowing sports exhaust. On smaller engine the improvements from the latter two are debatable but on the larger 1.6 and 2.0 engines  the gains are noticeable.

Getting the right tuning modifications for your planned usage of the car is essential. Stage 3 motor sport parts just don't work well on the road difficult in stop start traffic.

You need to keep as much low end power as you can and aim to get a wide power band rather than a narrow top end power spike.

Engine swaps are always popular with Torquecars members and Vauxhall engine seem to be very interchangeable. And Engine swap seems to be the most cost effective way of increasing the power with drivers looking to the higher powered Astra models for suitable donors. TorqueCars have a MK1 owner who has successfully fitted a v6 engine and the new 2 litre Turbo.

The SRI, GTE, GSi and VXR models are undoubtedly the hot hatch performers of choice and this would benefit from an induction kits, for sports exhaust, FSE fuel pressure boost valve and fast road cams.

With the 280bhp Astra VXR, we would recommend an ecu tune/remap and induction kit to release a little extra power making it a truly special car, but traction does start to become an issue so make sure you spec really good tyres. Adding a better differential would go a long way to address the traction issues.

Intake and Exhaust Tuning.

Breathing mods are usually next up.

Getting the head polished and ported will help get more air into each cylinder. This is definitely a job for a professional with a flow bench. A good multi plate fast road uprated clutch will help to keep that power going where it should. Never cut corners or expect the standard OEM clutch to cope.

Turbo engines are just asking to be Remapped. You will see significant power gains on most modern turbo charged cars including diesels making a tune/remap one of the most cost effective and significant modifications for your money.

Astra Induction Kits

Induction kits are also very good at improving the performance of your car.

Induction kits are only beneficial to increase performance if the cars air intake is struggling! Adding an induction kit to most standard engines will see NO POWER GAIN AT ALL.

If you have heavily modified your engine and it's need for air INCREASES DRAMATICALLY then an induction kit is the answer and will help remove this restriction. Induction kits can work well on turbo engines and larger engines (if supplied with a suitable cold air feed or air box), generally though we'd just recommend for Astra engines you should go with a high performance panel air filter preferably made from cotton.

Air intake is an important part of all performance upgrades, so you'll almost never find a car modification that doesn't have these parts.

They let more air into the engine. When more air is mixed with a lot of fuel, the combustion power goes up.

Air intake systems that cost a lot are generally better than cheaper ones, because they help the engine get more air and keep the hot air from the air filter away from the engine. Cheap ones are not designed and built as well and often exclude the air box, leaving an open cone filter in your warm engine bay.

Also, these kits don't need to be cut or drilled, and they can be installed in less than an hour.

The more air there is, the more fuel is mixed with it, so the horsepower and the torque of the car go up a lot.

Performance air filters are also great because, because they are less restrictive, they let a lot of air into the engine, which makes the car run better.

Astra Performance Exhausts

Expelling those exhaust gases efficiently is vitally important in your Astra tuning project.

Sports exhausts increase the flow of gases through the engine. But if your exhaust pipe is too big, ie: over 2.5 inches bore, you will lose a great deal of the exhaust flow rate and end up losing power and torque.

This isn't the only thing to keep in mind. The less restrictive the exhaust system, the less likely it is to backfire so there is a balance to achieve here and it's not just a matter of bigger is better..

People can also get aggressive sounds from their cars with the help of performance exhausts, which for many is the only reason they buy an exhaust upgrade.

Turbo engines and turbo upgrades

We've also come across some owners toying with twin charging applications and making some seriously high power figures.

The most phenomenal power gains for NA (naturally aspirated) engines usually involve the addition of forced induction. Superchargers are often easier to add than turbos. With a turbo the power curve is related exponentially to the engine speed making it harder to map.

It is simpler to map a supercharger because the boost is directly proportional to engine speed on a linear curve. Alternatively you could install water injection to minimise knock.

Astra Intercoolers Upgrades

The goal of an intercooler is to make sure that the engine always has cold air. This part makes the air more dense, and as a result, the performance of the whole thing is better.

Intercooler upgrades aren't usually needed on stock cars because the factory parts do a good enough job, and they don't need to be changed. However, when people make their cars faster, the need for an intercooler grows huge.

Installing an intercooler on your modified Astra isn't just a good idea; it might be a must for you if you want to make more power and torque.

Astra Suspension Mods.

Let's take a look at some of the suspension changes. Handling modifications are often a priority for the Astra. We would go to a maximum drop of 35mm on most models. You risk rubbing on the arches if you go lower than this.

A lot can be done to enhance the handling of the Astra although the GTE and SRi models and later VXR badged cars have very good suspension as standard. We would recommend lowering the Astra (no more than 40 millimetres) and fitting fully adjustable springs and dampers.

Poly bushings, negative camber (0.5-1.2 degrees) and a little toe out will do much to sharpen up the handling on the Astra.

Shock in Performance!

Performance shocks are a great way to make your Car more stable.

These shocks are more firm than the ones that came with the car and are usually more effective at damping the road bumps and undulations.

They are also very good at reducing the body roll of the car, which is especially impressive for an SUV of this size.

Because your car needs Bilstein Performance shocks, you should get them for it They aren't too expensive, and the performance they give is top-notch.

Astra lowering springs

If you want to lower the height of your car, you can lower the springs. Doing so gives you more control over the car, and it comes in handy when you're cornering.

Eibach and H&R make different types of lowering spring kits that you can buy on the market. These parts can cut the ride height up to 30mm.

The aim of a lowering kit and suspension upgrade is to keep your Astra from rolling during cornering and maintain a low center of gravity.

Anti-roll bar kits help your car roll less and tighten up the cornering.

Remapping the ECU

ECU engine tuning/remapping is the process of changing the software on the car's engine control unit so that it can do more work for the driver.

There are a lot of companies that offer top-of-the-line ECU engine tuning/remapping tools.

However, engine tuning/remapping the ECU to perfection takes a lot of practise, so it's important to find someone who is good at it.

Making The ECU Work more effectively

ECU flashing is the process of changing the software on the ECU that came with your car with a map from a different company which is more performance focussed.

To describe how this is done, we call this "remapping" ECU remapping:

Remapping is very popular now because it gives a huge performance boost with very little work.

Sadly older cars cannot be easily mapped but there are some options even for those engines.

The different types of ECUs

Check out the different types of ECUs and which one is best for your car.

People who can't map could fit the aftermarket ECU which takes over from your Vauxhall ECU.

Standalone ECUs are separate ECUs that are installed to replace parts that came with the car. There is nothing to connect them to the ECUs that they replace, which is why they are called "aftermarket replacement ECU's."

ECUs piggyback options

Piggyback ECUs are smaller than standalone ECUs because they are added as a wired component to the factory-fitted ECUs to add another layer of features to the OEM part, which is already wired.

It lies to the ECU and enables adjustments to be made to timing, fuel and results in more power.

Standalone ECUs have a lot more functionality than a piggyback device but both are effective.

However, if you can't fit a standalone ECU in your car and the owner doesn't want to flash the stock ECU, piggybacks are the best option for you to choose from.

Alloy wheel upgrades.

The benefits of alloy wheels include a lower unsprung weight and more efficient brake cooling via the extra air flow they allow. Please note that although they can look cool on the Astra large alloys will actually decrease your performance. The larger you go the lower your acceleration will be - this to the change in your effective final drive ratio.

Although some people have with bigger wheels we would stick to a 17 inch rim size as the maximum, but later models seem quite at home on 18's but we prefer the handling and ride quality of the 17's.

Please join our forum to discuss tuning options and ideas with our other TorqueCars members who have Astras and browse our tuning articles around the site. It would also be worth reading our unbiased Vauxhall tuning articles to get a full grasp of the benefits and drawbacks of each modification.

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One Response to “Tuning the Vauxhall Astra”

  1. Kamal says:

    Good encouragement to start a tuning project

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