The new Vauxhall Corsa is here and it coincides with a new range of very overdue engines for the brand, so should this now be your supermini of choice?
It’s well documented that manufacturers occupying the ‘volume’ ground where companies such as Vauxhall sit have struggled over recent years. European consumers haven’t been rushing out to buy ‘volume’ cars, yet there’s been an increased demand for products such as premium crossovers. So in a marketplace with changing dynamics, does the new Corsa have the right recipe?
Externally there’s no radical change from the previous Corsa in terms of the overall silhouette; it’s the details such as the front and rear light clusters that most clearly provide differentiation between the outgoing and incoming models.
The interior becomes more modern and more high-tech as you would expect, with Vauxhall’s IntelliLink infotainment system which is compatible with the latest Android and Apple iOS-based smartphones.
There’s also a new chassis, but the big news is in the area of engines. Vauxhall has been in need of new engines for a number of years now, and at last they’ve arrived – just in time for the new Corsa. Our test car featured the new three-cylinder, 1-litre ECOTEC turbo petrol engine, mated to a 6-speed manual gearbox.
Small cars in this class should be fun to drive, and the Corsa is no exception. The fun factor should be guaranteed due to the car having a small footprint and being lightweight. The new 106kg, 3-cylinder, 1-litre engine assists with the feeling of lightness, as well being responsive (as long as the revs are high enough to ensure the turbo is working) and refined (although the 3-cylinder thrum does become more apparent under acceleration). In addition it’s efficient, so it’s mostly all good news. The downside is that there’s not much torque for accelerating up hills at motorways speeds.
The other key element in the fun factor is a car’s handling. When compared to a Fiesta, and especially to the new MINI, the Corsa’s handling is more bouncy than planted. Combined with this is the car’s behaviour on the limit; there’s not a huge amount of grip, so entering corners enthusiastically can result in understeer before the traction control systems kick in. Such handling and grip characteristics contrast with the dynamically better experience in the Fiesta and MINI (not to mention cars such as the new Mazda2).
The Corsa’s steering is light, and not that precise. However for the average driver the Corsa remains easy to drive, relatively comfortable, and with the new engine, it’s more refined, responsive and efficient.
Our test car was a three-door, which isn’t as practical as a five-door, but has a more sporty look for younger buyers.
We struggled to find the perfect driving position, and there’s no clutch footrest.
The official combined economy for the Corsa 1-litre turbo is 65.7mpg. During our week with the car we achieved 58.4mpg at 70mph on the motorway, 64.7mpg on 60mph A and B roads, and 44.8mpg overall. The 1.3 CDTi achieves 88.3mpg and 85g/km CO2, which is impressive, but for the likely driving patterns of a Corsa – ie. short journeys rather than long motorway hauls – the 1-litre turbo is likely to remain the best option.
The new Corsa is priced from £8,995, although our test car cost £13,605. Vauxhall says that list prices are reduced by up to nearly £3,000 compared to the outgoing model.
As well as the 1-litre turbo petrol engine fitted to our car, there’s also a new 1.4-litre turbo, 1.2 and 1.4-litre non-turbo engines, and a 1.3-litre CDTi. Three gearboxes are available – a manual, an automatic and a new generation five-speed automated Easytronic 3.0 transmission – effectively a more cost-effective version of an automatic transmission. Compared to conventional automatic transmissions, Easytronic 3.0 has a lower weight and minimal interior friction. With the Easytronic, the new Corsa achieves 60.1mpg combined and CO2 emissions as low as 110g/km.
The new Corsa is available in a wide choice of nine trim levels (which is simplified from the previous ten specs): Life, Sting, Sting R, Design, SRi, Excite, SE, SRi VX Line, and Limited Edition.
The Vauxhall Corsa has been one of the UK’s best selling cars for years. There are two key reasons for this; firstly, the Corsa is affordable, with low running costs; secondly, it’s a familiar car from a known brand.
The Corsa has a natural appeal to younger drivers – a market where a fun driving experience is essential. The new 1-litre turbo engine assists with the fun factor, but crucially it’s also efficient.
In isolation, the new Corsa ticks all the boxes to ensure it appeals to its target market. However the challenge occurs when you compare it to its rivals – such as the Ford Fiesta and MINI. Both of these cars are slightly more rounded than the Corsa, and so although the Corsa still scores well on price, it struggles to beat the Fiesta and MINI overall, and is awarded a Green Car Guide rating of 7 out of 10.