Paul Clarke Green Car Guide with Vauxhall Corsa-e

The all-electric Vauxhall Corsa-e and why it’s important

The Vauxhall Corsa will soon be available with an all-electric powertrain – here’s why this is important.

So far we’ve had electric cars from the likes of Tesla, Jaguar, Audi and more recently Porsche and Mercedes-Benz. These are all impressive products but if we’re going to make a real difference in improving air quality in our towns and cities as well as addressing climate change then we need the best-selling cars to be electric. So what was the UK’s best selling car in September 2019? The Vauxhall Corsa. And that’s with the current Corsa at the end of its model lifecycle… an all-new Corsa is due out at the start of 2020 – and there will be an all-electric version, in which we’ve taken a ride.

The Vauxhall Corsa-e is the first all-electric Vauxhall. Vauxhall was of course a pioneer with electric cars, with the Vauxhall Ampera. This was an E-REV – an extended-range electric vehicle – so although the electric motor provided drive to the wheels, there was also a petrol engine on board which acted as a generator when there was no battery charge left. The Ampera was mostly a very good car, but probably a bit ahead of its time, and too expensive if buyers compared it to an Astra. It ceased being on sale, and with the BMW i3 REX being dropped when the new WLTP emissions test was introduced, there are currently no range-extended cars available (although we think that this technology will reappear as a response to battery electric cars becoming too heavy).

Vauxhall Corsa-eVauxhall Corsa-e

So the Corsa-e aims to offer more affordable electric mobility. It will cost £26,490 after the Plug-in Car Grant (which currently runs up to April 2020, but there is the expectation that it will be continued in some form), or £280 per month with an initial rental of £5,040. This is more expensive than the petrol version of the new Corsa, which is due to start at £15,550, but the running costs of the Corsa-e will be much lower. And the Corsa-e will undercut many other electric cars on the market.

Apart from lower running costs, will the Corsa-e be better than the petrol model? Yes. Why? Because the electric version is better to drive, being quiet and refined, with instantly available torque, and of course it has zero tailpipe emissions – that means no CO2 emissions, and no emissions that impact on local air quality.

The Corsa-e has a 50 kWh lithium-ion battery and an electric driving range of 205 miles based on the new WLTP test. This may not be the longest range of EVs currently on sale, but the Corsa is more likely to be used for local journeys rather than up and down the UK’s motorway network.

An all-new platform sits underneath the Corsa-e – which is shared with other Peugeot, Citroen and DS cars, now that Vauxhall is part of the PSA Group. We’ve already driven a car with this platform, the DS 3 CROSSBACK, and we thought that this was a fun and agile car to drive. The forthcoming Peugeot e-208 also has the same platform – as well the same electric powertrain as the Corsa-e. All of these cars can have petrol, diesel or electric powertrains, with all variations being built on the same production line.

The Corsa-e also promises to be at the lighter end of the current crop of electric cars, which should make it fun to drive and more efficient. It has three driving modes, Normal, Eco and Sport; a B setting for increased levels of brake regeneration; and the 136hp/260Nm powertrain delivers a 0-31 mph time of 2.8 seconds, and a 0-62 mph time of 8.1 seconds.

Paul Clarke with Vauxhall Corsa-e interiorPaul Clarke with Vauxhall Corsa-e charge port

Of course electric cars need to be charged, and the first 500 Corsa-e customers will be able to take advantage of a free PodPoint wallbox (a full charge using a 7.4kW home wallbox will take 8 hours). It would be interesting to know how many Corsa owners have off-street parking at home and the ability to install a charge point, as the public charging infrastructure in the UK may be expanding, but as a whole it’s still not user-friendly enough for the 99% of motorists who are yet to convert to EVs. If a working public rapid charger can be found – unlike our experience on the way to and from the Vauxhall event – then the Corsa-e can be charged to 80% in just 30 minutes using a 100 kW DC rapid charger.

Potential electric car converts who may have concerns about the longevity of battery performance should be reassured that the Corsa-e has an 8 year/100,000 mile battery warranty.

The Corsa-e is just one of the electrified offerings due from Vauxhall. There’s also the Grandland X Hybrid4 plug-in hybrid, and an all-electric Vivaro van is due to be on sale in mid-2020.

And within PSA Group there’s also Peugeot, Citroen and DS. The Peugeot e-208 and e-2008 will be launched in early 2020, along with the 3008, 508 and 508 SW plug-in hybrids. DS will launch the all-electric DS 3 CROSSBACK E-TENSE and the plug-in hybrid DS 7 CROSSBACK E-TENSE 4×4. And Citroen will launch a plug-in hybrid version of the C5 Aircross SUV early in 2020 and then two new, all-electric cars later in the year. The Dispatch and Relay vans will be electrified in 2020 and the Berlingo van in 2021.

Vauxhall expects the sales split between the petrol and electric Corsa models to be 90:10. It will be interesting to see if this prediction is accurate, and then how this split changes as Corsa drivers find out that other owners prefer the electric driving experience, and as more Clean Air Zones kick in around the UK and awareness about air quality continues to rise amongst car buyers.

Paul Clarke

Green Car Guide reviews of every electric car on sale in the UK