REVIEW DATE: 03 Nov 2009
With its ecoFLEX Corsas, Vauxhall's aiming to offer economy without the compromises. Jonathan Crouch takes a look.
It's become a must for car manufacturers to have a green brand, a series of models brought together under a convenient banner indicating that they are the greenest, most environmentally friendly cars that the marque produces. Vauxhall's is called ecoFLEX but you'll find BlueMotion Volkswagens, ECOnetic Fords, Greenline Skodas and many others if you look hard enough. It's a handy way for a motoring public that's been turned on in a big way to economising, to find the most fuel and cost effective models on the market. But can we just rush out and buy any of these environmental specials assuming they're all broadly the same? That could be a mistake as different manufacturers approach the problem of saving fuel in different ways. A look at Vauxhall's Corsa ecoFLEX will reveal more.
As saving fuel and cutting costs became increasingly important to motorists over the last few years, the leading car manufacturers had to react. Locking a team of their top boffins into a lab with orders to invent a car that runs on sea water or pineapples wasn't an option in the short or medium term, so they needed to work with what they already had. That's why diesel models like the Corsa ecoFLEX tend to be standard cars with some clever modifications designed to improve fuel economy. Which modifications each manufacturer makes has a lot to do with how good their product ultimately is.
The original ecoFLEX Corsas were essentially standard models with alterations to the engine management system. In today's eco-conscious market however, it's become clear that something a bit less half-hearted is required, hence the improved versions of this car that we're looking at here. The 95PS Euro 4 version is able to put out as little as 98g/km of C02 and return as much as 76.3mpg. The 75PS Euro 5 model features Start/Stop engine technology and manages 105g/km and 70.6mpg. In each case, torque is also up by 20Nm to 190Nm, allowing drivers the kind of flexibility normally vacant in eco-class cars. The 95PS model will accelerate from 0-62mph in 12.3 seconds and reach a maximum speed of 110mph.
Because the ecoFLEX hasn't been modified in too intrusive a way, the excellent ride and refinement of the Corsa should remain intact. Superminis didn't used to display this level of composure over tricky surfaces and undulations but the Corsa manages to feel like a far larger car than it is in this respect. Engine noise is also well controlled, even from this diesel engine.
"You might think that choosing a greener car would necessitate a string of compromises that you'd rather not make"
No longer just a shopping trolley, today's Corsa has real visual impact and the ecoFLEX versions are no different. If anything, they look better thanks to a ride height that is reduced by 20mm giving a sportier look and better aerodynamics. Low rolling resistance tyres are also fitted and Vauxhall has made 45kg worth of weight savings in the name of efficiency. Like all Corsas, the front end features a deep Vauxhall V-grille with aggressive air intakes under the bumper and a pair of headlamps that smear back along the wings. The Corsa shares a platform with Fiat's Grande Punto, the benefit of a rather complicated relationship between Fiat and General Motors that's too convoluted to go into here. Suffice to say, you may be reminded of the pretty Fiat when you spot the window by the A-pillar and the rather unconventional door outlines.
Climb inside and, if you're used to Vauxhall's larger Astra, you'll feel immediately at home here. The quality of materials used is leagues ahead of the old Corsa and like the Astra, there's the bulletproof feeling of build quality that's as good as anything in the sector. Just about the only criticism of the Astra's interior was that, although well built, it didn't offer a whole lot of slick design to catch the eye. The Corsa changes that particular script with translucent ambient lighting on the centre console switchgear, one of those 'surprise and delight' features that adds the all-important showroom wow-factor. The round air vents and big satellite navigation screen (available on high spec cars only) give the Corsa's dash a far more modern, integrated look than the somewhat piecemeal integration of technology of the old car.
The ecoFLEX badge is used in various ways by Vauxhall and this might prove confusing if you're not up on the differences. The 1.3-litre 95PS CDTi engine is a Euro4 unit but returns the best CO2 and fuel figures. The 75PS version of this engine isn't quite as impressive but does have Start/Stop technology to cut your engine in jams or at the lights and conforms to tougher Euro 5 standards. There are also Corsa models with ecoFLEX badging powered by the 1.0-litre petrol unit. These carry no modifications as such and are badged ecoFLEX to indicate that they are amongst the most fuel-efficient models in the Corsa range.
Once you've settled on the engine you want and the kind of ecoFLEX model you need, there are a wide range of trim levels from which to choose as well as the option of three or five-door models. The premium for the more practical five-door bodystyle is £750 but it's the three-door that best displays the Corsa's sleek looks.
The crux of any economy special model is its economy and the Corsa ecoFLEX shouldn't disappoint. You'll get 76.3mpg from the 95PS ecoFLEX model but more salient are the CO2 emissions which are lowered to just 98g/km in the three-door model. For the Start/Stop 75PS variant, the figures are 70.6mpg and 105g/km. Either way, rest assured that this Corsa will be one of the most affordable superminis to run.
In general, low prices and low insurance costs make the Corsa an attractive proposition for supermini buyers on a tight budget but Vauxhall's aggressive pricing and use of promotional special edition models means that residual values will be a little bit below the best in the class.
You might think that choosing a greener car would necessitate a string of compromises that you'd rather not make but while some environmental-special superminis do serve up inferior handling and refinement, the Corsa ecoFLEX is refreshingly similar to the standard models.
Vauxhall's Corsa remains one of the top superminis on the market, particularly with regards to ride quality and refinement. In ecoFLEX form, it adds the further strings of well over 70mpg economy and frugal emissions to its bow, making it a seriously cost-effective choice.
The results below show the top CORSA deals on buyacar
|Vauxhall Corsa 1.4 SXi 5dr [AC] hatchback|
|Price £7,855||Save £7,140|
|Vauxhall Corsa 1.3 CDTi  ecoFLEX Exclusiv 5dr [Start Stop] diesel hatchback|
|Price £11,083||Save £4,247|
|Vauxhall Corsa 1.0 ecoFLEX Expression 3dr hatchback|
|Price £7,395||Save £2,100|
|Vauxhall Corsa 1.3 CDTi ecoFLEX Limited Edition 3dr diesel hatchback|
|Price £10,855||Save £3,815|
|Vauxhall Corsa 1.4 SE 5dr Auto hatchback|
|Price £8,040||Save £7,572|
|VIEW MORE DISCOUNT CORSA DEALS|
|For CORSA ecoFLEX|
|OVERALL||7.5 OUT OF 10|
|Space / Versatility||6|
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