REVIEW DATE: 18 Dec 2009
If you associate the Vauxhall Corsa with middle of the road mediocrity, you may need a sit down after checking out the latest version. Steve Walker reports.
History has taught us that UK car buyers quite like Vauxhall superminis. The various incarnations of the Corsa and its Nova forbear have been there or thereabouts near the top of the sales charts for years and the latest car is one of just a handful of models that gets default inclusion in the thinking of most of the sector's buyers.
You couldn't blame Vauxhall if it felt the waves of love washing in the Corsa's direction, sat back and basked in its success but such a move would amount to commercial suicide. In a fast-paced market like this one, standing still is going backwards and as new rivals emerge on the scene with daunting regularity, the Corsa has had to fight for its place in our affections.
The modern Corsa can give its contemporaries a run for their money in most areas, excelling with its well-built and roomy cabin as well as with its ride comfort. If fault was to be found, it was in the engine bay where some of the powerplants were past their best and, perhaps, in the dynamics department where the Corsa was feeling less light on its feet than some newcomers. To peg back the Mazda2, Volkswagen Polo, Renault Clio and, its arch nemesis, the Ford Fiesta, the latest Corsa addresses these issues.
An appealing line-up of petrol and diesel engines is available to power the Corsa. First up on the petrol menu are the 1.0-litre, 1.2-litre and 1.4-litre units which now produce 64bhp, 84bhp and 99bhp respectively. Then there's quite a jump to the 189bhp 1.6-litre VXR variant, a hot hatch designed to give the Clio Renaultsport 200 and the SEAT Ibiza Cupra something to think about. Able to hit 60mph in around 7 seconds and with a 140mph top speed, it's one quick customer. No modern supermini can get by without decent diesel engines and Vauxhall fortunately have two at their disposal. The 128bhp 1.7-litre diesel spearheads the line up, with a budget 1.3-litre CDTi acting as the entry level option in 74, 89 and 94bhp guises.
"The Corsa is an excellent all-round effort from Vauxhall"
There has never been much cause for complaint where the Corsa's ride and refinement were concerned but there was concern that it may have been lagging behind somewhat in the handling department. To counteract this, Vauxhall revised the car's steering and suspension, bringing enhanced geometry to the former and making a whole raft of changes to upgrade the later. Today's Corsa features a more robust anti-roll bar at the front which improves the car's resistance to lean in corners. This allowed the fitment of softer springs and together with revised damper settings, they are designed to deliver a more compliant ride with greater levels of control.
No longer just a shopping trolley, the modern Corsa has real impact. 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. Climb inside the Corsa displays more capacity to impress. The quality of materials used is leagues ahead of the old Corsa and there's a bulletproof feeling of build quality that's as good as anything in the sector.
Vauxhall products had previously been criticised for not offering 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 modern, integrated look.
Both 3 and 5-door bodystyles are available and the difference between the two versions is pronounced. The 3-door offers a coupe-like silhouette with a side window line that falls away from the roof at the rear to maximise the sporty look without minimising rear headroom. As it is, headroom in the back isn't spectacular and the low window will have adults ducking down to see out but legroom is quite adequate. The 5-door is a very different looking car that yields more space for back seat passengers. Both models give generous space to front seat passengers with a very comfortable driving position courtesy of the height and reach adjustable steering wheel and the supportive seating.
The Corsa comes in an abundance of different trim levels and special edition packages. The range gets underway with the budget Expression and S models priced attractively. Then you've got the well-equipped Exclusiv and the positively plush SE grade as well as the sporty flavour of the SXi, SRi and VXR models. The cleanest and most fuel efficient models also get the ecoFLEX badge. Unsurprisingly prices are competitive. The premium for the more practical 5-door bodystyle is £750 but it's the 3-door that best displays the Corsa's sleek looks.
Many of the features available with the Corsa are real eye-openers, the kind of stuff you'd usually associate with a more expensive car. Halogen Adaptive Forward Lighting (AFL) alters the beam of the headlamp according to speed and steering input, allowing the Corsa to see further round dark corners. There's also an innovative Enhanced Understeer Control (EUC) function and convenience features such as MP3 compatibility and Bluetooth phone connectivity. The SE model features a heated steering wheel as standard while all the SE, SXi and SRi variants have cruise control and an advanced trip computer. The SRi has sharper suspension and a VXR-style sports bodykit to give it that hot hatch look.
Vauxhall's ecoFLEX models are the way to go for buyers looking to minimise their running costs. The efficiency brand is applied to all the models fitted with the 1.0-litre petrol as well as the 74 and 94bhp versions of the 1.3-litre CDTi diesel. All of these cars feature a collection of modifications designed reduce fuel consumption and emissions. They appear to work too with the 94bhp 1.3-CDTi models returning 76mpg and 98g/km CO2 emissions. Even the mid-range petrol engines do a fine job of keeping fuel use low. The 1.4-litre unit can get over 51mpg on the combined cycle. Most of the Corsa range also comes with an eco gearshift indicator built into the instrument cluster to prompt drivers when to change gear for the best economy returns.
Low prices, strong economy 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. That's a price that most will be willing to pay for the modest expense associated with owning a Corsa.
Despite its relatively strong sales figures, Vauxhall needed to keep the Corsa class-competitive and the latest model shows the benefits of this approach. Cleaner, greener, better equipped and with a series of modifications aimed at improving its driving characteristics, a car that was already near the top will be looking to forge ahead.
The Corsa is an excellent all-round effort from Vauxhall. The running costs are very low and the quality of the interior is right up with the class best. This Vauxhall is a substantial vehicle and the smaller petrol engines struggle a little but otherwise, the variety of power options and trim levels mean there should be model to suit most requirements.
The results below show the top CORSA deals on buyacar
|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 1.4 SXi 5dr [AC] hatchback|
|Price £7,026||Save £7,969|
|Vauxhall Corsa 1.3 CDTi ecoFLEX Limited Edition 3dr diesel hatchback|
|Price £9,855||Save £6,310|
|Vauxhall Corsa 1.4 SE 5dr hatchback|
|Price £7,360||Save £7,041|
|VIEW MORE DISCOUNT CORSA DEALS|
|For CORSA RANGE|
|OVERALL||7.4 OUT OF 10|
|Space / Versatility||6|
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