REVIEW DATE: 28 Sep 2007
The astonishingly rapid VXR model may be the most desirable Corsa but in the real world, more buyers are going to turn to the slightly less potent SRi models. Andy Enright explains why
You'll be forgiven if you equate the notion of a sporty Corsa as something like this. An ageing hatchback with neon lights underneath it and a loud bean can exhaust parked outside your local McDonalds, complete with a spotty youth at the wheel regaling anybody who'll listen with details of his sub-eight minute lap of the 'Nuremburgring'. The old Corsa never really established itself as a credible performance hatchback but Vauxhall certainly wasn't taking any chances with the latest car, setting down a formidable marker in the form of the 189bhp VXR. Slotting in just beneath this flagship sportster are the SRi models.
Vauxhall has enjoyed notable success with the SRi badge in the past but it has never had a small hatch quite as talented as the Corsa. Going head to head with some talented rivals such as the Ford Fiesta ST and the Volkswagen Polo GTI, this Corsa needs to be at the top of its game.
Those looking to leave their rivals for dead off the line will doubtless plump for the 1.6-litre turbo version of the Corsa SRi. This engine is effectively a detuned version of the powerplant found in the VXR and will punt the Vauxhall from zero to 60mph in just 7.6 seconds and, where conditions allow, will top out at 130mph. Neither the Ford Fiesta ST, the Volkswagen Polo GTI, the Peugeot 207GT or the Renault Clio 2.0-litre Dynamique S are quite as rapid away from the mark. Go for the diesel and you get a very different powerplant, feeling far stronger when it comes to mid-range overtaking muscle but not quite so punchy on paper. The 1.7-litre oil burner hits 60mph from rest in 9.3 seconds and runs out of go at 121mph.
The sports chassis has been lowered by 18mm at the front and 15mm at the rear, the ESP stability control being optimised for spirited driving. The power steering features variable assistance, which means that when you're really pressing on, there's some serious heft and feedback coming through the wheel. There's a little more body roll than you might expect but the flipside of this is that ride quality is very good. Vauxhall has certainly learned a lot of lessons regarding ride/handling since the first generation Astra VXR and most owners will enjoy the combination of smooth ride with some real firepower up front.
".now there are some very solid reasons why this Corsa is a rather informed choice"
Don't be surprised if drivers of far more expensive tackle seem unwilling to tangle with the Corsa SRi. With its lowered suspension and purposeful stance, it's easy to mistake it for the VXR model. But only in three-door guise. Unlike the racy VXR, the Corsa SRi is also offered in a more family-friendly five-door body style as well, broadening its appeal significantly. With a front spoiler, body-coloured side sills, 17-inch alloy wheels, a chromed exhaust and a small tailgate spoiler, there's no doubt that the SRi looks the part and as the performance figures attest, this is no sheep in wolf's clothing.
The interior benefits from red-detailed sports seats, a leather-trimmed steering wheel with red inserts, alloy pedals and contrasting red seat belts. I must admit to a pang of nostalgia for the red belts. These were all the rage in the Eighties and then vanished without trace when the Greed is Good decade ended. Without getting all Gordon Gekko on you, it's good to see Vauxhall reinstate them. The rest of the SRi offers all the good things that have made this generation Corsa such a big seller. It feels better built than any small car to date bar none and can seat four adults reasonably comfortably. In other words, it does all the basics brilliantly.
The so-called 'warm hatch' market is anything but tepid and there are all manner of very good cars scrapping for a piece of the action. The Corsa SRi stands a very good chance of claiming a significant slice of the pie due to the fact that not only is it a very convincing product in its own right, but it's also a good deal more versatile than many immediate rivals, offered as it is in both petrol and diesel formats, as well as three and five-door body styles. Then there's Vauxhall's massive dealer network to fall back on, a benefit that's eyed jealously by most rivals.
The SRi is also very well-equipped. Aside from the racy bits that are specific to this model, there's 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, the stereo and big satellite LCD screen with the option of satellite navigation give the Corsa's dash a far more modern, integrated look than the somewhat piecemeal integration of technology of the old car.
Prices start at around £15,500 for the petrol, with a premium of around £600 if you want five rather than three doors. The Corsa SRi benefits from relatively cheap insurance (7E for the diesel and 13A for the petrol model) thanks to excellent safety and security ratings and relatively inexpensive crash repairs. Fuel economy of the 1.6-litre turbo model is good but the 1.7-litre CDTi version is the model to go for if you need to stretch a gallon a long way. The car averages 58.9mpg and it's hard to top its blend of performance and economy.
The Corsa range has held up extremely well in terms of residual values, the public quickly catching on to the fact that this car is a world away from its rather underwhelming predecessor. The SRi versions are no exception and will continue to appeal due to their affordability especially among younger drivers unwilling to pay the insurance premiums of the VXR.
So why should you plump for a Vauxhall Corsa SRi over any one of a bunch of very talented warm hatches? This question would probably have elicited a blank look or possibly some perplexed chin stroking if asked a couple of years ago but now there are some very solid reasons why this Corsa is a rather informed choice. The most important reason is that both the petrol and diesel models are just plain good fun to drive. Factor in the build quality, the giant dealer network, the aggressive pricing and modest running costs, not to mention the sharp styling and the big equipment list, and you're left scratching around for reasons why not.
It might take a bit of a leap of faith for an enthusiast driver to swallow the realisation that accompanies a commitment to buy a Vauxhall Corsa but most keen drivers are nothing if not meritocratic. The Corsa SRi does the job and does it well. That'll be enough.
The results below show the top CORSA deals on buyacar
|Vauxhall Corsa 1.4 SXi 5dr [AC] hatchback|
|Price £8,155||Save £6,840|
|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 £10,355||Save £5,810|
|Vauxhall Corsa 1.4 SE 5dr Auto hatchback|
|Price £8,040||Save £7,205|
|VIEW MORE DISCOUNT CORSA DEALS|
|For CORSA SRi RANGE|
|OVERALL||6.9 OUT OF 10|
|Space / Versatility||6|
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