REVIEW DATE: 19 Jun 2009
The ultimate Corsa VXR is more interested in looking cool than saving the ice caps. Steve Walker reports.
With the Arctic ice cap dwindling by the year, raising sea levels and nibbling away at one of the earth's last great wildernesses, it's good to see car manufacturers taking a stand against global warming. Hang on a second, there's been some confusion here. Vauxhall's Corsa VXR Arctic isn't an environmental crusader created to reduce CO2 emissions or raise funds for the polar wastes: it's a lunatic hot hatchback with an exhaust system more likely to start an avalanche than prevent a thaw. The Arctic connection is purely in its Glacier White paintwork and the only saving grace for the Polar bears is that just 500 are being built.
Vauxhall is a company that's doing its bit to control vehicle emissions with advanced engine technology and the ecoFLEX range of efficiency models. With these volume-selling cars carrying the fight, it's only fair that the manufacturer should be allowed to let its hair down a little. The Corsa VXR Arctic is less an example of hair being let down and more one of it being coiffured into a bright green Mohican.
The standard Corsa VXR has 189bhp which is considered plenty by most right thinking people. The VXR Arctic has a Remus exhaust system developed by Triple Eight Engineering, the people responsible for Vauxhall's entries in the British Touring Car Championship. It helps increase maximum power to 207bhp but it's the sound that really hits you. The window-rattling rumble at idle becomes a full bore growl at higher revs and a sudden lift off provokes a cacophony of small explosions. The raw performance figures aren't enhanced by the power increase but a 6.8s 0-60mph sprint and a 140mph top speed means this ultimate Corsa is plenty quick enough.
"There are better hot hatchbacks out there from a driver's perspective, even if they don't quite match the Corsa's hooligan charm."
207bhp is a lot of power to have directed at the front wheels of a 1,200kg car and the Arctic will struggle for traction if you're too eager with the throttle when exiting corners. Despite the Arctic's hardcore character, the ride isn't too harsh and owners are more likely to find themselves reaching for the ear-plugs than the back brace on long journeys. The large, flat-bottomed steering wheel has a reassuring weight to it and the Corsa turns in to corners crisply staying good and flat through the curve. There's a hind of torque steer when applying full throttle but nothing that will deter owners from doing so again, and again.
Glacier White bodywork, 18" black gloss alloy wheels, an oversize roof spoiler, black wing mirrors and a black roof. Buyers seeking a low key hatch that will slip under the radar had better look away now. The Corsa VXR is one of the more extrovert of the current crop of supermini-based hot hatchbacks and the Arctic just ups the anti another few notches. The interior is largely the same as the standard car's with some white rings added around the vents and an Arctic logo at the centre of the dash above the number denoting each car's place in the 500-strong production run.
Some of the detailing both inside and out is exquisite and Vauxhall has certainly pulled out the stops to differentiate its hot hatchback from humbler Corsa offerings. Many will see it as being a little over the top but tastes are different in this sector of the market and the Corsa should hit the right notes with its target customers. The cabin is dominated by the specially-designed shell-backed Recaro seats which offer outstanding support. The flat-bottomed steering wheel is another upmarket feature that will set the enthusiast's heart aflutter and you have the general build quality of the standard Corsa which is still up to standard in segment.
The appeal of the Corsa Arctic is easy to spot but translating that into sales might be more of a challenge, mainly because of an asking price that comes close to £18,000. Some people will love this car's loud and lairy image but how many of them are going to have the cash to buy one and handle its group 16 insurance? Standard equipment includes ESP stability control, air-conditioning, remote central locking, electric front windows and door mirrors, a CD stereo and 17" alloy wheels.
Once you've got your hands on one, running costs for a VXR Corsa should be reasonable for a car in this class with a combined average of 35.8mpg and 190g/km CO2 emissions. These are still the lowest mpg and highest emissions figures for any Corsa so owners can forget about doing their bit for the ice caps. Some form of carbon offsetting might be in order.
Subtlety and finesse aren't where the Corsa VXR is coming from and in Arctic form, it only becomes more of a brute. It's a lovable brute though and owners planning on buying a hot hatchback then spending a few thousand on aftermarket modifications can get the finished article off the peg here. People will stare as it rumbles by: some will even perform that slow motion head shake that's otherwise reserved for the man using his fingers at the salad bar. But that's why the 500 Corsa Arctic buyers will buy the 500 Corsa Arctics.
The car is highly likable with its fiery performance, enjoyable handling and uncouth attitude but it will be just too extrovert for many as an everyday ownership proposition. There are better hot hatchbacks out there from a driver's perspective, even if they don't quite match the Corsa's hooligan charm, and at the sort of money being asked, the Arctic model may be too rich for the kind of customer that really wants one.
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 VXR ARCTIC|
|OVERALL||7.0 OUT OF 10|
|Space / Versatility||6|
Let our car quote assistant help you configure your ideal new Corsa - it's 100% free and easy to use...
Click below for more information: