Vauxhall Corsa Review
The Corsa is Vauxhall’s most in-demand car selling more than 2.1 million units in the UK and 13.5 million models in Europe since it was launched in 1993. And now there is an all-new fifth generation model that really raises the bar.
- Excellent safety kit as standard
- Great choice of engines and trim levels
- Easy and fun to drive especially as new Corsa is much lighter
- Rear legroom is a tad cramped
- Diesel engine lacks firepower
- Some rivals have a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating
The Corsa seems to have been around since the invention of the wheel, but a lot has changed since the last generation model was launched. Vauxhall is now under the French ownership of Groupe PSA for starters and with the all-new fifth edition, there are real similarities with the latest Peugeot 208 model.
The Corsa, which was originally sold as the Vauxhall Nova in the UK until 1993, is a sharply-styled five-door hatchback that is available with a choice of petrol or diesel engines, along with four generously-equipped core trim levels that can then be specced up to the nines. There is the SE which is the standard entry-level model, but still has lots of kit. Next is the SRi grade which is the sportier variant. There is an Elite version which offers elegance and comfort, plus an Ultimate Nav which is the range-topper.
With the choice of a five or six-speed manual gearbox, along with an all-new eight-speed automatic transmission, the total number of cars in the Corsa line-up is 27. This will increase further early next year when an all-electric version joins the range.
On the Road
The Corsa engine line-up comprises 1.2-litre petrol units with power outputs of 75PS or 100PS, along with a 1.5-litre 102PS diesel model.
We tested the 1.2 Turbo Corsa in SRi Nav trim with 100PS and 205Nm of torque matched to a six-speed manual gearbox. This car, with its punchy three-pot engine, can sprint from 0-62mph in 9.3 seconds and maxes out at 121mph.
But it’s the manner in which it performs that really impresses. The engine has all the power you need for quick bursts of acceleration and the gearbox is nicely responsive too. The flat-bottomed steering delivers ample feedback which makes this a great car to power through country lanes. The road-holding is sure-footed and there is no sign of body roll at all. And SRi models have a Sport button which adds a little edge by sharpening up reactions.
We also took a shorter spin out in the 1.5-litre diesel Corsa with 102PS and mated to the six-speed manual gearbox. It soon became apparent that this model lacked any real firepower and the gears have to be worked really hard to keep the momentum going, especially up-hill.
However, the diesel version, which is expected to account for about 10 per cent of sales, will appeal to fleet markets thanks to its sub-100g/km carbon emissions figure.
Finally, a test of the new eight-speed gearbox paired to the 1.2-litre 100PS petrol engine. This new transmission is super-slick and is perfectly timed. There are steering wheel-mounted paddles along with Eco, Normal and Sport modes that alter the way the car reacts.
Although Vauxhall believes that only 10 per cent of buyers will opt for the auto gearbox, it’s certainly worth checking out.
The new Corsa has shed some weight and that results in far better handling. The seats are lighter, the engines are all-aluminium and there is an aluminium bonnet. In total, the car is 108kg or 10 per cent lighter than the outgoing model.
Dimension-wise new Corsa is 48mm lower, the wheelbase has increased by 28mm, the overall length has stretched by 39mm and the front overhang is increased by 50mm. It has a more streamlined body and that results in improved handling out on the road.
This new-look model is also one of the most aerodynamic cars in its class and that results in better performance, handling and efficiency.
On country lanes with lots of sharp bends, the Corsa was very well balanced and sure-footed. It was also quite mature on the larger dual carriageways where it accelerated smoothly to 70mph and maintained that speed with ease.
The chassis has been fine-tuned to be agile in all conditions, with excellent body control as well as controlled lane changing and braking at higher speeds.
And with its compact dimensions - measuring 4.04 metres in length - the car is nimble and easy to manoeuvre in busy town centres where it can weave through the busy traffic without a care in the world.
The new Corsa certainly looks more dynamically styled than the outgoing model. It boasts sleek lines with sweeping light clusters, tinted rear windows, a black roof and A pillars, high gloss black B pillars and roof spoiler, sports front and rear body styling, chrome-effect exhaust pipes and 16-inch silver Hurricane 4-twin-spoke alloy wheels.
One area that always seemed to let the Corsa down was the interior, which looked dated, jaded and fairly drab. But with the influence of PSA, new Corsa has been brought bang up to date.
Our SRi Nav model was packed with top-notch kit and boasted a striking appearance thanks to fabric sports seats with neat red and white stripes, red and white fascia accents on the dashboard, some neat red stitching and chrome-effect interior door handles. The flat-bottomed steering wheel is leather-trimmed and there are sports pedals to complete the look.
Our car was sitting on 16-inch wheels which perfectly suited the model. There was no sign of body roll or movement into bends and the ride felt nicely cushioned without being too soft or wallowy.
The highly efficient suspension set-up does a worthy job of smoothing out bumps and dips in the road, and the cabin is well insulated against road surface, wind or engine noise. The 1.2-litre petrol engine does sound quite raspy when pushed hard, but that actually adds to its appeal.
In the car
Getting comfortable inside the new Corsa is simple with ample manual seat and steering wheel adjustment. And the cabin is very driver-focused with the main touchscreen angled slightly for ease of use. The car also boasts plenty of kit as standard with a 7-inch touchscreen, navigation system, Apple CarPlay or Android Auto for smartphone connection, Bluetooth, a six-speaker sound system and plenty more besides.
The on-board infotainment set-up is easy to operate on the fly, but I particularly like the way the climate control functions are still controlled via separate dials and buttons.
Driving at night is made simpler thanks to the excellent lighting systems on new Corsa. The high-end Ultimate models also gain Intellilux LED Matrix Headlights that automatically switch to high beam outside urban areas. Cleverly controlled by a high-resolution camera, the light beam continuously adapts to the surroundings and traffic to ensure the maximum light output without dazzling other drivers. Any cars in front of the Corsa are simply cut out of the light pattern so preventing any glare.
New Corsa’s boot capacity has grown by 24 litres to 309 litres. Drop the 60:40 split-folding rear seats and that limit increases to 1,081 litres. There are also lots of handy storage spaces scattered throughout the car, including a fairly small glovebox, three cup-holders (one that is quite shallow), a deep tray in front of the gearstick, plus deep door bins with space for a water bottle.
Being a supermini, the legroom in the back of the Corsa is never going to be that generous, especially if the front seats are pushed back. But in fairness, there is room for a couple of youngsters to sit comfortably for a while or adults on a somewhat shorter journey.
One real plus point is parking as the car can squeeze into the tightest spaces and the all-round visibility is also good, apart from over the shoulder where the wide B pillars do get in the way at times.
The latest Corsa line-up starts from £15,500 for the entry-level 1.2-litre 75PS petrol model in SE trim with a five-speed manual gearbox. The range-topper, priced at £25,990, is the 1.2 100PS petrol car in Ultimate grade with an eight-speed automatic transmission. There is a 27-model line-up at launch so there should be a car to suit all budgets and requirements somewhere in the mix. And there will be four new additions when the all-electric Corsas are introduced next March.
Our 1.2-litre 100PS test car in SRi Nav specification was priced at £19,200 although the stunning Hot Red two-coat premium paint job and a 15-inch steel spare wheel saw the final cost rise to £19,850.
According to official figures, this petrol-driven car could deliver a combined fuel economy of 47.9-52.3mpg with carbon emissions of 96g/km. This CO2 figure would result in a first-year Vehicle Excise Duty charge of £130 and then it would increase to the standard fee of £145 after 12 months.
The insurance group rating for the test car is 17.
The interior of the latest Corsa has been brought bang up to date with modern switchgear along with quality infotainment systems and upholstery. Admittedly, it’s not as good as a VW but few cars are.
When it comes to reliability, the new Corsa has undergone rigorous testing. Engineers used the long polar winters in Swedish Lapland for testing on frozen lakes and snow-covered roads. Working in temperatures as low as minus 30 degrees Celsius, experts from the chassis control department used these harsh extremes to get the tuning just rights for balanced handling and comfort as well as refining the stability, traction control and anti-lock brake systems.
In addition, pre-production models have been clocking up the laps at the test centre for handling and tuning. And the car has also undergone extensive electrical testing in the lab. So there has been no lack of preparation work but only time will tell how reliable this latest Corsa really is.
The car comes with a standard three-year, 60,000-mile warranty which is not a patch on the likes of Toyota’s five-year deals or Kia’s outstanding seven-year fully transferable warranty. Sadly, in 2015 Vauxhall ditched its lifetime warranty scheme in favour of a more traditional plan.
When tested for its Euro NCAP safety rating, the Vauxhall Corsa secured a four-star score.
The new Corsa boasts a number of advanced driver assistance systems with even the entry-level SE and the SRi versions featuring the likes of lane departure warning with lane assist, speed sign recognition, hill start assist, driver fatigue warning and automatic emergency city braking.
Step up to Elite Nav and you will see the introduction of side blind-spot alert, front and rear parking sensors and a panoramic rearview camera. The Flank Guard is a premiere for the Corsa on Elite Nav grades and above. Thanks to 12 sensors, this system warns the driver if the side of the car is about to hit something at speeds up to 6mph. Another Corsa premiere is the Lane Keep Assist which applies gradual steering and a gentle nudge if the car moves from its lane.
But it’s the range-topping Ultimate Nav grade that is fully loaded with safety kit, including Intellilux LED Matrix headlights and adaptive cruise control.
The popular OnStar system that connected you with a real person in Luton to ask for guidance and all manner of tips has been replaced by Vauxhall Connect. At the touch of a button you are connected with a trained advisor in the event of an accident - any impact detection also activates the e-Call system. This system can be enhanced further through the MyVauxhall app for functions such as locking or unlocking the car, live navigation and charging facilities for electric vehicles.