By Wayne Gorrett
A new Vauxhall Corsa is always big news and this fifth-generation of the popular supermini doesn’t disappoint. There’s a huge range of engines and trims levels across two body styles, it’s a lot smarter inside and it costs less too.
Since its launch in 1982, the Corsa has been a core model for Vauxhall UK and this all-new fifth generation of the popular supermini is one of the most significant cars the brand has launched in recent years.
Armed with a raft of updates including more kit, better engines and sharper looks, the best news for the new Corsa includes the addition of an all-new 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine. It’s available with either 89bhp or 113bhp, with the more potent version being the quickest Corsa currently available.
For hot hatch devotees, a racy VXR model will make its debut at the Geneva Motor Show next month.
At a glance, you could easily mistake the new Corsa for its predecessor, because it has the same door pillars and glass area as before. It remains as practical as ever due to the overall shape being left untouched. The A, B and C pillars are identical to the previous model, which doesn’t make the Corsa look dramatically different in terms of style but it does mean it’s as spacious as ever, with enough room for three passengers in the rear.
The German-built three-door and Spanish-built five-door have quite separate appearances and characters. The three-door is the more stylish choice for younger buyers while the refined five-door is a more grown-up, practical choice for the small family, offering much easier rear-seat passenger access.
Vauxhall has invested in a comprehensive reskin of the new Corsa, with updated bodywork, new lights and a snout inspired by the bullish Vauxhall Adam. The front end is aggressively lower with a low-set grille and LED running lights very similar to the Adam. At the rear, the lights extend over the tailgate, while new wheel designs add a quality finishing touch.
➤ The interior
Inside, the differences between old and new are more tangible. The dashboard gains the touchscreen from the Adam, which groups all cabin functions together. It sensibly excludes the climate controls which remain simple and intuitive manually-adjustable knobs, while the plastic trim across the dash adds a bit of style.
Higher-spec cars get extra silver trim, and a grey-metallic painted finish for the dash that complements the gloss-black trim found elsewhere. Overall, the cabin looks neat, it’s as well built as ever and the plastics are of a more decent quality than the previous Corsa.
➤ Model grades and equipment
There are no less than nine trim grades in the new Corsa range: Life, Sting, Sting R, Excite, Design, SRi, SRi VX-Line, and SE. There is also a Limited Edition at launch.
The new Corsa is very well equipped even from the ‘poverty-spec’ Life model, which offers as standard: Heated windscreen, tyre pressure monitoring system, ESP, ABS, hill start assist, six airbags, dual-adjustable steering wheel, electrical door mirrors, remote central locking and electric front windows.
➤ The Performance
At the UK media launch back in October, I drove the 113bhp 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo, which is currently the most powerful Corsa you can buy and completely changes the character of a car, which doesn’t look all that different on the surface.
It takes 10.3 seconds to get from 0-62mph, which is a little slower than the Fiesta 1.0-litre EcoBoost, but it is more refined than Ford’s offering. Around town or at higher speeds, there’s very little noise from the engine in the cabin and even from low revs it pulls surprisingly strongly.
Undoubtedly, the three-pot 1.0-litre is miles better than the less-refined turbocharged 1.4-litre engine, with which I recently spent a week. It only has 98bhp and didn’t feel remotely close to its claimed 200Nm of torque. Don’t get me wrong, the 1.4T is very good indeed, it’s just that the little 1.0-litre three-pot is better in all respects.
➤ On the Road
A significant proportion of the Corsa’s running gear has been re-engineered for the benefit of driver engagement – and it clearly shows. The core platform from the outgoing Corsa has been retained but now carries an entirely new suspension setup which improves the ride considerably and gives better body control. The new arrangement soaks up the bumps and is certainly less harsh than a Ford Fiesta’s.
Vauxhall UK has also given UK cars a unique steering set-up. This means that while it may feel a little vague to the dead-ahead on the motorway, it makes up for it with sporty, feel-good responses on twisty A and B roads. Turn-in is quick and there’s plenty of grip.
There’s still some body roll of course, but the Corsa feels stable and far more planted than before. Around town, the City steering mode makes the wheel extremely light for parking, and it disengages at speeds above 30mph to deliver a more natural feel.
Here, the news gets even better…with this fifth-generation Corsa, Vauxhall has decided to slash prices across the range which starts at only £8,995, undercutting Ford’s Fiesta by around £1,000. Retail list prices across the Corsa lineup have been reduced by up to £3,000 over the outgoing model. The three-door is priced from £8,995 to £15,380, while the five-door starts at £9,595 and peaks at £15,980.
The all-new Vauxhall Corsa is spacious, (now more) honestly priced and generously equipped as standard, with the interior quality significantly improved. There’s a practical range of engines, including my favourite – an efficient, well-refined 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol unit. Choose carefully from the wide model range and engine line-up and you’ll drive home a truly excellent small car.
It’s a whisker short of being ‘best-in-class’, but as an affordable buy and with optional five-door practicality on its side, the all-new Corsa earns its place on any shortlist of three.