What Car? says...
If you haven’t owned a Vauxhall Corsa, you’ve almost certainly have been a passenger in one. At the very least, you'll have spotted one on the road, perhaps covered in L plates with an enthusiastic youngster at the wheel. Why? Because Vauxhall sells bucket loads of them, and to every age range.
Yes, the Corsa’s mix of keen pricing and cheap insurance has made it a hit with young and old drivers alike, ever since it first went on sale in 1993. It's always near the top of the new car sales charts in the UK, and used examples have found their way onto countless more driveways. However, this fifth-generation Corsa is a bit different.
It’s the first Corsa to be developed since Vauxhall was acquired by the PSA Group (made up of Peugeot, Citroën and DS) and, as such, much of its design is shared with the latest Peugeot 208 and DS 3 Crossback.
As is the case with those models, petrol and diesel engines are offered, as well as a fully-electric version. This isn’t just a cut-and-paste job from within the PSA Group, though; while a big proportion of its underpinnings are shared, Vauxhall has specifically calibrated the steering and slightly altered the suspension to make the Corsa unique. And, dimensions aside, It bears virtually no visual resemblance to the 208, inside or out.
Such was the speed that Vauxhall moved between General Motors and PSA ownership, development of this latest Corsa was somewhat accelerated, progressing from a designer's mood board to customers’ driveways in just two-and-a-half years. That was “extremely challenging,” in Vauxhall’s words.
So, is Vauxhall Corsa a triumphant hit? Read on for our detailed review and, whether the Corsa or another car takes your fancy, visit our New Car Buying pages for the very best, hassle-free deals.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
Aside from the electric Corsa-E, there are three engines available: two petrols and one diesel. At the bottom of the line up is a naturally aspirated 74bhp 1.2-litre petrol engine (badged 1.2 75). We have yet to try, but the on-paper figures suggest it’ll be fairly sluggish. It comes with a five-speed manual gearbox.
We reckon the pick of the range is the 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol engine with 99bhp (badged 1.2 100). It offers nippy acceleration at low speeds and enough flexibility for motorway journeys, too. Although the Peugeot 208 offers an engine with even more power, this 1.2 100 is really all you need and easily a match for the 1.0 TSI 95 found in the Volkswagen Polo and Seat Ibiza. Just bear in mind that opting for the eight-speed automatic transmission, rather than the standard six-speed manual, makes it almost a second slower from 0-60mph.
The 1.5 102 Turbo D diesel engine, meanwhile, has 101bhp and is stronger than the 1.2 100 petrol from low revs. It provides more flexible in-gear performance, but doesn't have the same ultimate pace, so isn't as quick away from the traffic lights.
Suspension and ride comfort
The Corsa handles more abrupt bumps, such as potholes and drain covers, with reasonable ease, but tends to be disturbed by smaller road surface imperfections that the softer Peugeot 208 would glide over. This is made worse if you go for models fitted with bigger, 17in alloy wheels.
The Corsa's steering is extremely light, so twirling the wheel to manoeuvre into tiny parking spaces is no challenge at all. It's no revelation to drive on country roads, though.
On the plus side, it's stable and sure-footed with good grip. But, with more body lean than rivals like the Seat Ibiza, and steering that doesn’t weight up as reassuringly as the best-handling car in the class, the Ford Fiesta, the Corsa just isn't as much fun to hustle along. SRi trim gets a “sport” mode, which adds more weight to the steering, but it makes little difference to the car's actual sportiness.
Noise and vibration
There’s a fair bit of wind and road noise at motorway speeds, and the engines are a bit more vocal than in other small cars, but not unpleasantly so. If you go for the SRi trim and prod it into Sport mode, the exhaust note is artificially enhanced, but the result isn’t particularly convincing.
We're yet to try the five-speed manual gearbox in the 1.2 75. The six-speed 'box has a long throw but a relatively slick action, not unlike the 208's. It's not as mechanically delightful as the Fiesta's gearshift, though. The eight-speed automatic is a little jerky from a standstill, but shifts smoothly on the move. You can select three modes for the auto ‘box – Normal, Sport and Eco, that alter the characteristics of its changes. Sport mode holds onto gears for longer, for example; this works well when you want to build speed, but causes the engine to sound far more strained.
Another thing you’ll notice are the pedals' actions. The clutch is a little vague and the brake pedal is quite sensitive, which takes a bit of getting used to before you learn not to brake unintentionally hard.