Vauxhall Corsa review
The Vauxhall Corsa looks the part, but falls behind rivals like the Ford Fiesta for dynamics and efficiency
The Vauxhall Corsa turned the supermini sector on its head when it was launched back in 2006 – it even scooped a category win in the Auto Express Car of the Year awards. Since then, rivals like the Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Polo and the Kia Rio have upped their game, and the Corsa has been left trailing. It still offers an eye-catching design, a decent interior and plenty of big-car features, though, while a recent facelift and a sporty special-edition model have boosted its appeal. However, it’s still let down by its line-up of gruff engines and uninspiring driving experience, which means both three and five-door versions of the Vauxhall struggle to make an impact. That said, although the Corsa has a high list price, you should be able to get a decent discount at a Vauxhall dealer. The Corsa VXR hatchback is powered by a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine, which produces a mighty 192bhp and propels it from 0-62mph in just 7.2 seconds. It’s very fast and fun to drive, but doesn't offer the handling prowess of rivals like the Ford Fiesta ST and Clio Renaultsport. An all-new Corsa has already been seen testing and should arrive towards the start of 2014, with a new design inspired by the Adam city car, as well as more efficient engines, better quality and more space.
Our choice: Corsa SRi 1.7CDTi (130PS) ecoFLEX (a/c)
The Vauxhall Corsa looks surprisingly modern despite its age, with bold, swept back headlamps, a rakish nose and neat detailing. The three-door model looks best, thanks to a low slung roofline and steeply raked tailgate, while the five-door model is squarer. However, neither bodystyle matches the head-turning charm of the Ford Fiesta. There’s a whole host of trim levels to choose from, including S, SE, SXi and Sri. Entry-level S and Exlcusiv models do without air-con, but Energy trim adds 16-inch alloys, front fog lights, steering0wheel mounted controls, heated door mirrors and Bluetooth. SE cars come with big-car features like a heated steering wheel, heated seats and cruise control, as well as automatic lights and wipers. A limited Black Edition was introduced at the end of 2012 and comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, a black grille bar, dark headlights, tinted windows, sports seats and a bodykit. There’s also a VXR version for hot hatch fans. The interior is well laid out, with decent quality materials, but the design and feel lags behind newer rivals.
This is where the Corsa disappoints most. Lifeless steering, wooden responses and average front-end grip mean it’s a generation behind rivals like the Ford Fiesta and the Suzuki Swift. Go for the SXi or SRi, and the lacklustre driving dynamics are further hampered by a ride that’s neither firm enough to be sporty nor supple enough to be comfortable. To make matters worse, the engine line-up is packed full of gruff units. The petrol options – a 64bhp 1.0-litre three-cylinder, 84bhp 1.2-litre and 98bhp 1.4-litre – lack straightline pace, while the 1.3-litre CDTi diesel is gutless and loud. The pick of the range is the smooth and flexible 128bhp 1.7-litre CDTi, although it's a shame it’s only available in the SRi. The Vauxhall’s strengths are a comfortable driving position, light controls and compact dimensions, which ensure it’s a stress-free urban runabout.
The third-generation Corsa finished a disappointing 69th in the 2012 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, with an overall score of 83.50 per cent. Owners say it has many problems, but the biggest gripe seems to be with its lack of performance. It came 93rd in that category, while its other ratings are all fairly average, with the high point being 43rd in the running costs ranking. However, Vauxhall finished 13th as a brand – just ahead of more expensive rivals BMW and Audi – which bodes well for the future. Plus, as the Corsa has sold in such big numbers, most of the glitches and bugs have now been ironed out. What’s more, the first owner of the car benefits from a unique warranty that lasts the lifetime of the car, or up to 100,000 miles. Although the Corsa is getting on now, it does have a five-star Euro NCAP crash test result. Exclusiv models and above get six airbags as standard, while curtain and side bags are available as an option on entry-level Expression and S trims. It is disappointing, though, that electronic stability control is only available as an expensive option on all versions – it’s standard on the Ford Fiesta and VW Polo.
This is where the Vauxhall shines. Opening the tailgate reveals a usefully low loading lip and a competitive 285 litres of boot space. Fold the rear bench flat and the capacity increases to 1,100 litres (or 1,050 in the three-door model). A false boot floor provides extra flexibility, so it’s a shame it’s only available as an option on higher specification versions. As is the clever bicycle rack, that slides out from behind the rear number plate at the touch of a button. There is a decent amount of head and legroom for rear seat passengers, though, and the cabin is packed with useful storage.
Superminis should be cheap to run – and, on the whole, the Corsa doesn’t disappoint. The most efficient version is the three-door 1.3 CDTi ecoFLEX, which was updated at the end of 2012 and now achieves 85.6mpg while emitting 88g/km, making it 2.4mpg more efficient and 6g/km cleaner than the previous model. The five-door version is said to return 83.1mpg and 89g/km. These are impressive figures, but are still beaten by the Ford Fiesta Econetic and Hyundai i20 Blue, which manage to emit just 87g/km and 84g/km respectively. Elsewhere in the range, even the least efficient model - the 1.4-litre petrol - is good for 50mpg and emissions of less than 130g/km. However, the one exception is the VXR model, which returns 38.7mpg and emits172g/km of CO2. Long 20,000-mile service intervals keep dealer visits to a minimum, and Vauxhall service costs are reasonable. Sadly, Vauxhall charges a high price for the Corsa. The entry-level Expression is sparsely equipped, and while the range-toppers are groaning with equipment, they are pricey. Depreciation is also a killer. The desirable Polo offers far better resale values, but it can’t even match mainstream rivals like the Ford Fiesta.