Vauxhall Corsa VXR review
The Vauxhall Corsa VXR is an entertaining and impressive little pocket rocket, but it falls short of the class leaders
The new Vauxhall Corsa arrived on our roads in late 2014, but it was another few months before we tried the fire-breathing VXR version. Now in its second generation, the 2015 Vauxhall Corsa VXR is a 202bhp hot hatch designed to rival cars like the Ford Fiesta ST, Peugeot 208 GTi and Renaultsport Clio RS.
Based on the ever-popular Vauxhall Corsa supermini, the VXR engineers have added a turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol engine, uprated suspension, and a beefed-up body kit to make this model stand out from the crowd. Inside all cars get the intuitive Intellilink touchscreen infotainment system, a pair of body-hugging bucket seats and a flat bottomed leather steering wheel.
While prices start a smidge above the Fiesta ST, Vauxhall says it undercuts the Ford spec for spec by several hundred pounds – and with it being a Vauxhall, potential customers should be able to negotiate somewhat on the price.
Rather than a car designed to get people from A to B, the VXR is a souped-up small car, capable of 0-62mph in 6.5 seconds, and a top speed of 143mph. That means – on paper at least – it has its rivals beaten hands down.
Running costs are another matter, however. Managing just 37.7mpg on the combined cycle, the Corsa VXR falls some 10mpg short of the Fiesta’s quoted 47.9mpg. It’ll cost you more to tax, too, thanks to higher CO2 emissions.
However, that’s not what a hot hatch is about. The Corsa VXR offers all the same practicality boons as its lesser-powered stablemates, and if you stick to the smaller 17-inch alloy wheels, should be genuinely usable every day.
Our choice: Vauxhall Corsa VXR Performance Pack
Unlike a number of modern day hot hatches, it’d be hard to mistake the Corsa VXR for one of its lesser-powered siblings. For a start, all cars get xenon headamps and LED DRLs, while the unmissable bodykit, flared arches and pumped up sills all conform to the trademark VXR look. There’s also a twin-pipe exhaust system, roof spoiler and 17-inch alloy wheels – though for an extra £500, you can specify the optional 18s to give the VXR added boy racer appeal.
Inside, all VXRs get racier dials, aluminium pedals and a flat bottomed leather steering wheel. Also included are a set of half-leather bucket seats, which can be upgraded to full-leather if you delve into the options list.
The cabin does look great though, especially with the standard-fit Intellilink infotainment system. It’s better built than before, with plenty of soft touch materials and expensive-looking plastics.
Vauxhall has worked hard on the new Corsa VXR – clearly aware that competition is now hotter than ever. It gets the same 202bhp 1.6-litre turbocharged engine from the last-generation Corsa VXR Clubsport edition, meaning 0-62mph is covered in just 6.5 seconds. That’s almost half a second faster than the Ford Fiesta ST, and 0.2 seconds quicker than the automatic-only Clio RS. Top speed for the Corsa is 143mph.
It’s sharp to drive too, with plenty of grip from the sticky low profile tyres. We’ve only driven it on the larger 18-inch wheels – which make for quite a harsh and unforgiving ride – but the standard-fit 17s are likely to be easier to live with day to day.
Buyers can also spec a £2,400 Performance Pack – and Vauxhall reckons as many as 40 to 50 per cent of cars will leave the factory with this box ticked. It adds a Drexler limited slip differential, Brembo brakes, a retuned suspension setup and those bigger alloy wheels.
In our opinion it transforms the way the hot hatch drives, making it even easier to drive quickly – and thanks to the brilliantly sticky diff, the Corsa VXR can pull you out of corners at alarming speeds. The brakes have a more progressive, linear feel, too, giving more confidence on a spirited cross-country dash.
Like many fast hatchbacks, the Corsa VXR is based on a £10,000 supermini. While this means it is as easy to drive around town as the standard car, the bigger wheels and firmer suspension do make it crash and bump over ruts in the road. It certainly isn’t the most comfortable car in its class – despite the body-hugging Recaro sports seats. If a forgiving ride is key, try the Peugeot 208 GTI.
The beauty of a hot hatch is that it carries over all the tried and tested parts from other proven models in the maker’s range. The Vauxhall Corsa VXR is no different, and should hold up well to daily use.
It gets the same IntelliLink touchscreen as the Adam, Insignia and Ampera, and all the best bits of trim have been transferred from the entry-level car. The previous Corsa only managed a disappointing 175th place in our 2015 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, but Vauxhall will be hoping the new car's extra features will improve its rating in this latest model.
The last Corsa achieved a four-star Euro NCAP rating, and the VXR should fare just as well in the unfortunate event of an accident.
Another benefit of the hot hatch over conventional sports cars is that you benefit from the same back seats and bigger boot. The VXR hasn’t changed shape or size in any way, so there’s an identical 285-litre boot and spacious rear bench.
It’s only available as a three-door, though, so those looking for easier rear seat access need to look at the VW Polo GTI or Renault Clio RS.
Unfortunately, in some areas where the standard Corsa excels, the VXR falls down. Running costs is probably the VXR’s biggest chink in an otherwise impressive amour – managing just 37.7mpg on the combined cycle. While that may not sound too bad, after 150 fast miles around Scotland, our trip computer was reading closer to 24mpg, which simply isn’t good enough in this class.
After spending six months in a Fiesta ST, we were averaging more than 30mpg. That may be someway short of the manufacturer’s official claims, but it’s considerably better than what we saw form the Corsa. The VXR will cost more to tax, too, given the relatively high 174g/km CO2 emissions. That puts it in VED band H, for annual road tax of £205.
However, servicing and parts shouldn’t be too expensive, and being a Vauxhall, there are plenty of dealers dotted around the country should anything go wrong.