Vauxhall Corsa VXR review
The Vauxhall Corsa VXR is an entertaining and impressive little pocket rocket, but it falls short of the class leaders
With so many tarted-up 'warm hatches' on the market these days, it's always nice when a manufacturer comes out with a full-fat, no-holds-barred hot hatch in the traditional sense. The Vauxhall Corsa VXR is just such a car, and it's a very capable performer. In addition, it's surprisingly comfortable when you're not attacking a back road and features a very high-quality interior. Yet while it's not short of power, the feisty Vauxhall doesn't quite match the handling prowess of rivals like the Mini Cooper S and Renaultsport Clio. Its in-your-face image may be a bit much for some buyers, too.
Our choice: Corsa VXR
Loud colours, aggressive bumpers, large alloy wheels: there's no doubt the Corsa VXR means business. Some will love its lairy, attention-grabbing looks, others may prefer something a bit more sublte and understated. It definitely achieves the desired effect, though, as well as featuring some nice detail touches like the triangular exhaust pipe and smooth-edged rear spoiler. Smartly trimmed bucket seats are just one element of what is a surprisingly well finished interior, with upmarket piano-black trim and optional leather upholstery. Larger 18-inch alloy wheels are also available as an extra to make the car look even more aggressive – although they will hurt ride comfort.
The Corsa VXR is a great car to drive. Its 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine produces a mighty 192bhp, and it's guarateed to put a smile on your face as you accelerate from 0-62mph in just 7.2 seconds. Straight-line performance is not its only forte, however: it's also an accomplished back-road blaster, with good feedback through the steering and excellent body control. It outshines larger VXR models such as the Insignia in this respect, yet lacks that last bit of finesse that sets the MINI Cooper S and Renaultsport Clio apart. But on the motorway, it's head and shoulders above those two for cruising refinement.
A recall was issued in 2011 to replace the brake bearings on all Corsas of this generation, but apart from that, the VXR should be generally reliable. Its turbocharged 1.6-litre engine is used with lesser power outputs in several other Vauxhall models, so it's well proven. On the safety front, Euro NCAP awarded the Corsa the maximum five stars out of five for crash safety, and it even features the same side airbags in its bucket seats that are used in Lamborghinis. Electronic stability and traction control are both standard equipment and the VXR also boasts powerful performance brakes.
Hot hatches are supposed to work well as everyday cars – it's all part of their appeal. But the Corsa VXR's three-door bodystyle counts against it in this regard. Front-seat occupants get plenty of room, while the rear cabin is cramped and difficult to access. The boot is disappointing, too, with a small opening that makes loading larger items a chore. Unlike regular Corsas, you don't get a spare wheel, either – just a puncture repair kit. Cabin storage is better, with a tray under the passenger seat and numerous other cubbies for keeping your odds and ends in.
The Vauxhall Corsa VXR is surprisingly cheap to run for such a high-performance car – you could see 36mpg fuel economy if you drive with a light right foot. Long 20,000-mile service intervals keep dealer visits to a minimum, and Vauxhall service costs aren't excessive. On the downside, Group 16 insurance will be quite dear. This car is also more expensive to buy than a MINI Cooper S and won't hold its value as well in the long run. CO2 emissions of 172g/km put it in road tax Band H.