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 hot hatch market is booming at the moment and the Vauxhall Corsa VXR is one of it's best known protagonists. That said, Vauxhall's fire-breathing supermini is also getting on in years and has a tougher task than ever in the face of fierce competition from advanced new rivals. Installed alongside the Corsa VXR on buyers' shortlists will be the likes of the Ford Fiesta ST, Peugeot 208 GTI, Renault Clio Renaultsport 200 Turbo and MINI Cooper S.
Vauxhall Corsa VXR might be one of the most elderly options out there for hot hatch fans to blow their car budgets on but Vauxhall hasn't let its pocket rocket go stale over the years. Tweaks to the design and specification of the VXR have kept it in touch with the competition while special edition VXR Nurburgring and VXR ClubSport models have raised the performance stakes.
The Corsa can't quite match the immediate responses of the Fiesta ST or Clio Renaultsport but it offers a pleasing mix of comfort, pace and aggressive looks. Those wanting a low-key hot hatch won't find one carrying the VXR badge but there are areas where the Corsa is slipping behind the times.
Our choice: Corsa VXR
The Vauxhall Corsa VXR takes the usual hot hatch styling accoutrements and goes to town. Aggressive bumpers, flared wheel-arches and a sizeable rear wing all serve to mark this car out as 'not your ordinary Vauxhall Corsa'. There's some nice detailing dotted around the exterior too, such as the rear diffuser and triangular exhaust finisher. Larger 18-inch alloy wheels are also available as an extra to make the car look even more aggressive – although they do hurt ride comfort.
Inside, a good level of attention to detail is also in evidence. Smartly trimmed bucket seats are just one element of what is a well finished cabin liberally sprinkled, with VXR badges and upmarket piano-black trim. The optional leather upholstery adds further to the ambience inside the Corsa VXR but inevitably, the car is showing its age in places. The button strewn centre console and low rent switches are way behind the cleaner design and touchscreen technology employed by rivals like the Peugeot 208 GTI and Renault Clio Renaultsport.
The Corsa VXR is an enjoyable car to drive. Its 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine produces 192bhp, and it's guaranteed to put a smile on your face as you accelerate from 0-62mph in just 7.2 seconds. Back when the Corsa VXR was first launched that kind of performance was enough to launch it to the top of the class but the game has moved on and rivals now offer pace that's on a par with or swifter than the Vauxhall. To redress the balance Vauxhall introduced the ClubSport special edition version which ups power to 202bhp and lowers the 0-62mph time to 6.5s.
Straight-line performance is not its only forte, however. The Corsa VXR is also an accomplished back-road blaster, with good feedback through the weighty steering and tight body control. It's good but ultimately it lacks that last bit of finesse that sets the Ford Fiesta ST and Renaultsport Clio apart.
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, thanks partly to the bulky front seats.
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.
Another key area where the Corsa VXR is found out is in the running costs department. While most modern hot hatches manage to emit less than 150g/km of CO2, the Corsa returns a less impressive 172g/km and 38.7mpg. Group 32 insurance will also be quite dear and the car won't hold its value as well as the likes of the MINI Cooper S in the long run.