Vauxhall Corsa-e review
Vauxhall’s electric supermini has brisk performance and offers plenty of equipment, but some rivals are better value for money
The Corsa-e is a good first attempt at an electric supermini, and offers similar performance and capabilities to the Peugeot e-208 with which it shares a platform. Buyers may also appreciate how “normal” it feels - hop inside and there’s little to put off people who may be nervous about driving an electric vehicle. Unfortunately though, it’s let down by a high price, despite low running costs, meaning some rivals, including its Peugeot equivalent, offer better value for money.
About the Vauxhall Corsa-e
It’s all change for this generation of Vauxhall Corsa. Not only does Vauxhall’s mainstream supermini now share a platform with Peugeot’s 208, but like the French car it also receives a full electric variant for the first time in the shape of the Corsa-e. It’s not just a necessary step that should help Vauxhall compete in a class with ever more entrants, but also continues a commitment to plug-in cars that started with the Vauxhall Ampera back in 2011.
And Vauxhall has done a good job, if not quite a perfect one. There’s nothing here that should scare off buyers new to electric power, with the Corsa-e looking largely identical to combustion models inside and out, and with a WLTP range of over 200 miles thanks to a 50kWh battery pack, it’s not hobbled by an anxiety-inducing range either. It’s quick, drives fairly well (even if it’s not particularly exciting or involving), has good charging technology and packs plenty of equipment too.
Where it’s let down, particularly in comparison to its Peugeot equivalent, is cost. It doesn’t quite feel like the quality product the e-208 does, isn’t as interesting to behold inside or out, and crucially is more expensive to buy despite offering the same capabilities. There aren’t many areas the Corsa-e puts a foot wrong, but it lacks that value proposition that could make all the difference in an increasingly competitive market.
Engines, performance and drive
Electric vehicles tend to feel more performative than you’d infer from their bare power figures and that’s the case with the Corsa-e too. The car starts in its Normal mode, with 108bhp on tap, but toggle the selector switch into Sport and you get the car’s full 134bhp capability, making the Corsa-e feel really quite brisk. Conversely, switch to Eco and you’re restricted to 81bhp and have a much softer response to pedal inputs - while each setting naturally varies the range you can expect.
Like many EVs though most of the Corsa-e’s enjoyment comes from straight lines rather than corners. With heavy batteries to lug around it’s not as agile as the standard car, and even petrol-powered Corsas can’t match some of their rivals in terms of cornering grins. A low centre of gravity helps, and keeps roll to a minimum, but numb steering detracts from the fun factor. The brakes, whether regenerating or responding to the pedal, work well though.
Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed
The Corsa-e’s sole drivetrain is an electric motor capable of producing 134bhp and 260Nm of torque, and does so through a single-speed fixed-ratio gearbox which sends drive to the front wheels. Unsurprisingly it’s the same unit you’ll find in the mechanically identical Peugeot e-208, and thanks to the characteristics of an electric motor it delivers performance that’s perhaps more brisk than you’d expect given the power output - 0-60mph takes only 7.6 seconds, which would have been hot hatchback pace not so long ago. The 93mph top speed isn’t quite on the same level, but shouldn’t be a barrier to most drivers.
Range, charging and running costs
This is where you’d hope the Corsa-e scores well, and in many respects it does. A chunky 50kWh battery pack really isn’t bad in a car of this size - that’s half what you’d find in a much larger Tesla Model S P100D, for instance, and around 15kWh more than a Honda e. It results in an official WLTP range of 209 miles, which should be more than enough for the use profile of most supermini buyers.
The charging tech makes things even easier, with up to 100kW charging available at CCS charge points, good for empty to 80 per cent in around 30 minutes. As far as home charging goes you’re capped to 7.4kW (though Vauxhall will throw in a free Pod Point wall box), so expect a full charge in around 7.5 hours overnight.
Of course, VED and BIK are other major cost-savers here. You’ll pay nothing in VED either in the first year or subsequent years, while the Corsa-e also falls into the bottom 1% BIK band from April 2021 onwards.
Elite Nav-trimmed Corsa-e models fall into group 25E for insurance, with all other Corsa-es coming in at group 24E.
You should achieve a reasonably decent figure come resale time, with our data indicating that the Corsa-e will retain around 44-45% of its value after three years and 36,000 miles of ownership.
Interior, design and technology
Both inside and out the latest Corsa, and by extension the Corsa-e, are a huge improvement over the previous generation model. Longer, wider and lower than before, it cuts a sportier profile on the road and the Corsa-e has a handsome and grown-up appearance. Visually there’s almost nothing at all to differentiate the electric version from its combustion counterparts - ideal for those not keen on standing out too much.
It’s the same inside, with a straightforward layout that gives you little clue as to the car’s powertrain - the drive selector lever is the same as that used in automatic versions of the regular Corsa, and only the digital information display ahead of the driver differentiates it when compared to the conventional dials in other Corsas. It’s just a shame there’s not a little more flair to the cabin design - something the Peugeot e-208, whose platform the Corsa shares, has in spades.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
As you’d hope from a forward-looking vehicle, the Corsa-e comes with plenty of tech, particularly in the higher Elite Nav trim line, with its 10-inch touchscreen display in the centre of the dash - a 7-inch unit is standard in other trim lines. All Corsa-e models come with navigation and all have Vauxhall Connect, a button in the cabin to put you in touch with a trained advisor in case of a breakdown or emergency.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
Sharing its underpinnings with the Peugeot e-208, it’s little surprise to find the Corsa-e is similarly practical. As the model was designed to be offered with an electric variant from the outset there’s no penalty in terms of space, whether in the cabin or in the boot, compared to Corsas powered by combustion engines, and while not the most spacious car in its class, being larger than the old Corsa makes the latest variant more pleasant for passengers to travel in.
Comfort levels are good too, with plenty of seat and wheel adjustment and well-shaped seats. The cabin design might not match the e-208 sister car for flair but there are still places to stash everyday items like phones and keys, and the door bins are big enough for bottles.
The Corsa-e shares its dimensions with the regular combustion-powered Corsa range, which means it’s a more generously-sized car than the previous generation of the model. It’s 4,060mm long, 1,765mm wide and 1,433mm tall - and only that last figure is smaller than before, which helps give the Corsa-e its sportier stance. Wheelbase has also grown by 28mm to 2,538mm, to the benefit of interior space.
For some comparison, that makes the Corsa-e a longer, wider and lower car than the Honda e, but the two cars have an almost identical wheelbase. A Renault Zoe meanwhile is longer at 4,084mm, once again narrower and taller, but has a 50mm longer wheelbase than the Corsa-e.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
Cabin space is usefully unchanged from the regular Corsa despite the need to stash batteries within the same footprint. That’s doubly useful as the Corsa is already a spacious supermini, particularly in the front row, though taller rear seat passengers might find themselves a little more cramped.
Boot space is another factor unchanged despite the batteries lurking underneath - evidence that this platform was designed to incorporate an electric drivetrain from the outset. That means 309 litres of volume with the rear seats in place and up to 1118 litres with them folded forwards.
Reliability and safety
The Corsa-e is too new to have featured in our Driver Power survey thus far, and while historically Corsas have rarely finished too high up the table, the new car’s PSA platform, shared with the Peugeot e-208, means it’s likely to achieve very different results from its predecessors anyway. The previous 208 was ranked 45th out of 75, but more promising is that the more recent Peugeot 3008 shows the French brand making significant improvements, as it finished second overall in 2020. Electric vehicles seem to do well too, so the Corsa-e may be off to a good start.
There are plenty of standard safety features too, from driver, passenger, side and curtain airbags, to preventative systems like automatic emergency braking, brake assist, forward collision alert and speed sign recognition. The non-electric Corsa did miss out on a five-star rating from EuroNCAP when tested in 2009 though, achieving four stars. Adult occupant was rated at 84%, child at 86%, vulnerable road users at 66% and safety assist at 69%.
Vauxhall’s standard warranty covers a period of three years from date of first registration, with unlimited mileage in the first year and 60,000 miles per year thereafter, for repair or replacement of non wear-and-tear parts. Additionally, the Corsa-e comes with an eight-year or 100,000-mile battery warranty - or a drop below 70% of the original battery capacity.
Vauxhall quotes an initial service inspection interval of 8,000 miles or one year. After that, intervals extend to 16,000 miles or two years, whichever is sooner - so you’ll very rarely have to take your Corsa-e in for servicing compared to its combustion equivalents, where petrol models are 12,500 miles or one year, and diesels 20,000 miles or one year.