Vauxhall Corsa 2007 review

Vauxhall's new Corsa SRi promises performance, sporty looks and an affordable price tag. But does it deliver on the road?

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.0 out of 5

On the face of it, the new Corsa SRi seems to cover all the hot hatch bases. It looks sporty, offers plenty of performance and has an affordable price tag. It backs this up with a great interior and impeccable build quality. However, out on the road the Vauxhall fails to deliver on its initial promise. The lead-footed chassis in particular means the newcomer just isn’t much fun. And that is surely what a hot hatch should be all about.

Things are warming up in Vauxhall showrooms! After an absence of two years, the sporty SRi badge is back on a Corsa. Slotting in below the flagship VXR, the model is aimed at buyers looking for performance on a budget.

With a price tag of £13,625, a 148bhp 1.6-litre turbocharged motor and stiffened suspension, it’s a tempting choice in the brochure. However, there’s stiff competition from a raft of talented warm hatches, including the Peugeot 207 GT and Ford Fiesta ST.

So is it a welcome return for the quick Corsa, or are you better off saving up the extra £2,000 for the more powerful 189bhp VXR?

Walk up to the SRi, and it looks really good. A neat bootlid-mounted spoiler, chunky side skirts and a deeper front bumper enhance the already sharp styling. An oval-shaped chrome tailpipe and 17-inch five-spoke alloy wheels add further visual drama.

The interior is equally striking. With lots of red trim, the SRi harks back to the Eighties heyday of the hot hatch. The steering wheel, seats, carpet mats and seatbelts all get flashes of colour. Combine this with the aluminium finish on the centre console, and you have a cabin that’s a pleasure to be in.

Elsewhere, the interior is standard Corsa. This means excellent build quality, soft-touch materials and lots of space – although rear occupants will struggle for headroom in the rakish three-door model.

To counter this, the company also offers a five-door version for a £650 premium. It’s not as attractive, but adds an element of practicality to the performance package.

Vauxhall’s engineers have tweaked the mechanicals to try to ensure the driving experience matches the looks. The 1.6-litre engine is a detuned version of the VXR’s unit, and provides strong performance.

Only 7.6 seconds are needed for the 0-60mph sprint, while the 210Nm torque output means the SRi can overtake comfortably. It also sounds good, taking on an edgy rasp the harder you press the throttle.

Those after better fuel economy can choose the 123bhp 1.7-litre CDTI diesel. Not only will it return 58mpg, but it has even more torque – 280Nm at 2,300rpm – so should deliver blistering mid-range acceleration.

To provide poise in the corners, the suspension has been lowered by 18mm at the front, and 15mm at the rear. The electrically assisted steering has also been reprogrammed, and is claimed to give greater weighting and more feedback. Sadly, the SRi fails to live up to its promise. Turn into a bend and you’ll discover an artificial feel to the steering and a chassis that’s too easily upset by mid-corner bumps and the torque of the turbo powerplant.

The stiff suspension set-up also means that the Corsa crashes and thumps over even the smoothest surfaces, making motorway journeys a pain. A springy action to the six-speed gearbox and a jerky throttle compound the dynamic deficiencies.

This is a shame, as in terms of outright performance, the SRi has its rivals well and truly beaten. It looks good both inside and out, and the standard equipment on offer is generous, stretching to electronic stability control and air-conditioning.

What’s more, the option of choosing a five-door bodyshell and diesel power gives it an edge over most of its rivals. However, in this three-door petrol-powered guise, it doesn’t have the fluidity of the 207 GT or sharp handling of the Fiesta ST.

RIVAL: FORD FIESTA ST The sporty Fiesta is getting on a bit now, and can’t match the Corsa for build or refinement, while its 148bhp 2.0-litre motor doesn’t have the muscle of the Vauxhall engine. But the Ford has a great chassis and fizzes with fun on back roads.

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