Vauxhall Corsa VXR

It was our top supermini earlier this year, but does the VXR version of the Vauxhall Corsa cut it in this esteemed company?

The Corsa was crowned Best Supermini in our New Car Honours 2007... but that alone isn’t enough to guarantee the VXR variant entry to Greatest Drives. It takes something special to earn a place in this line-up. And for the first time in years, Vauxhall has a baby hot hatch that is on the pace.

Fully kitted out with purposeful bumpers and side skirts, the Corsa is the most aggressively styled car of its type here. Inside, a chunky gearstick, drilled pedals and heavily bolstered seats await you, and once on the move the 189bhp 1.6-litre turbo offers serious performance.

Power delivery is verging on brutal, accompanied by a hard-breathing induction noise. Yet there’s no denying the Corsa’s ability to flex its muscle readily throughout the rev range. There’s also a pliancy to the damping that rivals lack, and as a result it feels surprisingly grown-up and refined. But don’t be fooled. In reality, the Vauxhall isn’t soft or woolly, and body control is impressive over bumpy surfaces.

It turns in sharply and offers surprisingly good grip, while that suspension also helps to give less experienced drivers confidence they might lack in the stiffly sprung Clio.

As a result, when the Corsa is driven at the limit on the track, it will push its nose wider than the Renault. Nor can you adjust the VXR’s attitude with the throttle in the same way as you can in the more agile and edgy French car.

The Corsa feels nose heavy and, as in the MINI Cooper S, the weight shifting over the front axle can unload a front wheel, causing it to spin out of tight corners. Yet it’s a rapid, usable and capable road car, and Vauxhall’s best-ever hot hatch.

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