Vauxhall Corsa 1.4 SRi 3-door review
We sample the new 3-door Vauxhall Corsa with a larger 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine on UK roads
In isolation, this new Vauxhall Corsa 1.4 is a fine supermini – but once you’ve sampled it with the new 1.0-litre three-pot engine that’s already turned the Adam city car from a runt to a contender, there’s no overlooking it as the version to plump for if funds allow. The 1.4 is okay, but it appreciably restricts this much-improved new Corsa from truly shining.
Vauxhall is fiendishly adamant that its new Corsa needn’t be discounted nor derided because it’s not an all-new car. Yes, it shares some architectural hard points with its predecessor, but with new subframes, suspension, steering and exterior panels, not to mention an Adam-esque interior, it’s a long way removed from the old one.
Good thing too, however – the old Corsa had a cheap interior, wheezy engines and managed to be less fun than a Ford Fiesta, less refined than a VW Polo and substantially worse for the environment than a Renault Clio.
This turbocharged four-cylinder petrol version is not a new unit either, but rather a revised version from the old Corsa. However, Vauxhall says the engine has undergone ‘significant improvements’ to meet new Euro 6 emissions legislation. The old Corsa offered 89bhp and 118bhp versions of the 1.4, and this new unit splits the two with 99bhp. For wallet-conscious consumers and the critical fleet market economy is much improved: Vauxhall claims 55.4mpg and 119g/km.
We’re sampling it in the sportier three-door shape, which is one of the more handsome, sporty-looking superminis. Sharper creases in the doors and shoulderline reference the Astra GTC ‘coupe’ and horizontal rear lights accentuate the car’s width. The interior’s ergonomic layout is similar to the Adam’s, along with the responsive Intelilink seven-inch touchscreen that’s included on all but the most basic trim level. Given the Corsa has seen price cuts of up to £2,974 versus the outgoing car, it’s easier to forgive the harder plastics lower down in the cabin layout.
Handling wise, the new Corsa is at long last a contender, a car with some deftness to its chassis and an enthusiasm for bends. You can actually glean a sense of the front tyres gripping the road through the (overly thick) steering wheel as you flick the car through bends – and its electric assistance weights up appreciably more if you select the VX-line sports suspension and 17-inch wheels, but the ride suffers as a result.
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On standard 16s, the Corsa has accurate steering and a general maturity that you’d have never found in the old car. It’s nowhere near as adjustable mid-corner as the Ford Fiesta, but the Corsa is finally a supermini that doesn’t suck all of the joy out of a decent B-road.
Also demonstrating a welcome improvement in manners is the car’s overall refinement. Noise and vibration levels have been reduced, and the six-speed gearbox is Vauxhall’s slickest shift yet.
The suspension deals with successive bumps and ridges in the road in a very astute, controlled manner. The caveat is that the new, lighter 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder engine (that costs from £10,995) asks less of the front suspension over crests, and feels more nimble as a result.
The fact is, once you’ve driven the smaller engine, the 1.4-litre feels old-fashioned. The four-pot is less keen to rev, suffers from a power delivery flat spot at about 4,500rpm, and does without the easy-access torque of the 1.0-litre – despite actually having more muscle than the revised 1.3 CDTi diesel (200Nm plays 190Nm). It feels naturally aspirated – not in a zingy responsive way, but in a slightly gutless way. And in no great surprise to anyone who’s driven a downsized three-pot, it also sounds less pleasant.
Make no mistake, the Corsa is a much improved car than before in all guises, but it’s the 1.0-litre three-cylinder-powered versions that show it at its absolute peak.