New Vauxhall Corsa VXR 2015 review

Vauxhall's VXR hot hatch brand brings snarling performance to the Corsa range. We put it to the test...

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4.0 out of 5

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The new Corsa VXR is a true challenger to the hot hatch crown. The Fiesta ST is still more fun, but there’s no shame in opting for Vauxhall’s latest offering. Just be sure to spec the optional Performance Pack – the trick Drexler diff is arguably worth the extra £2,400 on its own.

As much as 60 per cent of GM’s European VXR (or OPC as it’s known on the Continent) production finds its way to the UK. The badge has something of a cult following here, with Vauxhall selling 9,000 Corsa VXRs to since launch in 2007.

This new one has been designed with its sights set firmly on the brilliant Ford Fiesta ST, and on paper, it should have the Ford licked. The Corsa packs 202bhp (against the Ford’s 180bhp), while 0-62mph takes 6.5 seconds (versus the ST’s 6.9 seconds). If you spec the £2,400 optional Performance Pack, you get a Drexler limited-slip diff, bigger wheels, Brembo brakes and a retuned suspension setup too.

Best hot hatchbacks to buy now

We tested the new Corsa hot hatch on both road and track – on and around Scotland’s Knockhill race circuit. Making the 450-mile journey in our long-term Corsa Turbo helped emphasise the changes, both aesthetically and mechanically – but has Vauxhall done enough to topple the all-conquering ST?

Visually, the Corsa VXR is quite a bit shoutier than your average supermini. The 18-inch alloys you see here are optional, but all cars get xenon headlamps, a VXR bodykit, dual Remus exhaust pipes and a huge rear roof spoiler.

Inside it’s a bit subtler, with a pair of body-hugging half-leather, half-cloth Recaro sports seats, a flat-bottomed steering wheel and some VXR-specific dials. All UK models also get the IntelliLink Bluetooth infotainment system from the standard car.

On the road, the firmer setup makes it quite crashy around town, though the tighter springs give it much more composure on twisting country roads. It does have a habit of skittering about on uneven surfaces, but the steering is sharp and there’s plenty of grip.

For us, the optional Performance Pack is a no brainer – and Vauxhall reckons between 40 and 50 per cent of new Corsa VXRs buyers will have it fitted. The Brembo brakes offer a sharper, more linear feel, while the brilliant Drexler limited slip differential gives you much more confidence to slingshot the car out of tight corners.

The bigger alloy wheels also come as part of the pack, and while they look great, they generate an almost intolerable racket at higher speeds. That’s fine when you’re pushing on as the engine note drowns out the din, but on longer motorway journeys it can get tiresome quite quickly. This is a problem on many hot hatches as they’re essentially based on cars designed for the city, but you’ll find little solace in that on a long weekend away in the country.

Unfortunately, Vauxhall couldn’t offer us a ride on the standard 17-inch rims, but those should be easier to live with if you plan to use the Corsa as your only car 

That said, the turbocharged 1.6-litre four-cylinder is a cracking little engine. While it’s the same basic unit as you’ll find in the old car, the torque band has been widened and feels much more accessible as a result. It’s not as eager as the ST’s (245Nm as standard vs 290Nm in the Fiesta) but there’s very little lag and when the full 285Nm kicks in on overboost, the car surges forward with an alarming urgency. It works really well, and if you time it right, it can make overtaking a doddle.

The cars the Corsa VXR has to beat

However, it’s when you really crunch the numbers that the Fiesta truly trumps the Corsa. Hot hatchbacks are supposed to be fun, no compromise sports cars you can use every day – and while the VXR offers all the same practicality as the standard three-door supermini – it simply can’t compete at the pumps.

Vauxhall says it’ll do 37.7mpg. However, after 150 spirited miles, our trip computer was reading closer to 24mpg – a hard pill to swallow when you consider a bigger, faster VW Golf GTI is theoretically capable of a quoted 47.1mpg. Thanks to the fact the Corsa doesn’t get a fuel-saving stop-start system, or any kind of clever cylinder-on-demand tech, it’ll also cost you £205 a year to tax. For comparison, the class-leading 208 GTi 30th Anniversary will set you back just £110.

As a standalone product, the firecracker Corsa is a peach. It’s great to drive and comes loaded with kit. In fact, when you consider our mid-range Excite, with it’s 113bhp three-cylinder turbo costs more than £14,000, it’s remarkably good value. However, the supermini hot hatch segment is a fiercely competitive one, and all things considered, the uncomfortable and thirsty Corsa doesn’t quite represent the complete package.

For now at least, the Ford Fiesta ST remains king.

Deputy editor

Richard has been part of the our team for over a decade. During this time he has covered a huge amount of news and reviews for Auto Express, as well as being the face of Carbuyer and DrivingElectric on Youtube. In his current role as deputy editor, he is now responsible for keeping our content flowing and managing our team of talented writers.

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