Vauxhall Corsa Electric review: good electric range, but it’s pricey
Vauxhall’s electric supermini offers brisk performance and over 200 miles of range, but some rivals are better value for money
Perhaps the renaming of this car to Vauxhall Corsa Electric is necessary to make sure buyers really know that this priciest model in the Corsa range is powered by electricity. After all, it looks just like the regular model, has the same interior as the standard car, and is nearly as practical inside. The only differences are that where a petrol engine once lived, an electric motor now resides, and there’s a battery pack under the floor where the fuel tank used to be.
Certain buyers will appreciate how ‘normal’ it looks and feels – ideal for anyone nervous about driving an EV for the first time. Others will be charmed by the real-world range of more than 200 miles and the rock-bottom running costs, qualities we think count towards it being among the best small electric cars around. However, the electric Corsa’s price tag has now ballooned to the point where rivals offer much better value for money.
About the Vauxhall Corsa Electric
The Vauxhall Corsa is one of Britain’s motoring institutions, and the latest version of the best-selling supermini is the most significant yet. Not only does the sixth-generation Corsa share its platform with the Peugeot 208, but - like its French sibling - there’s also a fully electric variant. While the Peugeot E-208 has kept its name, Vauxhall’s equivalent was called Corsa-e at launch, but now has been rather unimaginatively renamed as the Corsa Electric.
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Used car tests
Nothing here should scare off buyers new to electric-powered cars, because the Corsa Electric looks almost identical to the regular petrol-powered Corsa. We’re well acquainted with the Corsa Electric’s 50kWh battery pack and 134bhp electric motor, because it’s used in various other zero-emissions SUVs, vans and people carriers built by other brands in the Stellantis group, including Citroen, DS, Fiat, Jeep, and Peugeot.
There’s no shortage of competition in the small electric car segment, including the extremely successful but now quite out of date Renault ZOE. The E-208, mentioned earlier, is another option with a more premium feel and significantly sharper looks than the Corsa Electric. And let’s not forget that the E-208 costs less money and offers just as much range.
Meanwhile, the Honda e, MINI Electric and Fiat 500 bring funky, retro-inspired looks and some slick infotainment systems to the proceedings, though being smaller city cars, none of them can quite match the Corsa Electric’s range or practicality. It’s a similar story with the distinctive looking Ora Funky Cat hatchback, which might have a similar price tag to the Corsa, but we found it lacking in sophistication and very limited on boot space.
However, the MG4 is the Corsa Electric’s newest and strongest rival. It’s cheaper, yet more spacious and practical, plus it can go even further on a single charge. Whether you like or loathe the looks of the MG4 is up to you, but in terms of value for money, it’s got the Vauxhall licked.
There are now two battery sizes offered in the Corsa Electric (50kWh and 51kWh), and customers can pick from three trim levels: Design, GS, and Ultimate. Design trim gets you LED lights, 16-inch wheels, rear parking sensors, climate control and a 7.0-inch infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Sportier-looking GS models get black exterior detailing, larger 17in alloys, sports front seats, front and rear parking sensors with a reversing camera, a bigger 10-inch infotainment screen with sat-nav, and blind spot monitoring. Top-of-the-range Ultimate cars are fitted with Matrix LED headlights, heated front seats, adaptive cruise control, wireless phone charging, and a panoramic rear-view camera.
Electric motor, drive and performance
The Corsa Electric uses a single electric motor to drive the front wheels, much like the regular petrol Corsa. Both power outputs feel similarly nippy around town due to having a responsive accelerator pedal, which is typical of an EV. The near-instant torque from the electric motor makes the 0-30mph dash very swift despite the 1544kg kerbweight.
It’s a fine car to drive around town, with light and reasonably precise steering helping to boost agility in built-up areas and around roundabouts, the typical roads this car will spend its life on. Grip is also decent, and thanks to the heavy battery pack keeping the weight low in the car, the Corsa Electric doesn’t lean too much in the bends and doesn’t feel out of place on a twisty country road. It’s safe and predictable, rather than fun. For that, you’ll need to go for an MG4, because its rear-wheel-drive setup and extra power affords much more adjustability to the driving experience.
The ride is smooth enough for the most part. The extra weight and slightly stiffer suspension compared with the normal Corsa means it starts to feel a little lumpy over poor road surfaces. On the motorway, the Corsa Electric cruises with relatively low levels of road noise. There is a little bit of wind noise over the chunky door mirrors, though.
The Corsa Electric’s two-stage regenerative braking system works well, with the ‘B’ setting providing a decent amount of stopping power when you lift off the throttle. It’s more intuitive than it sounds, and with enough anticipation, you can slow enough for roundabouts without needing to use the brakes.
0-62mph acceleration and top speed
With the electric Corsa, you can choose between two power outputs, ranging from 134bhp to 154bhp. We say that, but the power output does vary depending on which drive mode you’re in. For example, if you’re in the 134bhp version and stick with the car’s default Normal mode, you have 108bhp on tap; only when you toggle the selector switch into Sport do you get the car’s full 134bhp. Conversely, switch to Eco, and you’re restricted to 81bhp and have a much softer response to throttle pedal inputs, while each setting naturally varies the range you can expect.
According to Vauxhall, when Sport mode is engaged, the 134bhp Corsa Electric will do 0-62mph in 8.9 seconds; the more powerful 154bhp drops this down to 8.2 seconds. That’s very nippy for a supermini, but even the entry-level MG4 is quicker than this, managing the same 0-62mph dash in 7.7 seconds.
The strong surge of acceleration in the Corsa Electric starts to tail off once you get up to motorway speeds, but you’ll find that’s the case in most of the electric Corsa’s rivals.
Range, charging and running costs
This is where you’d hope the Corsa Electric scores well, and in many respects, it does. The chunky 50kWh (47kWh useable) battery under the floor isn’t bad in a car of this size and packs enough juice for an official range of 222 miles – about the same as an entry-level MG4 offers.
It’s worth noting that the slightly larger 51kWh (48kWh usable) battery boosts the electric supermini’s official WLTP range up to 246 miles, although that can’t match the Extended Range MG4 with its much larger 77kWh (74.4kWh useable) battery and up to 323 miles of range.
As far as rapid charging goes, the Corsa Electric’s 100kW maximum charging speed is somewhere around the middle of the pack – certainly better than the 50kW the Fiat 500, MINI Electric, and Renault ZOE max out at, but not quite as fast as the 150kW you can reach in the MG4. Both the 50 and 51kWh models have the same quoted charge times, so a 10-80% top-up (roughly going from 25 miles of remaining range up to just under 200 in the 51kWh car, depending upon outside temperature and driving conditions) from a suitably fast rapid charger will take 30 minutes, while a standard 7.4kW home wallbox will take just under eight hours to fully charge each battery pack from flat.
With a starting price of around £32,500 at the time of writing, the Corsa Electric is no longer one of the UK’s cheapest electric cars, and it’s about £13k more expensive than the base petrol Corsa. Thankfully, the electric version’s exemption from road tax (VED) until 2025 and 2% Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) company car tax rate means running one will be significantly cheaper.
The Corsa Electric’s insurance ratings of group 26 and 28 are a lot higher than for the petrol Corsa, the worst of which ends in insurance group 19. Still, it isn’t as high when compared to its closest rivals – the MG4 lands in groups 27 to 29.
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The Corsa Electric is predicted to shed its value at quite an alarming rate. It’ll only retain 38% of its value over three years and 36,000 miles, whereas the MG4 does much better, with the SE Long Range keeping 53% of its value over the same period.
Longer PCP deals have been created for those looking to buy on finance to help soften the blow of this steep depreciation curve, but that’s still quite a large drop in value to have to take on the chin.
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Interior, design and technology
There isn’t much visual difference between the petrol Corsa and the Corsa Electric. One has an exhaust pipe, and the other has a plug socket under the fuel filler flap and a small ‘e’ badge on the tailgate – ideal for those not keen on standing out.
There are six colours to choose from. White is the free one, which is disappointing when your Peugeot E-208 counterpart has a vibrant yellow for free.
The straightforward interior layout of the Corsa Electric gives you little clue as to the car’s powertrain. The only giveaway is that the conventional dials used in other Corsas are replaced by a seven-inch digital driver’s display. Some will like how simple the cabin is, but in our opinion, it’s a shame there’s not at least a little more flair, something the E-208, which the Corsa Electric shares its platform with, has in spades.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
As standard, you get a seven-inch touchscreen in Design trim, but this can be upgraded to a larger 10-inch system if you plump for mid-range GS trim or above. The infotainment system is packed with features, but it can sometimes feel a bit slow to respond. It is fairly straightforward to navigate, making it easier to live with than the rather fiddly menu layout used in the MG4.
All screen sizes in the Corsa Electric have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity. Mid-tier GS adds sat-nav, while GS with the larger 51kWh battery pack and above have a fancier system that includes connected services and over-the-air updates. A six-speaker sound system is standard across the range, and cannot be upgraded. Top-of-the-range Ultimate is the only version with wireless phone charging.
You can view your remaining range, schedule charging times, and remotely pre-condition the battery and cabin temperature via an app.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
The regular Vauxhall Corsa has been designed to accommodate an electric variant from the outset, so there’s little penalty in terms of cabin or boot space compared with the petrol-powered model.
Comfort levels are good, with plenty of seat and wheel adjustment and well-shaped seats. Visibility is obstructed by thick roof pillars and a small back window, which is why opting for mid-range GS is likely to be a good idea, because this trim comes with front and rear parking sensors, and a reversing camera.
There are plenty of places to stash everyday items like phones and keys, and the door bins are big enough for bottles. The glove box is just as small as it is in the Peugeot E-208, which is a bit annoying if you want to keep valuables out of sight.
There’s seating for five in the Corsa Electric, although adults will have a much easier time in the front than in the back.
The Corsa Electric is exactly the same size as the regular combustion-powered Corsa, which means it’s 4,060mm long, 1,765mm wide and 1,433mm tall.
For some comparison, that makes the Corsa Electric 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 Electric.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
Cabin space is 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.
As per the regular petrol Corsa, the rear door opening is small and awkwardly shaped for taller people to get in. An MG4 is easier to get into the back of.
The Corsa Electric has no underfloor storage like the petrol Corsa, reducing its total boot capacity from 309 to 267 litres and leaving you without anywhere to keep your charging cables besides a bag rolling around the boot floor. Nevertheless, the Corsa Electric still trumps many other small electric cars for luggage capacity. The cheaper and larger MG4 has a negligible 22 litres of additional boot space on the Vauxhall, while the practical BYD Dolphin has an extra 76 litres of space.
Fold the rear seats down, and you’re left with 1,076 litres of space to play with, just slightly less than the 1,118 litres in the regular Corsa.
Reliability and safety
While the Corsa Electric itself didn’t feature in the most recent Driver Power owner satisfaction survey, the Vauxhall brand came in 24th out of 32 manufacturers in rankings. That puts it above fellow small electric car manufacturers Renault and MG, but behind Nissan, Honda, and Peugeot.
There are plenty of standard safety features on-board, from driver, passenger, side and curtain airbags, to preventative systems like automatic emergency braking (AEB), brake assist, forward collision alert and speed sign recognition to help keep you out of trouble in the first place. However, the four-star Euro NCAP crash-test rating (out of a maximum of five) the Corsa received in 2019 is a little disappointing compared to its competition. Its score was penalised due to concerns raised with the rear head restraints and their protection level against whiplash. If safety is your primary concern, then look at newer rivals such as the BYD Dolphin and MG4, which have both been tested under the latest and most stringent testing criteria and received a maximum five-star rating.
Like every new Vauxhall, the Corsa Electric gets a fairly standard three-year/60,000-mile warranty, which is fairly typical for the class, but falls somewhat shy of the seven-year/80,000-mile policy of the MG4.
Every Corsa Electric has a separate eight-year or 100,000-mile battery warranty. If the battery’s usable capacity drops below 70% during that time, Vauxhall will replace it for free.
The Corsa Electric needs an initial service after one year or 8,000 miles, whichever comes soonest, then it’ll need to be serviced every two years or 16,000 miles from that point onwards. That gives electric owners a distinct advantage, as the petrol Corsas require maintenance every 12 months, which inevitably raises your running costs – even with a service plan.
For an alternative review of the Vauxhall Corsa Electric, visit our sister site drivingelectric.com...