The all-new Vauxhall Corsa is the fourth generation of Vauxhall's popular supermini and one of the most significant cars the brand has launched in recent years. The new Corsa is Vauxhall's most popular model in the UK, taking third place in the 2014 best-selling car list, behind the Ford Focus and Ford Fiesta.
Vauxhall is hoping the new Corsa can clinch the top spot from its arch rival the Fiesta, with a raft of updates including more kit, better engines and sharper looks. The big news is the addition of an all-new 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine, which gives Vauxhall a direct rival to the Ford Fiesta 1.0-litre EcoBoost. It’s available with either 89bhp or 113bhp, with the more potent version being the quickest Corsa currently available. For hot hatch fans, a racy VXR model will arrive next year, which could develop up to 200bhp.
Another tactic Vauxhall has employed to help increase the supermini’s appeal is by slashing prices. The new model starts at only £8,995, undercutting the Fiesta by around £1,000, with list prices across the Corsa lineup reduced by up to £3,000 over the outgoing model.
The other good news is that the Corsa remains as practical as it was before, due to the overall shape being left untouched. The A, B and C pillars are identical to the previous model, which doesn’t make the Corsa look dramatically different in terms of style but it does mean its as spacious as ever, with enough room for three passengers in the rear. The three-door remains the more stylish choice, and the five-door is much easier to access for rear-seat passengers.
Our choice: Corsa 1.0T (115) Excite
At a glance, you could easily mistake the new Corsa for its predecessor, because it has the same door pillars and glass area as before. According to Vauxhall, that’s because existing customers liked the look of the previous car, although we’re sure that retaining the same layout helps save money on the redesign.
Instead, the brand has splashed the cash on a comprehensive reskin, with updated bodywork, new lights and a nose inspired by the Vauxhall Adam. The front end is closer to the ground, with a low-set grille and LED running lights that are similar to the city car’s.
Two sharp creases have been added to the doors, while the window line kicks up at the rear. Open the back doors, and you’ll see that the glass is identical to the old model’s, with a painted section covering the exterior metalwork. However, it’s well executed for a cost-cutting measure, and you don’t notice it when you’re sitting in the back.
At the rear, the lights extend over the tailgate, while new wheel designs add a finishing touch. Overall, the Corsa looks fresh and modern, although a casual observer might not notice that it’s brand new.
Climb inside, though, and the differences between old and new are obvious. The dashboard gains the touchscreen from the Adam, which groups all cabin functions together bar the climate controls, while the plastic trim across the dash adds a bit of style. Higher-spec cars get extra silver trim, and a grey-metallic painted finish for the dash that complements the gloss-black trim found elsewhere.
All in all, the cabin looks neat; it’s as well built as ever and the plastics are of a decent quality.
Vauxhall has reengineered a substantial proportion of the Corsa’s running gear to ensure it can compete with the Fiesta when it comes to driver engagement. The basic platform from the outgoing Corsa has been carried over but bolted on is a new suspension setup which improves the ride considerably and gives better body control.
We’ve tested the 113bhp 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo, which is currently the most powerful Corsa you can buy – a VXR model will arrive next year – and completely changes the character of a car which doesn’t look all that different on the surface.
It takes 10.3 seconds to get from 0-62mph, which is a little slower than the Fiesta 1.0-litre EcoBoost, but it is a supremely refined engine. Around town or at higher speeds, there’s very little noise from the engine in the cabin and even from low revs it pulls surprisingly strongly.
Vauxhall has taken care to revise the Corsa’s suspension and also give UK cars a unique steering set-up. This means that while it feels a little nervous on the motorway, it makes up for it with fast responses on twisty roads. Turn-in is quick and there’s plenty of grip, and while body roll is present, the Corsa feels stable and sure-footed. The suspension soaks up bumps well – it’s certainly less harsh than
a Ford Fiesta’s.
Around town, the City steering mode makes the wheel extremely light for parking, and it disengages at speeds above 30mph to deliver a more natural feel.
Certainly, the 1.0 is much better than the 1.4-litre engine, which only has 98bhp, and doesn't feel close to its claim of 200Nm. The car is thrashy, slow and not very economical - and it doesn't have the character of the 1.0-litre unit either, which simply must be picked if you want to be at all satisfied with your Corsa ownership.
The latest Corsa uses many parts from the old car, which bodes well for reliability. Elsewhere, the IntelliLink touchscreen system features in the Adam, Insignia and Ampera, so it should prove trouble-free. Even so, we did notice our car’s system took some time to boot up once the engine was started, while touchscreen controls didn’t react as crisply as those on the Polo’s similar system.
The Corsa achieved a four-star Euro NCAP rating, but it has a lot more safety kit than the car it replaces. One highlight is the Technical Pack, which adds front collision warning and lane departure, among other features. It’s a pricey £1,300 option, though. Other additions include a self-parking function and tyre pressure monitoring.
The previous Corsa came in at a disappointing 140th place of 150 in our 2014 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, but Vauxhall will be hoping the new car's extra features will improve its rating in the fourth-gen car.
As the Corsa hasn’t changed shape or size, practicality remains unaffected, but that’s no bad thing as the supermini has always been rather spacious. There’s enough space on the rear bench for three and there’s good amounts of headroom.
The 285-litre boot sits right between the VW Polo and Ford Fiesta in terms of capacity but a high boot lip can make loading items a little tricky. The rear bench isn’t a 60:40 split and doesn’t fold completely flat, so your left with a loading area which isn’t that well designed. Like before, the Corsa will be available in either three or five-door body styles. The three-door looks smarter, but it's difficult to clamber into the rear seats, and the longer front doors aren't very helpful in tight spaces.
One vital characteristic of a supermini is that is has to be cheap to run. Purchase prices for the Corsa have been slashed to give it even greater showroom appeal, with the new car costing around £1,000 less than the equivalent Fiesta. But don’t think you miss out on standard kit, as USB connectivity, LED daytime running lights, cruise control and a multi-function steering wheel are fitted across the range.
The new 1.0-litre engine isn’t the most efficient powertrain but it is the best all rounder. Vauxhall claims fuel economy of 57.6mpg and 115g/km of CO2 for the 113bhp version and a slightly better 65.7mpg and 100g/km for the 89bhp model. A new 1.3-litre CDTi diesel is the most frugal, returning up to 88.3mpg with tax-free emissions of 85g/km.
1.2 and 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engines are also available, but neither are as efficient or as clean as the downsized three-cylinder.
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