The rivals the 2015 Vauxhall Corsa has to beat

  • The new Vauxhall Corsa's key rivals
  • Their strengths and weaknesses
  • Four small cars, all with differing qualities
  • The Fiesta is the Corsa's traditional rival, and the class benchmark

    The Fiesta is the Corsa's traditional rival, and the class benchmark

  • The Mazda 2 is promising some stellar fuel economy and CO2 emissions

    The Mazda 2 is promising some stellar fuel economy and CO2 emissions

  • The production version of the Mazda 2 will look similar to this Hazumi concept car

    The production version of the Mazda 2 will look similar to this Hazumi concept car

  • The VW Polo is comfortable and has the plushest cabin

    The VW Polo is comfortable and has the plushest cabin

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The new generation of Vauxhall Corsa faces far more talented rivals than the current car did when it appeared back in 2006.

The breadth of ability available in the small car class has never been greater - with an established benchmark from Ford and fresh entries due from Mazda and Skoda. Here are the 2015 Corsa's key rivals.

Ford Fiesta

The Fiesta is arguably the best car in Ford's entire line-up. It handles superbly, has nicely weighted and direct steering, and if you choose one of the more modern engines, such as the 1.0-litre Ecoboost petrol, it's a refined companion as well.

In fact, the Fiesta has relatively few weak points. Some may find its suspension set-up a little bit firm (although there's still sophistication in there that few can match) and even after a mid-life refresh, the cabin materials aren't quite the best in class.

Still, there's no denying that if the Corsa wants to be top of the class, the Fiesta is the car it has to beat – and it won't be easy.

Mazda 2

The Fabia and Corsa aren't the only impending arrivals in the small car market: Mazda has also been hard at work, on the new generation of its 2, due on sale before the end of this year.

The new 2 is the latest Mazda to get Skyactiv, which is basically a raft of technologies – lightweight construction and efficient petrol and diesel engines, mainly – designed to lower CO2 emissions and improve fuel economy.

The 2 will be offered with a choice of 1.5-litre petrol or diesel engines, with a five-speed manual gearbox on the entry-level unit and six speeds on everything else. As with the Corsa, we've already tried a prototype and while the particular engine we sampled wasn't entirely convincing, there's enough potential there for this to be a contender.

Skoda Fabia

We're not talking about the current Skoda Fabia here; even with consistently aggressive prices, it's nowhere near the class best. Later this year, though, Skoda will show a new generation of the car – and it should have the potential to really shake up the small car market.

The Fabia will be the first supermini to sit on the same set of chassis components that underpins the Audi A3, Seat Leon, Skoda Octavia and Volkswagen Golf. It'll have a shorter wheelbase and less sophisticated suspension than those larger cars but even so, the switch to the new chassis (called MQB) should give the Fabia a new level of sophistication.

It will also get a new line-up of engines, potentially allowing Skoda's offering to trump many of its rivals (including the Polo, for now) on fuel efficiency and refinement. This could definitely be one worth waiting for.

Volkswagen Polo

If you favour a premium cabin above all else, then the recently face-lifted VW Polo should be at the top of your shortlist.

The Polo's interior is a step above the Fiesta's, with a touch-screen as standard (it's a larger unit on SE trim levels and above) and soft-touch plastics in all of the key areas. There's enough room for a couple of kids in the back, too, and the VW will hold its value better than almost all of its rivals.

Negatives? You will pay more to buy a Polo than for a Fiesta in the first place, because VW dealers aren't so keen to offer discounts. The Polo is also focused on comfort rather than agility, so isn't as rewarding or entertaining to drive as a Fiesta. It's still a strong contender, though, and worthy of its 'premium choice' tag.

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