There are three petrol engines and four diesels, but the 1.0 and 1.2 petrols are best avoided if you do a lot of motorway miles because the Corsa is no lightweight. The 1.3 diesels suit the car well, but are expensive, so the 1.4 petrol is our pick.
There are two chassis settings: a standard arrangement that makes the car good to drive but gives a nice ride into the bargain, and a firmer set-up for the SRi (standard on SE and SXi models with optional 17-inch wheels) that’s a bit too extreme for UK roads. Either way, the steering is sharp, but you have to make plenty of adjustments on the motorway.
By and large, the Corsa’s an extremely refined car. The highest-powered 1.3 and 1.7 diesel engines rumble a bit, but most of the others are pretty quiet, even when working hard, and a little road noise enters the cabin. The five-door body stirs up more wind noise than the three-door along the flanks, but neither is bad.
Aggressive pricing and low insurance rates help make the Corsa an attractive buy, and you have the reassurance of a lifetime (limited to 100,000 miles) warranty on the car. The fuel economy of petrol models is good, but at the expense of driveability. Resale values are pretty poor, so make sure you get a good discount on the list price.
First impressions count a lot, so Vauxhall has made big efforts to ensure the Corsa's fixtures and fittings look and feel right. There's a nice choice of colour and trim options if you want to get away from dreary old black and grey, too. However, prospective owners may well be worried by the 2011 JD Power customer satisfaction survey, in which the Corsa's reliability was rated as below average.
The Corsa has loads of stuff to help you avoid an accident, warn following drivers if one's about to happen, and protect you when the crunch comes. There's a minimum of two airbags - and six on most models. Anti-skid control is an option on all versions, but is affordable.
The Corsa has a big-car feel, with clear controls and a fine driving position. There’s one proviso here, though: you’ll have to pay extra to get driver’s seat-height and two-way steering column adjustment on Expression and S models. Thick windscreen pillars restrict forward visibility.
Three- and five-door cars are the same size, but the three-door's only a four-seater because its sides taper towards the back. The five-door's big enough for a family, though, with good head- and legroom. The luggage area's small, but from Exclusiv trim upwards you get split-folding rear seats and a boot floor that can be lowered.
Standard kit is reasonable, with a CD player, remote central locking and electrically adjustable door mirrors fitted across the range. Mid-range Exclusiv trim represents the best balance between price and equipment, offering more driver’s seat and steering wheel adjustment, an easier-to-expand boot and luxuries such as an MP3-compatible stereo.
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The Vauxhall Corsa 1.4i VVT Exclusiv has the engine of choice. Exclusiv trim is a good compromise on price and equipment, but many buyers will pay extra for the (AC) model, which gets the all-important air-conditioning.