This is a heavily disguised prototype of the new Corsa; the car Vauxhall hopes will end the Ford Fiesta’s long reign at the top of the small car class.
Vauxhall is describing it as an all-new model, because although the car shares its basic underpinnings with the current Corsa (which has been on sale since 2006), the changes are extensive. As well as a fresh new look on the outside, there’s a brand new interior and a range of more efficient petrol engines.
Those new engines include a pair of 1.0 three-cylinder petrols and a 99bhp 1.4 turbo petrol. However, the naturally aspirated 1.2 from the existing Corsa is still expected to remain the biggest seller.
What’s the 2014 Vauxhall Corsa like to drive?
We tried the new 1.4 turbo, which is effectively the same engine found in the larger Astra, only with a bit less power. It suits the Corsa well, pulling eagerly from fairly low revs (around 1800 rpm), and without the delayed surge in power that sometimes characterises small turbocharged engines.
Rev it harder and you’ll notice one or two flat spots in the power delivery, but Vauxhall’s engineers assured us these will be ironed out before the car officially goes on sale in the autumn.
The new six-speed manual gearbox is another big improvement over the current model, being lighter and more accurate in its action, and making the Corsa easier to drive around town in the process.
Two distinct chassis set-ups will be available at launch. We tried the sportier version, which comes with stiffer suspension and chunky 17-inch alloys. Unfortunately, this combination doesn’t do the car any favours because it makes for a choppy ride – especially at low speeds, where the Corsa fidgets around nervously.
The pay-off is fairly agile handling, because the new Vauxhall feels lighter on its toes than, say, a VW Polo. It still doesn’t change direction with the verve of a Fiesta, though, so we suspect the softer suspension set-up and smaller wheels will show the Corsa in its best light.
As for the steering, well, it's preferable to the old car’s, which was vague and slow to respond to driver inputs. It’s just a pity there’s such a strong self-centering action, because it makes it difficult to place the Corsa accurately on the road, particularly when exiting corners.
What’s the 2014 Vauxhall Corsa like inside?
The interior of our prototype was draped in fabric to hide its design. However, enough was on show to see the dashboard has clearly been inspired by the one in last year’s Adam. That’s no bad thing, because the Adam’s dash is smart and easy to use, and feels a good deal classier than the current Corsa’s.
There's plenty of adjustment in both the seat and steering wheel to allow anyone to get comfortable, while the relatively tall side windows make the Corsa easier to see out of than many of its rivals.
The exterior proportions have hardly changed at all, so there’s no more space inside than before. That’s not a big issue, though, because even after eight years the Corsa remains one of the most practical cars in its class, with enough rear space for a couple of lanky teenagers and a boot that’s very similar to what you'd find in either a Fiesta or a Polo.
Vauxhall won’t be announcing trims until the summer, but based on the existing Corsa’s line-up you can expect only the really basic versions to miss out on essentials such as air-conditioning and alloys wheels.
Should I buy one?
Based on our short prototype drive it’s clear the new Corsa, while a definite step forward over the current model, is still no match for a Ford Fiesta in the dynamic stakes.
That said, the interior looks promising, and assuming the less sporty versions are blessed with a more forgiving ride, we can certainly see the Corsa becoming a small car we could recommend.
A lot comes down to running costs, though, and since Vauxhall has yet to announce fuel economy and CO2 emissions – let alone prices and specs – it’s still far too early to say how it will fare in such a fiercely competitive and constantly evolving class.