Superminis with automatic gearboxes have traditionally felt slow and cumbersome to drive. However, in recent years the advance of dual-clutch autos in superminis including the Volkswagen Polo, Skoda Fabia, Seat Ibiza and Ford Fiesta have made the prospect of an automatic supermini a much more appealing one – if you can stomach the significant extra cost.
The new Vauxhall Corsa does not get a dual-clutch automatic. Instead it is offered with either a traditional ‘torque convertor’ automatic six-speed gearbox in combination with the 1.4-litre petrol engine, or the ‘Easytronic’ five-speed automatic on the 1.4-litre or the 1.3-litre diesel tested here.
The ‘Easytronic’ gearbox is an automated manual, which means it is a manual gearbox that essentially shifts itself. Engineers like them for the economy they offer (this Corsa is very frugal on paper, with 85.6mpg combined economy and 84g/km CO2 emissions) but these gearboxes often shift slowly, which makes for a frustrating driving experience.
What’s the Vauxhall Corsa 1.3 CDTi Easytronic like to drive?
Some of the ingredients that make the Vauxhall Corsa one of our favourite superminis remain. The ride quality is compliant and the car turns in nicely, although the steering could do with more weight for added confidence. That said, at least low-speed parking manoeuvres are made easier as a result.
However, as predicted, the car is let down by the Easytronic gearbox. The shifts are too slow, particularly at low speeds when you’re trying to exploit a gap in the traffic, and you never really have confidence accelerating up to speed to join flowing traffic from junctions.
There are some benefits to the gearbox. The economy is decent; we recorded just below 65mpg on our test route, well below the official 85.6mpg but still a welcome return. This Corsa is also better to drive when into its stride on faster A-roads or motorways, where frequent gearshifts are no longer needed.
What’s the Vauxhall Corsa 1.3 CDTi Easytronic like inside?
Inside, this Corsa is much the same as the rest of the range, save for the absence of a clutch pedal and the swapping of a manual gearlever for an automatic one.
The Design trim we tested comes with height-adjustable seats, so it’s easy enough to find a good driving position. There's plenty of head room in the front and back and the cabin is quite wide by the standards of the class, so four average-sized adults should be pretty comfortable.
While the boot is big, however, it doesn't get the variable-height floor that some rivals do, and you have to go for SRi spec or above to get split-folding rear seats; even then, these leave a big step in the load bay when folded.
A lot of the controls look dated - in particular the heater controls. You do get the touchscreen IntelliLink system on this Corsa, however, which includes digital radio and the ability to sync your smartphone to include apps such as navigation.
Should I buy one?
There isn’t a car in the supermini class with which we’d recommend choosing an automatic gearbox over a manual one unless absolutely necessary. The same can be said of choosing a diesel over a petrol unless fuel economy really is the deciding factor in your purchase. As such, there’s little to recommend on this particular Corsa.
Pick carefully in the Corsa range and you can get yourself a good supermini that’s cheap to buy and run - particularly the 89bhp 1.0 petrol with a manual gearbox, which is our pick of the range. This version, though, isn’t.
What Car? says...
Vauxhall Corsa 1.3 CDTi 95 Easytronic Design
Engine size 1.3-litre diesel
Price from £14,635
Torque 140lb ft
0-62mph 13.5 seconds
Top speed 113mph
Fuel economy 85.6mpg