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First Drive

2016 Vauxhall Corsa 1.4T 150 Red Edition review

Can this 148bhp Vauxhall Corsa Red Edition bridge the gap between the range's lesser models and the range-topping VXR? We drive it on UK roads to find out

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Until now, the fourth-generation Corsa range was split between mild-mannered superminis and the scorchingly hot Corsa VXR, with nothing to choose in the middle ground.

Enter the Corsa Red Edition, which aims to bridge the performance chasm between its most powerful SRi model and the range-topping, hardcore VXR. Accordingly, it gets a 148bhp version of Vauxhall's 1.4 petrol engine, sports suspension, a more aggressive body kit, a contrasting black roof and 17in diamond cut alloys. We’ve driven the three-door version to see whether it fits the bill.

What’s the Vauxhall Corsa 1.4T Red Edition like to drive?

It’s certainly energetic. This engine is a step up over the next most powerful model in the range, the 98bhp 1.4T, although not as aggressive as the full-fat VXR. It pulls well from around 2000rpm, but is a little flat beforehand; this early surge, especially in first and second gears, can make the Red Edition feel a little uneven in its power delivery.

The Red Edition ultimately feels eager to turn in to bends, but it's rarely a lot of fun because its steering is vague and inconsistently weighted at higher speeds. Around town, a City button provides super light steering for around town and is brilliant for navigating tight car parks.

Grip levels are reasonably high through bends, yet despite the Red Edition's stiffer sports suspension, body lean not as well controlled as it is in a Fiesta, and this can cause the car to feel less well balanced during sharp turns. The firm suspension set-up also means a firm ride, as you might expect. Speed humps and larger bumps are damped away well enough, but smaller road imperfections can make the car feel fidgety.

Around town, the Corsa is reasonably quiet, but as the speed builds on motorways there’s considerable wind noise from around the wing mirrors, suspension noise over expansion joints and tyre roar on coarse surfaces. Other small cars are more refined.

What’s the Vauxhall Corsa 1.4T Red Edition like inside?

The Red Edition gets lots of gloss black trim on its dash, highlighted by a strip of bright red, above a 7.0in touchscreen. All the Corsa's controls are well placed and sized, and its touchscreen is bright and nicely responsive. However, while the top of the dash gets some soft-touch plastics, they're replaced by hard and shiny plastics at lower levels.

It’s easy to get comfortable behind the wheel because the seats offer plenty of adjustment and the steering wheel adjusts for reach and rake. Some drivers may find they sit quite high up in the Corsa’s firm, yet supportive sports seats, even their lowest position. However, this aids forward visibility, even if the view over the shoulder isn't quite as clear. There’s also plenty of head room up front, and a recessed dash in front of the passenger that gives the cabin a more spacious feel.

To access the rear, the front seats tilt and slide forward, providing a good-sized opening. In the back, it can feel a little claustrophobic because leg and knee room are limited and the small rear windows taper to a point at the back. The sloping roofline also impinges on headroom.

The Corsa has a good-sized boot, at 280 litres with the seats up, which is competitive for its class. While the boot lip is low, the opening tapers at the bottom, making it more difficult to load wider items.

Should I buy one?

The Corsa Red Edition strikes a good balance between the range-topping and aggressive VXR, and less-powerful Corsa models. It offers better performance and handling than lesser Corsas, even if it isn't ultimately a class leader in these respects.

Younger drivers will also appreciate its reasonable insurance costs - it's group 21 out of 50 - while official combined fuel economy of 49.6mpg should mean it’ll be relatively cheap to run. It’s a little more expensive for business users because it emits CO2 emissions of 132g/km, which puts it into the 21% company car tax banding.

However, compared closely with its direct rivals, the Corsa Red Edition is more expensive, not as frugal and has worse CO2 emissions. The Seat Ibiza 1.4 FR and Ford Fiesta 1.0T Zetec S 140 both offer the aggressive looks and punchy performance of the Corsa, and they cost less to buy and are more rewarding to drive.

Matthew Griffiths

What Car? says...

Rivals

Ford Fiesta 1.0T Zetec S 140

Seat Ibiza SC FR 1.4 150PS

Vauxhall Corsa Red Edition Engine size 1.4-litre petrol Price Β£17,125 Power 148bhp Torque 162lb ft 0-62mph 8.9sec Top speed 129mph Fuel economy 49.6mpg CO2 132g/km