2018 Vauxhall Corsa GSi review – price, specs and release date

With racy looks and reasonable running costs, could the Vauxhall Corsa GSi be the car that hot hatch fans on a budget have been waiting for?...

2018 Vauxhall Corsa GSi front

Priced from £18,995 | Release date September 2018

Do you remember the GSi badge? Glued to the back of various spicy Vauxhalls during the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s, it appeared to have been consigned to history by the phall-hot VXR moniker. At least that’s what we thought until the Insignia GSi came along late last year, and that has now been joined by the Vauxhall Corsa GSi you see here.

Now, if you’re a bit of a hot hatch connoisseur, you might have noticed that the GSi looks rather familiar? That’s because the wheels, front bumper, side skirts and spoiler have all been pinched from the now-deceased Corsa VXR.

But the GSi’s grave robbing doesn’t stop at the VXR’s face. It also has its lower and stiffer suspension, complete with some clever dampers made by Koni. The big change is to be found under the bonnet, though. In an attempt to lower average CO2 emissions across the range, a far milder 1.4-litre engine with 148bhp has replaced the old VXR’s potent 202bhp turbocharged 1.6-litre unit. Vauxhall claims to have made an effort to keep the engine pulling strongly past 5000rpm, but that still rates it at around 50bhp less than ‘proper’ hot hatch rivals, including the new Ford Fiesta ST.

On the plus side, you’re left with a Corsa that promises hot hatch levels of driver engagement with relatively affordable running costs. Not only does the official claim put its average fuel economy at over 47mpg, but also its insurance rating is six to eight groups lower than it is for the Fiesta ST, Volkswagen Polo GTI or Renault Clio RS.

If you’re expecting a big saving on the purchase price, think again, though. Even without options, the Corsa GSi is a hefty £18,995 - about the same as those aforementioned rivals.

2018 Vauxhall Corsa GSi rear

2018 Vauxhall Corsa GSi on the road

Down on power it may be, but the Corsa GSi is certainly no slouch, sprinting from 0-62mph in 8.4sec before topping out at 129mph. Even without a limited-slip differential to boost traction, the optional 18in wheels with sticky Michelin tyres fitted to our test car found plenty of purchase when accelerating hard from a standstill and out of tight bends.

But while acceleration isn’t bad (it’s a lot quicker than the Volkswagen Up GTI, for instance), the 1.4-litre engine isn’t something you’ll relish working hard. Vauxhall may have tweaked the motor, but it still feels a little laboured when you rev it past 5000rpm and sounds gruff rather than sporty. We suspect most people will change gear far earlier, taking advantage of this engine’s flexible nature.

Doing so also means you’ll have to interact less with a gearchange that, while precise, has rather a long throw and an awkwardly shaped knob. Plus, the clutch, with its high biting point, is vague. The Fiesta ST is far more satisfying to interact with.

But the engine was always likely to be the weak link here, and perhaps one that can be overlooked to a certain extent if the chassis can provide a few thrills in the bends. Firm suspension means there’s very little body roll, while grip levels are high. Throw fairly quick steering into the mix and you’ve got something that is pretty agile on a country road.

And while you might expect it to behave like a bucking bronco if you hit a mid-corner bump, those Koni dampers mean any impact is dealt with quickly, allowing the Corsa GSi to regain its composure. But is it exciting or entertaining? Not really. Yes, you can get along a winding B-road quickly, but it just doesn’t involve you like the Fiesta ST, or even the cheaper Fiesta ST-Line for that matter.

The steering is quick, but it gives very little information about what the front tyres are doing, even when you start running out of grip. It also lacks the adjustability and playfulness of the Fiesta ST; the Corsa GSi always feels like it wants to run wide at the front, with no option to play the hooligan.

But in giving the car such high cornering limits, Vauxhall has made the Corsa GSi rather uncompromising for everyday use. It recovers from bumps quickly, but you still feel the initial hit of every last one, even on what looks like a pretty smooth road. It’s also noisy; its fat tyres kick up an awful lot of road roar, making a 70mph cruise rather tiresome.

2018 Vauxhall Corsa GSi dashboard

2018 Vauxhall Corsa GSi interior

The Corsa GSi’s exterior screams sportiness, but its interior doesn’t shout quite so loudly. Yes, you get sports-style front seats, a leather-wrapped, flat-bottomed steering wheel and a gearknob and handbrake wrapped in hide, but for the most part, it’s pretty standard Corsa.

If you really do want to stand out, figure-hugging Recaro sport seats wrapped in leather are optional, but you’ll be spending more than £1000 for the privilege. At least you get front seat and steering wheel heating bundled in for that price.

If you want to know more about the Corsa GSi’s interior, have a look at our main Corsa review here for details on quality, practicality and spaciousness. Speaking of practicality, it’s worth bearing in mind that you can have this GSi trim only on three-door Corsa models. That might look cooler when you’re sitting in a McDonald’s car park with your mates, but it does make rear access trickier.

2018 Vauxhall Corsa GSi verdict...