first drive

2020 Vauxhall Corsa review: price, specs and release date

As the Vauxhall Corsa enters its fifth generation, does it deserve to continue its mass-market success, or has it failed to keep up with developments in the small car class?...

Vauxhall Corsa 2019 front tracking
Author Avatar
Doug Revolta
19 Nov 2019 01:05

Price from £15,550 | On sale January 2020

If you haven’t owned a Vauxhall Corsa, you’ve almost certainly been a passenger in one. At the very least, you'll have spotted one covered in L plates or being driven calmly by someone who's had free bus travel for a number of years.

The Corsa’s mix of keen pricing and cheap insurance has made it a hit with young and old alike, you see, ever since the first one went on sale in 1993. It's always near the top of the new car sales charts in the UK, while used models find their way into countless more homes. However, this new fifth-generation Corsa is a bit different.

It’s the first Corsa developed since Vauxhall was acquired by the PSA Group (made up of Peugeot, Citroën and DS) and as such shares its underpinnings with the recently launched Peugeot 208 and DS 3 Crossback.

The timing of the sale from previous owners General Motors resulted in a hasty production process: going from moodboards to driveway in just two-and-a-half years. “Extremely challenging,” in Vauxhall’s words. So, does it feel like a rushed, unpolished effort? Or is Vauxhall back with a triumphant mass-market hit?

Vauxhall Corsa 2019 rear tracking

2020 Vauxhall Corsa driving

There are inevitable similarities with the 208. Like the Peugeot, the Corsa is said to weigh 10% less than its predecessor, with the lightest version tipping the scales at just 980kg. Plus, the two share a range of 1.2-litre petrol engines.

Vauxhall hasn't just carried over the mechanicals unchanged, though. The steering has been calibrated specifically for the Corsa and the suspension is slightly different – more so on SRi models, which have a sportier intent.

So, what's it like? Well, in the case of the steering, light. Extremely light. So, twirling the wheel and guiding the new Corsa into tiny parking spaces is no challenge at all. But it doesn’t weight up as reassuringly as you might hope at faster speeds. It's more accurate than the 208’s but nowhere near as nicely or naturally weighted as the Ford Fiesta’s.

While the Corsa is stable and surefooted, then, with good grip, it's not as entertaining as the Fiesta or Seat Ibiza on country roads, feeling less agile and involving. However, it's worth noting that SRi trim (which we're yet to try) brings a Sport mode that adds more weight.

The suspension has a lumpy quality to it at lower speeds, being disturbed regularly by roads that the Volkswagen Polo would glide over. Still, those impacts are at least dealt with in a controlled manner; the Corsa doesn’t have the harsh edge of the 208. And when you crank up the speed, the ride smooths out, being mostly comfortable and untroubled on motorways. 

A diesel engine is available, and the electric Corsa-e will follow next year. But for now, the clear pick of the engine range is the turbocharged 1.2-litre engine with 99bhp. It’s not as nice to rev out as the Fiesta’s equivalent Ecoboost 100 engine, nor the 1.0 TSI 95 used by the Ibiza and Polo, but it’s perky enough for town use and gutsy enough for motorway overtakes.

The six-speed manual gearbox it gets as standard has a fairly cheap-feeling lever but a nicer action than many of Vauxhall’s other manuals.

2020 Vauxhall Corsa LHD dashboard

2020 Vauxhall Corsa interior

This may be the start of a new era, but the interior of the Corsa doesn't feel like it has moved on significantly from those of Vauxhall’s other products.

There’s little wrong with the nuts and bolts; build quality is good by class standards. But the mix of materials is a more disappointing, with hard plastics never far from reach. And design-wise, it’s more of a brutalist interior than the suave and polished effort in the 208. If there's an area where the rushed production process is felt, it’s here.

Every Corsa gets at least a 7.0in touchscreen infotainment system as standard, increasing to 10.0in on higher trim levels. There are – hallelujah – physical shortcut buttons and dials to help you operate it, but some of the menus are a bit fiddly.

There’s useful storage up front and tall drivers will have no problem getting comfortable. Unfortunately, though, it’s not so accommodating in the back, with only average knee room and tight head room.

The boot is beaten for outright capacity by that of the Polo and Skoda Fabia, but there’s still enough space for a few holiday bags, and you’ll fit more in than you can in the Fiesta.

2020 Vauxhall Corsa nose detail

2020 Vauxhall Corsa verdict and specs

The Corsa is available in four main trim levels but, aside from metallic paint, there are no individual options. Instead, you can pick from a few option packages.

Standard equipment is good, including LED lights, automatic emergency braking and lane-keeping assistance. Plus, there are plenty of luxuries available that are rare in the small car class: adaptive headlights, adaptive cruise control and massaging seats can all be had on pricier versions.

Then again, pricing throughout the range is significantly higher than it was for the previous Corsa; top-spec Ultimate models are eye-wateringly expensive. It's certainly not the bargain it once was, although it still undercuts the 208 and is on par with the Polo and Fiesta.

It's also worth noting that the outgoing Corsa is currently available with enormous discounts – great news for cash buyers but not so for those who favour monthly PCP finance deals. Vauxhall is intent on improving this new Corsa’s resale values to ensure PCPs are more competitive against rivals (but not significantly cheaper).

So, the new Corsa is decent to drive and well equipped, but while its best rivals are all outstanding in particular areas (the Fiesta for handling, the 208 for interior quality and the Polo for ride comfort), the Corsa doesn’t quite hit those heights, instead sitting in the middle of the pack.

For all the latest reviews, advice and new car deals, sign up to the What Car? newsletter here

What Car? says...

Rated 3 out of 5

2020 Vauxhall Corsa 1.2i 100 SE specification

Price £16,350 Engine 3cyl, 1199cc, turbo, petrol Power 99bhp @ 5500rpm Torque 151lb ft @ 1750rpm Gearbox 6-spd manual 0-60mph 9.3sec Top speed 121mph Economy 52.3mpg (WLTP combined) CO2, tax band 96g/km, 23% (NEDC)

Best and worst small cars...

The new Corsa is entering an incredible crowded marketplace. But while all this choice is great for consumers in some respects, it can also make it difficult to decide what to buy. So, we've drawn up a list of the top 10 small cars on sale today – and named the models that are best avoided.

10. Mini 3dr

Save money on a new Mini 3dr with What Car? >>

Mini 3dr

Although the Mini 3dr is a bit cramped in the back, it's still worth a place on your shortlist – particularly if want your small car to have a premium feel and don’t regularly carry rear passengers. Go for the Cooper version and Classic trim to get the best mix of driving fun, standard equipment and affordability.

Read our full Mini 3dr review >>

9. Honda Jazz

Save money on a new Honda Jazz with What Car? >>

Honda Jazz

The Jazz has long bridged the gap between small cars and five-seat MPVs, and the latest version continues that tradition. It offers class-leading space and practicality, and it might even outlast you with its outstanding reliability. It's just a shame its ride isn't more  settled.

Read our full Honda Jazz review >>

See the full top 10 >>

Related cars