Ford Fiesta 1.6T 180 Ecoboost ST-2
List price when new £18,395
Price today £11,500
Available from 2012-2017
The Ford Fiesta ST is our favourite used hot hatch thanks to its sublime chassis and superb engine.
Vauxhall Corsa 1.6i 205 Turbo VXR
List price when new £17,995
Price today £10,000
Available from 2015-present
Vauxhall’s Corsa VXR is terrifically fast and looks like tremendous value. But can it beat the best?
Chances are you’ve read quite a bit about the Ford Fiesta ST. Or at least, if you haven’t, you’ll have heard of it. It’s been one of the hot hatch sensations of recent years, beating all comers in group tests from the day it was launched right up until it was withdrawn from production with the arrival of the new-shape Fiesta last year; we even gave it our Used Hot Hatch of the Year award last year. In that time, its reputation for delectable agility and exhilarating pace has seen its popularity soar – and the resulting ubiquity has made it a terrific used buy, with plenty of examples around to choose from.
But fame has its price – and in the Fiesta’s case, that price is comparatively steep. Unlike standard Fiestas, whose ubiquity keeps prices low, the ST’s reputation has kept demand high, with the result that it isn’t quite such a bargain as its lesser stablemates. As a result, the Vauxhall Corsa VXR is starting to look quite a bit cheaper when compared like-for-like. And with even more power than the Fiesta, as well as a smart, well-finished interior and mini-muscle car looks, you’d be forgiven for asking yourself whether it might be a better bet than the reigning champ. So, is it? Time to find out.
What are they like to drive?
Both cars have 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engines and deliver their power in broadly similar ways. The Fiesta is slightly more eager at low revs, but the Corsa claws back that advantage by having more power on hand when you really thrash its engine.
That extra power no doubt explains why the VXR is slightly faster according to the official figures. However, in our tests, it was actually the Ford that sprinted off the line quickest, hitting 60mph from a standstill in 7.0 seconds and beating the Vauxhall to that yardstick by a tenth.
The Fiesta sounds so much more enticing, too. Both cars have sports exhausts, but the ST’s silky smooth motor and rorty exhaust warble goad you into revving the engine at every available opportunity. Meanwhile, the VXR’s engine sounds coarse at high revs and its uninteresting exhaust note leaves you rather underwhelmed.
It’s not just the way the ST sounds, either; it’s the way it drives. The Ford’s steering, for example, is super-precise and streams information to your fingertips, no matter whether you’re pootling around town or carving your way along a twisty B-road. This allows you to place the Fiesta exactly where you want it on the road, while thoroughly enjoying every moment at the wheel.
By comparison, the Corsa’s steering feels light and vague around dead-centre, and never quite builds enough resistance as you turn the wheel. This means you can never be as precise, and you won’t attack corners in the VXR with the confidence you can in the Ford.
In the same vein, the Fiesta’s gearbox and pedals feel positive and fulfilling to use; the Corsa’s less so. The VXR’s gearchange is notchy, its clutch has an overly high and vague biting point, and there’s too much travel in the brake pedal before the car starts to slow its progress. All of this blunts the driving experience.
Throw the VXR in to a bend and there’s also a surprising amount of body lean. If you strike a bump mid-corner the rear axle of the car is also prone to hopping sideways in a rather disconcerting fashion. Thankfully, these aren’t issues you’ll experience in the ST. It stays flatter as you turn in to bends and always feels more stable and composed no matter what the road surface.
As you might expect from two hot hatchbacks, both cars have a firm ride which some will find wearing – particularly over long distances. There’s not a great deal to choose between the two in this respect; the Corsa is slightly more compliant at high speeds, but does generate more a bit wind and road noise on the motorway.
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