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Used test: Ford Fiesta ST vs Vauxhall Corsa VXR

The Fiesta ST was our recommended buy when new, but Vauxhall's Corsa VXR has more power and is a cheaper used option. So, which should you choose now?...

Used test: Ford Fiesta ST vs Vauxhall Corsa VXR

The Contenders

Ford Fiesta 1.6T 180 Ecoboost ST-2

List price when new £18,395
Price today £10,000
Available from 2012-2017

With sublime handling and a superb engine, the Ford Fiesta ST is a class leader

Vauxhall Corsa 1.6i 205 Turbo VXR

List price when new £17,995
Price today £8500
Available from 2015-present

Vauxhall’s Corsa VXR is terrifically fast and seemingly tremendous value, but does it stick the landing?

*Price today is based on a 2015 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing

While numbers can hint at the fun factor of a car, they don't tell the entire story. For instance, there are 500bhp rocketships that are as numb to drive as life insurance ads are to watch. On the other hand, you might find a 180bhp hot hatch that offers a serious dose of driver engagement – and a used Ford Fiesta ST fits that description perfectly.

Used Ford Fiesta ST vs Vauxhall Corsa VXR

In saying that, raw figures shouldn't be forgotten entirely, because then you'd miss out on compelling used car deals. Take the Vauxhall Corsa VXR; it's another enjoyable hot hatch, yet it's even cheaper to buy. And while we're on the subject of numbers, it packs even more horsepower under its bonnet.


So, which of these quick small cars ticks the most boxes by providing the best blend of figure-focused head and driver-determined heart? We've brought together the Fiesta ST and Corsa VXR at seven years old – both cars offer savings of around £9000 off new – to find out.


Performance, ride, handling, refinement

Both cars have 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engines and deliver their power in broadly similar ways. The Fiesta ST is slightly more eager at low revs, but the Corsa VXR claws back that advantage by having more power on hand when you really thrash its engine.

Used Ford Fiesta ST vs Vauxhall Corsa VXR

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 ST that sprinted off the line quickest, hitting 60mph from a standstill in 7.0 seconds and beating its rival to that yardstick by a tenth.

The Fiesta ST sounds so much more encouraging, 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 ST’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.

Ford Fiesta ST side

By comparison, the Corsa VXR’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 ST.

In the same vein, the ST’s gearbox and pedals feel positive and fulfilling to use; the VXR’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, and if you strike a bump mid-corner, the rear end is 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.

Vauxhall Corsa VXR side

As you might expect from two hot hatchbacks, both cars have a firm ride that some will find wearing – particularly over long distances. There’s not a great deal to choose between the two in this respect; the Corsa VXR is slightly more compliant at high speeds, but does generate more a bit wind and road noise on the motorway.

Next: What are they like inside? >>

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