Vauxhall Corsa long-term test
It's one of the most popular small cars in the UK, but are the Corsa's huge sales well-earned? We're living with a petrol example to find out...
The car Vauxhall Corsa 1.2 Turbo GS Run by George Hill, staff writer
Why it’s here To find out whether Britain’s most popular small car is more than just a no-nonsense runabout
Needs to Make a daily commute through central London as easy as possible, while also being fun to drive, practical and cheap to run
Miles covered 881 List price £22,905 Target Price £19,481 Price as tested £22,905 Official economy 55.4mpg Test economy 44.0mpg Options fitted None
10 February 2024 – Deja vu
The Vauxhall Corsa is one of the most familiar cars in Britain. Just last year it was the third best-selling model in the UK after the Ford Puma and Nissan Qashqai, and since the 1990s it’s been the go-to small car for a huge number of drivers (including myself, since I had one as my first car) thanks to its competitive pricing and cheap running costs.
So, what’s the latest version like? Well, this is a question that led me towards the Corsa when I was choosing my new company car (along with the curiosity to see how much it’s changed over the years).
Now, one thing that hasn’t changed since I owned my 2007 example (a 1.2-litre petrol in Club trim, aptly named Shrek because of its questionable green paint colour) is the wide range of engine and trim options. Indeed, these days there’s a Corsa for almost every need or budget, including the Vauxhall Corsa Electric if you’re looking for an electric car.
For me, the electric version would have been great on my commute from central London to Twickenham, but unfortunately I don’t have a driveway for home charging. This means that I would be heavily reliant on the UK’s public charging network, which our real-world tests have shown to vary widely in pricing and reliability.
Choosing the right engine was actually very easy. There’s only one 1.2-litre petrol engine available in the Corsa, and it’s offered in three states of tune: 74bhp, 99bhp or 128bhp. There’s also a 134bhp mild hybrid version, which uses a tiny electric motor to assist the engine at low speeds to improve performance and fuel economy.
In the end, I decided to go for the mid-level 99bhp engine. It sprints from 0-62mph in a respectable 9.9sec, which is around a second faster than the 94bhp Volkswagen Polo. For me, that’s more than enough for navigating city traffic, and it should be plenty on the motorway. The 128bhp engine did tempt me, but it’s only available with an eight-speed automatic gearbox, which we've found to be jerky at low speeds in other Corsas.
Instead, my car comes with a six-speed manual gearbox. Manual gearboxes are disappearing from new cars (the Mini Hatch, for example, is now only available with an automatic gearbox), so I thought it would be great to see how it fares in the Corsa, almost as a last hurrah.
Mind you, choosing the manual does bring some benefits. For one, it’s slightly cheaper to buy than the automatic version, and for another it’s more efficient. The 99bhp manual Corsa can average 55.4mpg officially, whereas the automatic version can average 52.3mpg.
Speaking of fuel economy, that’s another reason why I’m hoping it’ll make a good company car. My other car is a 2005 Range Rover, and it’s not exactly ideal for commuting through London. So, the prospect of owning a smaller, more efficient car appeals to me, and I look forward to seeing how much the Corsa costs to run.
You might think that the switching from a Range Rover to a Corsa is a downgrade. However, the Corsa is actually very well equipped, especially in GS trim. My car comes with a faux-leather steering wheel, electrically adjustable door mirrors and wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay as standard. Being the slightly sportier trim, it also gets 17in alloy wheels, sporty styling and sports seats on top.
My time with it so far has been very pleasant. The driving position is fundamentally good, which is great because I’m over six-feet tall and can often feel cramped inside smaller cars. It also feels solid and tightly screwed together, which is often reassuring to think about when driving through London traffic.
So, then, by the sounds of things the Corsa could hit a home run over the next few months. But no; there are some cars that it will need to prove itself against. The Seat Ibiza, for instance, is one of the best small cars to drive, while the Volkswagen Polo is hugely practical. Then there’s the Renault Clio – our 2024 Small Car of Year – which is a fantastic all-rounder. If those cars are anything to go by, then, the Corsa will have a lot of hard work to do over the coming months.
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