Vauxhall Corsa long-term test: report 1

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...

2024 Vauxhall Corsa front cornering

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 £23,605 Official economy 55.4mpg Test economy 44.0mpg Options fitted Crimson Red metallic paint (£700)

10 February 2024 – Deja vu

The Vauxhall Corsa is one of the most popular cars in the UK. Just last year it was the third best-selling model after the Ford Puma and Nissan Qashqai, and since the 1990s it’s been the go-to small hatchback for a huge number of drivers (myself included; I had one as my first car), thanks to its competitive pricing and low running costs.

But what’s the latest version like to live with – particularly following its recent facelift? Well, that’s what I’m going to be finding out over the next few months, because I’ve chosen one as my new company car.

Now, one thing that hasn’t changed since I owned my 2007 example (a 1.2-litre petrol in Club trim, which I nicknamed Shrek because of its questionable green paint colour) is the wide range of engine and trim options. Indeed, there’s even an electric Corsa these days.

2024 Vauxhall Corsa rear cornering

This would have been great on my commute from central London to Twickenham, but unfortunately I don’t have a driveway for home charging. And given that our real-world tests have shown pricing and reliability vary wildly within the UK’s public charging network, I decided I wasn’t quite ready to make the leap.

Instead, I’ve gone for a 99bhp 1.2-litre petrol engine. While the petrol Corsa is also offered in 74bhp, 128bhp and 134bhp states of tune (the latter with mild hybrid electrical assistance to boost efficiency), the 99bhp version sprints from 0-62mph in a peppy 9.9sec – around a second faster than the 94bhp Volkswagen Polo.

I was briefly tempted by the 128bhp engine, but I was put off by the fact that it’s available only with an automatic gearbox, which we’ve previously found to be jerky at low speeds.

My car, though, comes with a six-speed manual ’box. Given that these are gradually disappearing from new cars (the latest Mini Cooper, for example, is available only as an automatic), running a manual car feels like I’m getting to enjoy a last hurrah.

Vauxhall Corsa with George Hill driving

Then there are the financial advantages. Not only is the manual version cheaper up front than the automatic, but it should also cost slightly less to run; officially, the manual Corsa averages 55.4mpg, whereas the automatic returns 52.3mpg. This is all the more appealing when my other car is a 2005 Range Rover, which struggles to do much more than 20mpg.

You might think that the Corsa would feel fairly basic by comparison. However, it’s actually very well equipped in my chosen GS trim; a faux-leather steering wheel, electrically adjustable door mirrors and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto phone mirroring are all standard. Plus, because GS is marketed as a sporty trim, you get 17in alloy wheels, a contrasting roof colour and sports front seats.

True, there are some features that seem a bit old-fashioned, but to be honest, I think they work really well. For example, my Corsa has a switchblade-style key that you actually have to put into an ignition barrel to start the engine. But this is great, because at least there's a dedicated space for it, whereas with keyless-start fobs, I usually end up putting them in a cupholder or storage bin, and this can lead to them rattling around while I’m driving.

Ironically, the Corsa’s digital instrument panel – a seemingly modern feature – isn’t particularly impressive, because it doesn’t show much information and can’t be configured to suit your preferences, unlike in some rival cars.

2024 Vauxhall Corsa Apple CarPlay

Still, the driving position is fundamentally good. And while I often feel cramped inside smaller cars because I’m more than six feet tall, this isn’t the case in the Corsa.

The interior feels solidly screwed together, too, and most of the materials are of good quality, even if they’re not quite up to Range Rover (or, more relevantly, Polo) standards.

While popularity isn’t necessarily a sign of greatness, so far it’s easy to understand why the Corsa continues to convert so many to its cause.

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