What Car? says...
Even if you haven’t owned a Vauxhall Corsa you've almost certainly been a passenger in one. That’s because this small car has long been one of the biggest selling models around, appealing to everyone, from teenagers to pensioners.
But why do people love it so much? Well, Vauxhall has mastered the art of providing its cars with engine and trim choices that fit every budget and need. Indeed, there’s even the Vauxhall Corsa Electric for those after an electric car.
Here, we're focusing on the petrol-engined versions, and while the Corsa is very closely related to the Peugeot 208, we can assure you it’s definitely not just a cut-and-paste job. In fact, Vauxhall has specifically calibrated the steering and suspension for a unique feel, along with ensuring it’s totally different inside and out.
A recent update has made that difference even more apparent, with the Corsa getting new exterior styling and even more standard equipment. The thing is, it’s going to take more than a pretty face to succeed in the hotly contested small car class – is the Corsa really as good to drive as the Seat Ibiza or as good of an all-rounder as the VW Polo? Let's find out.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
Every regular (non-electric) Vauxhall Corsa comes with a 1.2-litre petrol engine and has either 74bhp, 99bhp or 128bhp. We’ve yet to try the entry-level 1.2 Petrol 75PS but expect that its 74bhp and 0-62mph sprint of 13.2sec will feel fairly sluggish and make joining a motorway more difficult.
As such, we suggest going for the more powerful mid-range 1.2 Turbo Petrol 100PS. With 99bhp, it’s more flexible and copes better with motorway journeys. It sprints from 0-62mph in a very respectable 9.9sec (10.8sec with the automatic gearbox), around a second faster than the VW Polo 1.0 TSI 95.
For something faster, you’ll have to go for the range-topping 1.2 130 Turbo. In total, it has 128bhp on offer and pulls harder from lower down in the rev range. It’s the most willing when you put your foot down, accelerating from 0-62mph in just 8.7sec – that’s a match for the hybrid Honda Jazz.
Suspension and ride comfort
The Corsa handles abrupt bumps, such as potholes and drain covers, with reasonable ease, but tends to be disturbed by smaller road surface imperfections that the softer Peugeot 208 would glide over.
That shortcoming is highlighted if you go for anything other than the entry-level Design trim, which comes with 16in alloy wheels instead of the bigger 17in ones you’ll find on all other versions.
What’s more, despite things improving as speeds increase, the ride never quite settles down as it does in the best small cars including versions of the Audi A1 and the Polo, as well as the 208.
Handling wise, the Corsa is surefooted enough and offers good levels of grip, but it’s not exactly dynamic, exhibiting more body lean than you’ll experience in, say, the Hyundai i20 or the Seat Ibiza.
On top of that, the Corsa’s steering is extremely light. That’s great when it comes to slow parking manoeuvres, but the lack of weight makes it feel vague at faster speeds and results in a less engaging experience than its rivals.
GS and Ultimate trim both add a Sport mode into the mix. Flick into that mode and the steering gets some extra weight, but the Corsa still doesn’t have a patch on its sportier rivals.
Noise and vibration
There’s a fair bit of wind and road noise at motorway speeds, and the engines are a bit more vocal than in other small cars, such as the Polo, but not unpleasantly so. The trim levels with a Sport mode button allow you to change the exhaust note to something a tad rortier, but also rather artificial.
We've yet to try the five-speed manual gearbox that comes with the 1.2 75 engine, but the six-speed manual that comes with our chosen mid-range engine makes a decent account of itself, with a long throw but a relatively slick action, not unlike the 208's. It’s just a shame that the clutch biting point is a little more vague than we’d like, making it harder to pull away smoothly.
The optional eight-speed automatic gearbox (standard with the most powerful engine) can be a little jerky from a standstill, but shifts smoothly on the move, and is nowhere near as recalcitrant as the alternative in the Citroën C3.
Strengths Decent handling; light steering good for city driving
Weaknesses Rivals are more fun to drive; more wind and road noise than rivals
The interior layout, fit and finish
Driving position and dashboard
Take a seat inside the Vauxhall Corsa and you’ll find a good range of adjustment, in both reach and height, to the steering wheel and driver's seat, so you should be able to find a comfortable driving position. You’ll have to go for the top Ultimate trim if you want adjustable lumbar support for your back, but that version does also get a massage function – a feature that’s unusual among small cars.
Entry-level Design trim comes with analogue instrument dials as standard, with a 3.5in screen between them to display trip information. If you upgrade to either of the other trims, that set-up is replaced by a 7.0in digital instrument display. It’s not as versatile or sharp as the larger 10.25in display in the VW Polo in Style trim and above, but can show useful information such as sat-nav directions.
The air conditioning is controlled using physical buttons and knobs, making it less distracting to operate on the move than the 208’s system, which is controlled through the infotainment touchscreen.
Visibility, parking sensors and cameras
All-round visibility from the Corsa’s driving seat isn’t quite as good as the Volkswagen Polo, due to its comparatively thick front and rear pillars hampering the view out.
To help combat the issue, rear parking sensors are standard across the range, while mid-spec GS trim adds front parking sensors and a rear-view camera and Ultimate gets an upgraded panoramic rear-view camera.
Every Corsa has bright automatic LED headlights and daytime running lights, with GS trim adding LED fog lights. Intelligent matrix LED headlights are standard on the range-topping trim and can shape their light output to avoid dazzling other road users while full beam is selected – an impressive feature that’s rare in this class.
Sat nav and infotainment
Every non-electric Corsa comes with a 10in touchscreen infotainment system as standard, with DAB radio, Bluetooth and USB sockets. You also get Android Auto and Apple CarPlay so you can bypass Vauxhall's software and use your smartphone's apps instead. That's handy because you don’t get built-in sat-nav unless you go for top-spec Ultimate trim.
The display is crisp and the system reacts quickly to all of your prods and presses. You get a physical home button and volume knob, but the rest of the system can be a bit fiddly compared with the Seat Ibiza and Polo’s systems.
While the design of the Corsa’s interior may be about as bold and daring as a grey suit at a wedding, the nuts and bolts of it are pretty decent. It all feels fairly well screwed together, and most of the materials are good quality.
However, the buttons, switches and dials are a weak point, and don't feel anywhere near as plush as the equivalents used in the Polo. And it’s a real shame that the interior seems so drab when you compare it with the far more stimulating design of the Peugeot 208, which offers a real step up in perceived quality over the Corsa.
Strengths Quality feels good; matrix LED headlights on top-spec model; physical air conditioning controls
Weaknesses Only top trim gets adjustable lumbar support; fiddly infotainment system; visibility could be better
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
Even tall drivers will find plenty of space up front in the Vauxhall Corsa, with fairly generous head and leg room for the class. As with the very similar Peugeot 208, the car's width, plus the thickness and angle of the front pillars, make the Corsa seem less airy inside than the Seat Ibiza, the Skoda Fabia and the VW Polo.
Front storage space is okay, although the glovebox and the cubbyhole under the central armrest are a bit stingy. Handier is the storage tray at the bottom of the dash that's just right for a phone or wallet. There are also a couple of reasonably sized door bins.
The Corsa’s rear seats aren’t the easiest to get in and out of if you're an adult of above-average stature because of its fairly narrow door apertures. Once inside, though, there's a good amount of room for two tall adults.
There’s much more head and leg room than there is in the Clio but the Polo still pips the Corsa for ultimate rear-seat space. Likewise, if you’re planning to carry adults in the rear for more than short drives, we’d suggest taking a look at the class leader for interior space, the MPV-like Honda Jazz.
Storage space includes a couple of small door bins and map pockets on the back of the front seats.
Seat folding and flexibility
The rear seats split and fold 60/40 as standard. That's par for the course among small cars but can’t match the versatility of the Jazz’s rear seats, which have bases that flip up like those in a cinema to make loading tall items a doddle.
Ultimate models gain height adjustment for the front passenger seat, but there’s no option of lumbar support or electric adjustment for the front passenger (they don’t get the luxurious massage function that the driver does, either).
The Corsa’s boot is a fair size for the class. Sure, there are rivals with greater outright capacity, such as the Fabia and the Polo, but the Corsa has more luggage room than the Fiesta, which swallowed five carry-on sized suitcases in our tests. That means that it should have more than enough space for a large weekly shop.
Access is good and it’s easy to load and unload, but it’s a shame that there’s no height-adjustable boot floor. That’s a feature that many rivals offer to help minimise the drop down to the floor from the boot lip, in turn making them more convenient when loading heavy luggage.
Strengths Good passenger and boot space for a small car
Weaknesses Honda Jazz is more practical
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2
The latest Vauxhall Corsa isn’t offered at the bargain prices previous versions were. List prices run close to the Seat Ibiza but below the Honda Jazz, VW Polo and, surprisingly, the closely related Peugeot 208. Even better news is that Vauxhall is known for offering big discounts, so make sure you look at our Vauxhall Corsa deals to see what savings are available.
Things aren’t quite so rosy when it comes to depreciation, though, because the Corsa is predicted to lose its value faster than most of its rivals, including the Jazz and Polo, meaning that it probably won’t be worth as much when you come to sell in three years.
Among its small car peers, the Corsa’s official CO2 emission figures are impressively low and its official fuel economy figures are sensible. The 99bhp 1.2 Turbo Petrol 100 returns more than 50mpg, for example. Even so, it can’t quite compete with the hybrid Jazz, which can return over 60mpg and will make the most sense as a company car because its CO2 emissions are among the lowest in the class, helping to keep the benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax low. For even lower rates, you’ll want to look at the Vauxhall Corsa Electric.
Equipment, options and extras
Entry-level Design has most of the everyday basics covered, including 16in alloy wheels, cruise control, air conditioning, a flat-bottomed leather steering wheel, electric windows and the infotainment and visibility bits we’ve already mentioned. It’s ideal if you want to keep costs low, but we’d recommend taking the step up to the next level if you can.
Why? Well, our favourite mid-level GS trim adds bigger 17in alloy wheels, electronic climate control, electrically adjustable and heated door mirrors, sportier styling and sports seats. Upgrading to the top-tier Ultimate trim gives you all the toys you could ever need, including adaptive cruise control, a heated steering wheel and keyless entry and start. It’s quite expensive, though.
The latest Corsa was too new to be included in the 2023 What Car? Reliability Survey, but Vauxhall as a brand was and didn’t fare well at all. You see, it placed 30th out of the 32 included car makers and below all of its rivals.
Every new Corsa comes with a three-year or 60,000-mile warranty. That's average for the class, and can’t compete with the five year cover you’ll get from Hyundai and Renault or the seven years that Kia offers.
Safety and security
The Corsa is well provisioned with safety equipment. Lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assistance, speed-limit recognition, a driver fatigue alert system and automatic emergency braking (AEB) are all standard across the range.
Despite those, the model only managed a disappointing four-star safety rating when it was tested by the experts at Euro NCAP back in 2019. For comparison, the Ibiza and Polo were both awarded five stars. That said, it’s difficult to compare those rivals to the Corsa because they were tested in 2022, when the tests had become more stringent.
We can, however, compare the 208 because it also scored four-stars in 2019. In the individual categories that make up the overall score, the 208 scored higher, particularly when it comes to whiplash protection in low-speed impacts.
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Strengths Good fuel economy; competitive price; plenty of standard equipment
Weaknesses Vauxhall's poor reliability record; some rivals are safer; faster depreciation than rivals
If you want the top Corsa, you’ll want to go for the Ultimate trim and the 1.2 Turbo 130 engine. That combo will give you the most powerful engine and all the equipment you could ever need.
We’d stick to the mid-spec 1.2 Turbo 100 engine. That’s because it does a good job in combining decent performance and efficiency, while also keeping the list price down.
|RRP price range||£19,625 - £38,585|
|Number of trims (see all)||3|
|Number of engines (see all)||5|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||petrol, electric|
|MPG range across all versions||51.4 - 55.4|
|Available doors options||5|
|Warranty||3 years / 60000 miles|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£65 / £1,575|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£130 / £3,149|