What Car? says...
If you haven’t owned a Vauxhall Corsa, it’s a solid bet that you’ve been a passenger in one. And it’s all but guaranteed it’ll be a familiar sight to you on the road – perhaps covered in L-plates with an enthusiastic youngster at the wheel. Why? Because Vauxhall sells bucket loads of them, and to every age range, from teenagers to pensioners.
Yes, even in such a hotly contested class as small cars, with rivals like the Ford Fiesta, Seat Ibiza and Volkswagen Polo, the Corsa has always been near the top of the new car sales charts, while used examples have found their way onto countless more driveways. Being keenly priced and cheap to insure aids its appeal, but for this fifth-generation iteration, change is afoot.
Vauxhall’s now part of the French PSA Group (made up of Peugeot, Citroën and DS), and for the first time the Vauxhall Corsa shares its underpinnings with the latest Peugeot 208 and DS 3 Crossback. That includes its petrol and diesel engines, plus the workings of the very first all-electric Corsa, which has the same battery and motor as the e-208. You can read about the pure electric Corsa-e in our separate review – just click the link.
But no matter which Corsa you go for, it’s definitely not just a cut-and-paste job from within the PSA Group. Vauxhall has specifically calibrated its steering and its suspension to give the Corsa a feel of its own. And, dimensions aside, it bears little visual resemblance to the 208, inside or out.
So, is the Vauxhall Corsa a triumphant hit for the Bedfordshire brand? How does it compare with the best small cars in the class? Read on for our detailed review and, whether the Corsa ends up as your pick or not, do visit our New Car Buying pages for the very best, hassle-free deals on nearly every new car.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
Leaving aside the electric Corsa-e, there are three engines available: two petrols and one diesel. We have yet to try the entry-level 74bhp 1.2-litre petrol engine (badged 1.2 75), which comes with a five-speed manual gearbox, but the on-paper figures suggest it’ll be fairly sluggish.
We reckon the pick of the range is the turbocharged 99bhp version (badged 1.2 100 Turbo), which has enough flexibility for motorway journeys and accelerates quite briskly. 0-60mph takes 9.3sec, which is similar to the Volkswagen Polo 1.0 TSI 95 but not as punchy as the more powerful Seat Ibiza 1.0 TSI 115. Just bear in mind that opting for the eight-speed automatic transmission, rather than the standard six-speed manual, makes the Corsa almost a second slower from 0-60mph.
The 101bhp 1.5-litre diesel (badged 102 Turbo D) is stronger than the 1.2 100 petrol from low revs and provides more flexible in-gear performance, but isn't quite as quick away from the traffic lights, 0-60mph taking 9.6sec. Although that appears quicker than the Polo and Ibiza 1.6 TDI's time of 11.3sec, the latter's a 0-62mph time (not 0-60mph), and like for like they'd be about the same.
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. This shortcoming is highlighted if you go for trim levels fitted with bigger, 17in alloy wheels.
Also, the Corsa’s steering is extremely light and doesn’t weight up like you’d wish it to at faster speeds, feeling a bit vague as a result. So, twirling the Corsa’s wheel for manoeuvres into parking spaces is no challenge at all, but it just isn't as much fun to hustle along snaking roads as its rivals. Indeed, the steering is some way off the excellent Fiesta's – the best-handling car in the class.
SRi trim provides a ‘sport’ mode that adds some extra weight to the steering, but it's not a marked difference.
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. If you prod the SRi trim’s Sport mode button, the exhaust note is made slightly rortier, but also rather artificial.
We're yet to try the five-speed manual gearbox that comes with the 1.2 75 engine, but the six-speed 'box makes a decent account of itself, with a long throw but a relatively slick action, not unlike the 208's. It's not as mechanically delightful as the Fiesta's precise gearshift, though. The optional eight-speed automatic gearbox is a little jerky from a standstill, but shifts smoothly on the move.
Another thing you’ll notice are the pedals' actions. The clutch biting point is a little vague, and the brake pedal is quite sensitive, too, which takes a bit of getting used to before you learn not to stop smoothly.
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