Four-cylinder petrol options include the entry-level 1.2, a 1.4 and a turbocharged 1.4. A 1.0 turbocharged three-cylinder is available with either 89bhp or 114bhp; neither of these engines is cheap, but they’re both smooth-revving and flexible, and the more powerful of the pair is good fun. The 1.4 turbo is cheaper and quick, but it doesn’t rev quite so sweetly. We’d avoid the 1.2 because while it is undeniably cheap, it’s also very slow and coarse. Equally, we’d recommend you look beyond the 1.3 diesel unless fuel economy is your sole concern.
At the top of the range there’s the extreme VXR model, which packs 202bhp from its turbocharged 1.6-litre engine. As you might expect, it’s as fast as many sports cars, with the dash to 60mph taking barely six seconds. The power tends to come in a big surge, however.
Vauxhall Corsa ride comfort
All Corsas that come on 17in alloy wheels (or that are fitted with them as an option) get a slightly firmer suspension set-up and lower ride. This sportier approach is a touch harsher over sharp-edged bumps, but is still pretty settled over most surfaces, so you shouldn’t let it put you off if you really fancy the bigger wheels.
The comfort suspension is still a bit better; it’s appreciably supple over big bumps and well damped even over more severe intrusions such as manhole covers and bridge expansion joints, although it can be slightly fidgety over rippled town roads.
The VXR’s bespoke suspension set-up is firmer again, although it’s surprisingly comfortable for a car that’s so clearly focused on high performance.
Vauxhall Corsa handling
Those models on 16in or smaller wheels get soft suspension, which results in a bit of body float over high-speed undulations and quite a lot of body lean through tight bends. Still, there’s enough grip and the Corsa turns into corners keenly enough.
The firmer of the two suspension set-ups makes that turn-in a touch sharper, and reduces body lean through corners. Unfortunately, all Corsas have vague steering that’s inconsistently weighted and doesn’t give you much sense of what’s going on at the front wheels.
A ‘City’ button is standard on all Corsas, and brings super-light steering designed to assist with parking. It feels a bit unnecessary overall, but does make tight manoeuvres very easy.
Sadly, even the tweaks to the Corsa VXR can’t eradicate the vague steering, which makes it difficult to place the car in corners. That’s unforgivable on a hot hatchback.
Vauxhall Corsa refinement
Wind and tyre noise make an audible background rush at high speeds, particularly on models with 17in alloys, although it’s acceptable by class standards. The four-cylinder 1.4 turbo and 1.2 petrol are coarse-sounding even at moderate revs, while the 1.0 is the quietest petrol engine in this class. It revs smoothly and also has fewer vibrations through the pedals and steering wheel than the others. The six-speed manual gearbox has a slick shift, but the five-speed units are a bit rubbery.
The VXR’s engine note is more rorty, but it’s not particularly appealing at low revs and quickly gets thrashy as you work it harder. The reworked six-speed gearbox is a bit notchy, too, and the clutch pedal has a high biting point – both are traits that don’t help a car designed for driving enthusiasts.
With just 69bhp, the entry-level engine is not fast, and feels pretty strained on motorways or rural roads, but it’s good enough for those who will be in town almost exclusively. The CO2 emissions aren’t great, either, although economy is fair; we returned 40.6mpg in our real-world tests, which isn’t far off the other petrol Corsa engines.
This is an old engine that is quite coarse-revving and is a bit slow. We’d say that if you’re keen to get a really cheap petrol Corsa, you might as well go for the 1.2 because it’s cheaper again and likely to be just as enjoyable in practice. The 1.4 is your only option if you want an automatic gearbox, though.
1.4i 100 Turbo S/S
This new turbocharged motor delivers good performance, picking up well in the mid-range. It’s a good choice if you’re after sprightly performance even at higher speeds but don’t want to pay the slight premium for the sweeter-revving and more refined 1.0 three-cylinder engine.
Our pick 1.0i 90 Direct Injection Turbo
This turbocharged 1.0-litre three-cylinder is our favourite engine in the range. It has 89bhp so it’s strong enough to feel home on the motorway, but it’s also good value, quiet and good fun to use vigorously.
1.0i 115 Direct Injection Turbo
This more potent version of the 1.0 three-cylinder motor is the most enjoyable engine in the line-up; it’s punchy, with no sudden surges in acceleration when the turbocharger kicks in, and is quiet even when you rev it hard. It’s expensive, though; many will opt for the cheaper 1.4i 100PS Turbo, which isn’t much slower.
1.3 CDTi 75
This low-powered diesel engine is slow and pretty gruff, and while its CO2 emission are impressively low, they aren’t a great deal lower than those of the 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol. Unless fuel economy is absolutely your top priority, we’d look elsewhere.
1.3 CDTi 95
This more powerful version of the Corsa’s 1.3 diesel has a bit more life about it, and it’s cleaner than the 75PS unit with CO2 emissions of just 87g/km. That could make it an interesting option for company car choosers, were it not so noisy and unrefined. Unless you’re totally focused on fuel efficiency, we’d look elsewhere.
1.6i 205 Turbo
This potent 1.6-litre turbocharged engine is available in only the three-door Corsa VXR. It has lots of power, but flexibility has suffered a little as a result, and there’s a noticeable flat spot before the turbo kicks in.