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New car review

Vauxhall Corsa review

What is it?
All-new generation of Vauxhall Corsa, the nation’s second-biggest selling supermini.

Key features:
New look, better quality, more equipment.

Our view:
Ticks all the boxes – many thousands of buyers are likely to be perfectly satisifed

Few cars matter as much to a manufacturer as does the Corsa to Vauxhall. In the UK’s entire new car market this car is only consistently beaten by its rival from Ford, the Fiesta.

The Corsa accounts for a third of Vauxhall’s volume and outsells the entire UK ranges of the likes of Renault, SEAT and Mazda. In 2013 more than 84,000 Corsa’s found UK buyers and this year the total is running at 70,000 despite the imminent arrival of an all-new model.

So replacing the Corsa with a fourth-generation version has massive implications for Vauxhall – this is one car that the brand cannot afford to get wrong…

Perhaps that’s part of the reason why Vauxhall/Opel’s chief designer, Andrew Dyson, is keen to describe the new Corsa as “an evolution”. Yet on first glance it is clear much has changed about the car, notably the more distinctive exterior resulting from the incorporation of the ‘sculptural design’ language introduced to the brand’s cars by Dyson’s predecessor Mark Adam.

The car boasts bolder visuals, distinct creases and the signature ‘floating blade’ motif stamped into the doors, following the styling seen on other recent Vauxhall product.

The Corsa also has distinct three-door and five-door bodyshells, which emphasise the fact that the car tends to serve two distinct audiences – the three-door model, often a second car in the household, is bought by younger motorists who consider it more sporty than the five-door, a car purchased by those wanting something smaller than they have been used to before.

Every body panel on the Corsa is new, we are told, and so is the interior – and it shows. The
cabin is a definite improvement on previous Corsa’s – it offers an impression of quality construction, much helped by the high-gloss finishes and soft-touch surfaces used in proliferation, while it can also feature a great deal of technology, the like of which has not been seen in superminis until very recently.

Vauxhall’s IntelliLink is a case in point, an infotainment system with a touchscreen that dominates the centre console, and which integrates completely with Apple and Android smartphones, with many of their apps usable through the car.

Other advances serve to make living in the Corsa that bit easier – the heated windscreen, standard on all models, being a case in point. A rear parking camera, bi-xenon headlamps, and a safety suite that can include the likes of blind spot and lane departure warning aids, all show how this Corsa is a distinctly more advanced car than its predecessor.

Space wise there are no great advances over the previous model, but it compares well with supermini rivals and neat touches such as the easy-fold seats aid rear access in the three-door model.

The Corsa comes to market with a seven-strong engine line-up, five petrol and two diesel, reflecting the fact that most supermini buyers shun diesel power. As is normal with any new car launch in these times, all see economy and emissions improvements compared to predecessors.

The Car Expert tried the two headline makers amongst the petrol range, firstly a new version of the 99bhp 1.4-litre turbo engine. While adequate the unit failed to excite, feeling somewhat coarse and struggling for acceleration despite its 148lbft torque figure.

However Vauxhall is pinning its future on a new family of small direct injection engines, and the first of these, a three-cylinder 114bhp 1-litre unit, gives cause for optimism. While compared to the 1.4 it matches more power to less torque of 122lbft, it makes far better use of it, accelerating strongly yet smoothly – in summary a highly refined powerplant that certainly suits its supermini environment.

Vauxhall is keen to point out that the Corsa chassis was specifically tuned to cope with the worst that British roads could throw at it; “If it can cope with UK roads, it can cope with anything,” we are told… Achieving this included suitably camouflaged prototypes coming to Britain a year ahead of launch to cover thousands of miles testing on UK roads.

Chassis changes include a 5mm lower ride height, stiffer subframes and revised suspension geometry, all of which combine to produce a very competent on-the-road performance, smooth and comfortable in a straight line, precise and easy to place in corners with well-weighted steering. It is, of course, going up against the Fiesta, and while Ford’s chassis prowess is renowned, this Vauxhall certainly offers a challenge to it.

Where the Corsa also scores is in its price – the cheapest is the three-door 1.2-litre 69bhp variant in Sting trim – first of nine trim levels, reduced by one from the previous car but with the number of individual models slashed by half. The Sting costs from £8,995, almost £1,000 less than an entry-level Fiesta and indicative of price cuts across the Corsa range up to £3,000 lower than previous equivalents. For the record the cheapest of the 114bhp three-cylinder engines is found in the Sting R at £10,995.

Vauxhall expects to sell broadly similar levels of new Corsas as it did the old one, and it is easy to see why. The new model ticks all the boxes – with careful engine choice many thousands of buyers are likely to be perfectly satisifed with their new Vauxhall.

Vauxhall Corsa – key specifications

Model tested: Vauxhall Corsa 1.4 T, 1.0
On sale: October 2014
Range price: £8,995-£15,990
Insurance group: 2E-8E
Engines: 1.0 x 2, 1.2, 1.4 x 2 petrol. 1.3 x 2 diesel
Power (bhp): 89/114, 69, 89/99. 74/94
Torque (lb/ft): 122/122, 84, 95/148. 140/140
0-62mph (sec): 11.9/10.3, 16.0, 13.2/11.0. 14.8/11.9
Top speed (mph): 112/121, 101, 109/115. 102/113
Fuel economy (combined, mpg): 65.7/56.5, 53.3, 55.4/55.4. 76.3/88.3*
CO2 emissions (g/km): 100/114, 124, 119/119. 99/85*
Key rivals: Ford Fiesta, Peugeot 208, Renault Clio
Test Date: October 2014
* = best figure, dependent on spec. Manual gearbox

Andrew Charman
Andrew Charman
Andrew is a road test editor for The Car Expert. He is a member of the Guild of Motoring Writers, and has been testing and writing about new cars for more than 20 years. Today he is well known to senior personnel at the major car manufacturers and attends many new model launches each year.
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