New car review

Vauxhall Corsa review

The new Vauxhall Corsa is very different from its predecessors – but is it better?

Summary

The new Corsa is by far the most impressive new Vauxhall we’ve driven for a while. It looks good, performs well on the road and is efficient.
Design
8
Comfort
7
Driving experience
8.5
Value for money
8
Safety
7.5

Summary

The new Corsa is by far the most impressive new Vauxhall we’ve driven for a while. It looks good, performs well on the road and is efficient.

60-second summary

What is it?
The all-new Vauxhall Corsa is the fifth generation of one of the UK’s biggest-selling cars, and a very different car to previous Corsas.

Key features

  • New and different look on all-new Peugeot-Citroën sourced chassis
  • More efficient engines with fully electric version on the way
  • 10% weight saving improving efficiency and handling

Our view
This is by far the most impressive new Vauxhall we’ve driven for a while – it looks good, performs well on the road and is generally efficient.

Only a dull interior prevents truly fulsome praise of a car that should be able to retain its best-selling status.

Similar cars

Citroën C3 | Ford Fiesta | Honda Jazz | Hyundai i20 | Kia Rio | Mazda 2 | Mini hatch | Nissan Micra | Peugeot 208 | Renault Clio | SEAT Ibiza | Skoda Fabia | Suzuki Swift | Toyota Yaris | Volkswagen Polo

Full review

Introduction

Everyone knows the Vauxhall Corsa – an almost permanent fixture in the UK’s car sales top ten, never quite overtaking its deadly rival the Ford Fiesta but always a UK best-seller.

Since the first Corsa replaced the Vauxhall Nova in 1993 more than 2.1 million have been shifted in the UK. Many of today’s motorists first got behind the wheel in a driving school Corsa, while their own first car (both this writer’s sons included) was a Corsa.

The Corsa has evolved over four generations and let’s face it, we pretty much know what we are getting with this supermini. Which is why the new, fifth-generation model is such a surprise, because it looks like no Corsa we’ve previously seen.

The clues to this revolution? Vauxhall chief designer Richard Shaw describes the new Corsa as one of the quickest design processes seen in the company and senior development engineer Thomas Wanke describes the new one as so much different to its predecessor which he says “looked more like a minivan” (MPV to you and me).

It’s all down to the takeover in late 2017 of Vauxhall and its German sister brand Opel by PSA Group, parent brand of Peugeot and Citroën. The PSA design teams descended upon their equivalents at Vauxhall-Opel, saw the virtually signed off and evolutionary fifth-generation, all-Vauxhall Corsa and said, “nah, you’re not doing that. Here’s our latest chassis going under the next Peugeot 208 – use it to build something better.”

And so the new Corsa looks like a bang up-to-date small car, just not like the Corsa we’ve known before. For a start it’s a lot lower – some 5cm has come off the roof height. With its new proportions, longer bonnet, much narrower dash fascia, and sculpted details it is indeed pleasing to the eye.

It’s a lot lighter too, 10% of the old version’s poundage removed, with better packaging, plus more efficient engines (topped by a soon to launch full-electric model) and lots of tech. Sounds promising…    

Buying and owning a Vauxhall Corsa

According to product manager Zoe Peacock, a watchword in sorting the new Corsa’s model range was simplicity. This is basically because you the customer no longer goes into a dealership and lets a salesperson demonstrate their intricate knowledge of different paint finishes, trims and equipment, but instead you do it yourself online, perusing the brand’s website.

Prices for the current range (we’ve yet to try or get full details of the electric variant) rise from £15,550 to £25,950. Engine choices consist of only two petrol units and a diesel – all are of three cylinders, the petrol version 1.2 litres in size and offering 75 or 100 hp, while the 1.5-litre diesel puts out 102 hp.

Vauxhall has not followed many rivals in totally removing diesel from their superminis, principally because the Corsa still attracts a lot of fleet sales, for which the fuel economy of up to 70mpg and emissions down to 85g/km can still produce tax advantages.

The electric version, meanwhile, produces the equivalent of 136hp with 260Nm of torque, while promising the all-important range of up to 205 miles – more than enough for most users’ daily commute… It’s also the quickest Corsa currently available, the instantly available maximum torque sending it through 60mph from rest in just 7.6 seconds – the fastest petrol version can only manage 9.3 seconds.

A manual transmission is standard on both the petrol and diesel Corsas, five speeds on the entry-level 75hp version (yes, they still make five-speed gearboxes…) and six on the rest. The 100hp petrol engine can alternatively be paired with an eight-speed auto transmission for an extra £1,730.

Trim levels are simpler than the initial list of 27 different models(!) might appear. Core trims are SE, SRi and Elite and SE and SRi can be extended by ‘Nav’ versions with as the name suggests satellite navigation included, by ‘Premium’ versions with extra equipment, and by ‘Nav Premium’ – you guessed it, combining the two.

If you want the 75hp engine you can only have it at SE trim level but all the other basic engine options (100hp petrol, 100hp petrol auto, and diesel) are available in SE, SRi and Elite form. You can’t have an Elite without navigation, while the range is topped by an Ultimate model that only comes with the 120hp engine and an eight-speed auto transmission – confused yet?

Equipment levels aren’t bad – the SE gets alloy wheels, air conditioning, LED headlamps and daytime running lights, and a seven-inch colour touchscreen infotainment system that includes DAB, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto – which of course means you don’t really have to pay the extra £740 for a Nav model – just use the app on your smartphone…    

SRi and Elite versions are closely comparable in price as they are effectively different treatments, the former for those wanting a sportier image and the latter tending towards luxury.

Whereas SRi buyers will covet the exterior styling pack with its two-tone paint job (black roof and pillars), alloy pedals and sports seats, those choosing Elite will be enjoying its ambient LED lighting, leather-effect trim, better sat nav and extra tech such as rain-sensing wipers, heated front seats and steering wheel and the Vauxhall Connect remote assistant.

The Ultimate, of course, has the lot – keyless opening and starting, an electric parking brake, adaptive cruise control, Vauxhall’s clever Intellilux headlamps and even leather seats with the driver’s including a massage function. Some of these features can be obtained with other trims by buying a Premium version.

A five-star Euro NCAP safety rating appears to be the norm for new models these days so it’s surprising that the Corsa only earned four stars in its crash test, despite offering as standard all the usual active measures including autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and lane-departure warning.

However, all is apparently not as it may seem – due to the rear seats only having two instead of three headrests scores for their protection were not included and, as a result, neither were the scores for the AEB. The Corsa missed out on a five-star rating by one measly point – so basically buyers can be reassured that it’s comparable with rivals in terms of safety. 

Inside the Vauxhall Corsa

The new Corsa is slightly longer than the outgoing version, with the wheelbase extended by 3cm. The far more efficient packaging of the latest PSA ‘Compact Modular Platform’ frees up extra space while the boot has grown too, from 285 litres with the seats up to 309. Drop the rear seats and you have a whole 1,118 litres to play with.

There are compromises though and that significant roof dropping is definitely felt in the rear, in which headroom is cosy for most and tight for anyone of more than average height. It’s not exactly generous in the legroom either and three adults will not want to travel far in the back.

From the driver’s seat, the view is of a dash more attractively laid out than previous Corsa though still basically Vauxhall – the PSA effect has not extended to fitting the i-cockpit digital setup you now get in Peugeots and Citroëns.

There are some strong styling touches – notably the body-colour line slicing right across the dash at hands-on-wheel level. And there are practical considerations too, such as a touchscreen infotainment system ever so slightly angled towards the driver. Mind you this is a PSA-inherited unit and not the best on the market by any means, lazy and less than user-friendly in operation.   

Meanwhile, the two vents atop said touchscreen do result in the climate controls being a long way down in the depths of the centre console. All the switchgear is plain, black and cheap-looking plastic and overall it’s all just a bit too old hat when rivals are coming up with new and impressive interpretations of interior layouts.

Driving the Vauxhall Corsa

The new Corsa’s driving prowess should be greatly aided by the weight saving of some 108kg, achieved by a host of methods such as ultra-high-strength metals and laser-welding. The engines are all aluminium, as is the bonnet, and even the seats are a new, lighter design.

On the launch, The Car Expert tried out cars with the 100hp petrol and the diesel engine. And no matter which we drove one thing became clear immediately – this car is so much better to drive than the old Corsa.

The on-the-road prowess really shows in the corners. It’s about so much more than a lower seating position – a major reworking of the steering makes for precise, enjoyable placing into a bend, while a well-designed suspension package ensures confidence through the corner, while settling down to comfortable progress at speed on a straight road.

SRi models are particularly competent in the bendy bits, as the ‘sporty’ upgrade includes beefed-up suspension mounts, plus a ‘Sport’ switch which among other things beefs up the engine note.

The 100hp petrol engine is refined and enthusiastic enough, though we could do with the option of a bit more power in a model range that previously has hosted VXR models. There’s a chance apparently of a 130hp variant and we feel that would find a ready home in the Corsa.

The diesel, meanwhile, is merely adequate and feeling increasingly dated amongst its sister powertrains – a buy you would make only if you have to…

We also tried out the eight-speed auto transmission and this is an impressive unit. Fast-acting, smooth and flexible, we imagine it would be particularly welcome on long journeys – the kind one would not attempt in the old Corsa…          

Summary

This writer of advancing years has now attended a few new Vauxhall Cora launches and always come away with a feeling of “It’s just another Corsa,” but not this time. PSA’s input into the fifth-generation Corsa has been almost entirely of great benefit, with the only significant minus point the interior – and Vauxhall did that.

This is a grown-up Corsa – a small car people previously bought because, well they always buy a Corsa, just became a model that can truly be described as desirable on similar levels to its rivals.  

Good points

  • Exterior looks
  • More efficient packaging
  • Excellent on-road performance

Bad points

  • Dull interior
  • Lack of room in rear cabin
  • Lack of more powerful engines

Key specifications

  • Make and model: Vauxhall Corsa
  • Specification: SRi Nav Premium 1.2 Turbo
  • Price (on-road): £20,440 (range starts £15,550)
  • Engine: 1.2-litre petrol
  • Transmission: six-speed manual
  • Power: 100 hp
  • Torque: 205 Nm
  • 0-60mph: 9.3 sec
  • Top speed: 121 mph
  • Fuel economy (combined): 47.9-52.3mpg (WLTP)
  • CO2 emissions: 96 g/km (WLTP converted to NEDC)
  • Insurance group: TBC
  • Euro NCAP rating: 4 stars (2019)
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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1 COMMENT

  1. “when rivals are coming up with new and impressive interpretations of interior layouts.”

    But they work worse…

    Peugeot 208 is also narrower and has worse crash safety for the legs due to the “impressive”… interior design…
    Hmm…
    Think more, next time.

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