It doesn’t go that fast (except the GTI or R) and it doesn’t really do anything to drop your trousers - but people love this car...
It’s small, it’s popular, and it’s getting better and better with age. The Vauxhall Corsa is one of the UK’s most popular cars, and has been a fixture of British roads since the early 1980’s when it was known as the ‘Nova’. Since then, the little Corsa has improved with each generation and has always managed to prove a big hit with drivers of all ages. It can be sporty, it can be sensible, but can it be better than its rivals? Is this the best small car money can buy?
When Vauxhall brought out the new Corsa, they told us something surprising. The fresh Corsa is actually the old Corsa underneath. This shows up a little more later, but if you’re looking at it, apart from very similar sizes, you wouldn’t really know. The new car is stylish and has the right balance of aggression and inoffensive lines to appeal to a wide audience. It doesn’t really stand out, and that might put off some younger buyers who get turned on by the Mini, but it’s not exactly a bad effort, either. Making up for the image is the available customisations and a staggering eleven – yes eleven – trim levels available for buyers to choose from. That might lead to some confusion.
Inside, the new Corsa really improves upon the last generation by bringing the car well up to date. There’s a new touchscreen that dominates the dashboard and a design overhaul makes it a much more appealing place to spend time. This is a case of the same, but different then.
On the road
Like most small-hatchbacks, there’s a hot version – the Corsa VXR – and this is the motor you want for ultimate driving thrills, however, we’re going to ignore that 205PS spicy version for now, and focus on the more normal models in the line-up. Our favourite engine for the little Corsa is the smallest – the 1.0-litre, 115PS 3-cylinder turbo unit. It’s tinier than a microwave, but it produces enough power to put a grin on your face and coupled with the sportier styling of the VX-Line trim levels, it really fits. Why? Well, because it’s only got 3-cylinders, it sounds a little fruitier than the 4-cylinder petrol engines of old. If you’re a good person – with your throttle pedal we mean – you’ll also stand a good chance at seeing over 50mpg from it.
With most superminis we’d recommend a small petrol engine as they suit the character of the car more, but if you’re really in need of a diesel because you do a lot of miles, you have the 1.3-litre unit in two strengths (75PS and 95PS) to serve your needs. We’re just not sure they feel at home in a small car like the Corsa.
Being a fairly lightweight, small car, it handles in a rather excitable way in the corners, changing direction quickly and feeling sharp. The steering isn’t full of feedback though, so it falls a little short on the dynamic thrills that the Ford Fiesta can provide. It isn’t as comfortable as the new Nissan Micra on a longer journey either. Overall though, it could be a lot worse than it is. We suspect the old underpinnings we mentioned earlier might be holding the Corsa back.
Small cars like the Vauxhall Corsa aren’t exactly bastions of practicality, but the Corsa does come with a little bit of flexibility. There’s a 3-door version for those who don’t think they’ll be making the most of the back seats that often, and a 5-door version for those who do. A 5-door will cost you a little bit more money, but not enough to make your eyes water, especially if buying on a finance agreement, like most modern customers do.
With the 5-door you get an extra 5-litres of boot space, so, that makes for 280-litres in a 3-door Corsa, and 285-litres in the 5-door. That’s actually not that bad for a supermini.
When the Corsa got refreshed and reloaded, it also got equipped with new technology to bring it right up to date. There are actually a few toys available on the Corsa that are a little bit luxurious now – the ‘Winter Pack’ for example offers heated seats and a heated steering wheel. On the more expensive trim levels, such as ‘Limited Edition’ – confusingly not limited – you get Vauxhall’s ‘OnStar’ concierge system. This provides you with a real human assistant on call 24/7, 365 days a year, who can assist with accidents and emergencies, sat-nav programming, or general advice. OnStar also gives you Wi-Fi with room to connect to seven devices.
On top of the fancy stuff, there’s still cruise control, electric windows, parking sensors, Bluetooth, and the touchscreen system that the interior of the car now revolves around, and it’s much better for it. In there you’ll find – depending on the model – sat nav, smartphone pairing options, DAB, you know, things like that. Computer-y things.
The verdict, from Carsnip’s Editorial Chief, Tim Barnes-Clay:
While the new Vauxhall Corsa has plenty within it to make it a high-scoring little supermini, the troubles are underneath the skin where the car has remained unchanged for quite some time. It’s a shame, because with good engines and quality equipment levels it has the potential to be quite good. Unfortunately for now, it’s lagging just a little bit behind rivals that are better to drive, and despite the great toys, driving is what it’s all about.
- Can't match rivals