The Vauxhall Corsa has tried to sharpen up its act to remain competitive in the supermini market. Jonathan Crouch weighs up its chances.
Ten Second Review
Vauxhall has given some attention to its fourth-generation Vauxhall Corsa supermini line-up, refining the engine range down to variants of an improved version of its 1.4-litre petrol engine and enhancing the value proposition on offer. If you want a sharp deal on a car in this class, you'll get it on this one, but there are also other reasons why a Corsa might suit.
How we used to chuckle at the Vauxhall Corsa, the totem of the clueless supermini driver. That was until 2006 when the Corsa suddenly and unexpectedly became one of the best cars in its class. It drove well, it felt solid and it even looked pretty perky. The VXR models were complete hooligans and the diesel versions reliable and economical. Small wonder the Corsa became a fixture in the UK top ten best selling cars, albeit glancing up with barely-disguised envy at the massive-selling Ford Fiesta.
Lasting right through to 2015 has been one marathon innings for Vauxhall's baby and in recent years, the Corsa has started to feel its age. Newer rivals like the Volkswagen Polo, the Renault Clio and the Peugeot 208 have all queued up to join the Fiesta in attempting to give the Vauxhall a good working over, so General Motors probably think it's payback time. Say hello to the response.
The revised Corsa range is built entirely around versions of its improved Euro 6.2-compliant 1.4-litre petrol engine - so no diesels, 1.0, 1.2 or 1.6-litre units any more. There is though, the choice of either 5 or 6-speed manual gearboxes or an automatic. You can have the 1.4-litre powerplant in normally aspirated form with either 75 or 90PS - or with a turbo with either 100PS or (in the top GSi) with 150PS.
The Corsa has always been a pretty entertaining steer and it's helped in this regard by a low centre of gravity, a stiff front sub-frame and sharp suspension geometry. This features special front knuckles, plus carefully chosen spring rates and dampers to reduce the pitching movement you'd normally get at the front during sharp braking manoeuvres.
Following the current trend, the steering system is electrically-powered and is speed-sensitive with a UK-specific tune to cater for our roads. That's not enough to enable this car to offer the kind of precise feedback you'd get in, say, a Ford Fiesta. But as standard with this set-up, you do get something which most owners will probably find a lot more useful, namely a clever 'City' mode that makes low speed manoeuvring and parking far simpler.
Design and Build
Straight away, you'll spot similarities to the front end of the ADAM model and that's no coincidence, this looking set to become the Vauxhall family face for the foreseeable future. That means a rounded, friendly look with a broader front grille than Corsas of old. The overall proportioning isn't that much of a departure, this car retaining the somewhat tall and narrow shape of the previous third generation model. It's almost identical in length to that car too but all of this improved design's body panels are new and provide greater definition between the 'sporty' look of the three-door and the 'premium' five-door models. Some of the detailing is quite assured, including the sculptural 'blade' running across the lower door-sections.
Drop inside and you'll find an instrument panel themed around horizontal lines and featuring in most models a 7-inch Intellilink infotainment colour touchscreen that dominates the centre of the dash and is smartly mounted in a high-gloss surround. The driving position is quite good, aided by a steering wheel that's both reach and rake-adjustable. Practicalities include a variety of cupholders and front doors featuring a compartment large enough for a 1.5-litre bottle.
In the back, this Corsa is much as it always was, remaining one of the more spacious superminis you can buy with plenty of room for two fully-grown adults - or three children - in this five-door model. Inevitably the three door bodyshape is a little more claustrophobic. Either way though, there's significantly more head and legroom than you'd get in a comparable Ford Fiesta. Out back, there's a 285-litre boot.
Market and Model
Trim levels now start with 'Active', then run to 'Design', 'Energy', 'Sport', 'SRi Nav', 'SE Nav', 'SRi VX Line Nav Black' and the top 'GSi' hot hatch. Prices start at just over £11,000 for the 'Active' and run to around £19,000 for the 'GSi'. That base 'Active' variant comes only in three-door form but otherwise across the range, you'll be offered the option of the five-door bodystyle for £600 more.
All models get a now improved specification, even the base variant including alloy wheels, Bluetooth, cruise control and a heated windscreen. You can also expect to find remote central locking, a leather-covered steering wheel, driver's seat height adjustment, powered front windows and mirrors, a decent quality stereo with an aux-in socket and hill start assist to stop you drifting backwards on uphill junctions. Safety stuff includes twin front, side and curtain airbags plus ESP stability control. Plusher versions also include Side Blindspot Alert, High Beam Assist, Lane Departure Warning, bi-xenon lights and a rear-view camera.
Vauxhall has also introduced a new Lux pack, which is available for customers choosing the 'SE Nav' trim. For just an additional £1,550, customers can add extras including 17-inch diamond cut alloy wheels, a rear view camera, tinted rear windows, single zone climate control and more.
Cost of Ownership
The Corsa has long campaigned on its provision of low running costs, though this fourth generation version is slightly hobbled in that objective by the brand's decision to no longer offer its frugal three cylinder 1.0-litre engine in this car. Still, the 1.4-litre petrol powerplant you can have is now Euro 6.2-compliant and is at its best in 100PS turbo form, where it returns 50.4mpg on the combined cycle and 128g/km of CO2. For the normally aspirated 75 and 90PS models, the figures are 49.6mpg and 130g/km. For the 150PS 1.4-litre turbo GSi hot hatch, you're looking at 49.6mpg and 139g/km.
You'll also need to know that Vauxhall includes a three-year, 60,000 mile warranty as standard, a package that can be extended up to five years and 100,000 miles at extra cost. A year's free breakdown cover is also provided, along with a six-year anti-corrosion guarantee. Service intervals are at 20,000 miles or every 12 months, depending on which comes round sooner and you can opt for a service plan that lets you pay monthly to spread the cost of regular work to your car. As part of this, Vauxhall offers discounts on wear and tear items, such as brake pads and windscreen wipers.
Ultimately, what we're looking at here is a Corsa that can. It can be fun to drive. It can deliver a big car feel. And it can stack up well on the balance sheet. It's a small Vauxhall for which no apologies need to be made.
It's not perfect of course. It doesn't lead its class in terms of either space, efficiency or driving dynamics. And more work is still needed under the bonnet to deliver a more cutting edge engine range. The key though, is that this Vauxhall is now there, or thereabouts, in the three key areas just mentioned. Add to that the wide model line-up and the likely deals on offer and you've a supermini that more than ever, needs to remain high on any family's shopping list.