It’s a little known fact that in the UK you are, on average, never more than 121 metres from a Vauxhall Corsa*. They’re everywhere on British roads and it’s no surprise when you consider the Corsa has been a permanent fixture in the Top 5 of the sales charts since it first went on sale in 1993. Vauxhall shifted 84,000 last year and have already passed the 70,000 mark for this year.
What those figures tell you is that a significant chunk of the buying public don’t hang on every word uttered or written by motoring journalists. In recent years the poor old Corsa has fallen behind its rivals in most areas and group tests see it consistently losing to the fun Fiesta and premium Polo. A combination of a widespread dealer network, low asking price, attractive finance offers and familiarity are what kept the Corsa near the top of the charts.
You could almost understand if Vauxhall decided to roll out a new model with as few updates as possible, confident that the sales would continue to roll in despite what the magazine group tests might say. Fortunately for us they’ve decided to take things a little more seriously and this fourth generation Corsa is more than just a set of new headlights.
On The Outside
Not that the Corsa’s appearance gives you much of a clue. It looks remarkably similar to the outgoing model but despite almost identical proportions every body panel is new. If you’re savvy with your Vauxhall models you’ll recognise the Adam-styled nose and the Astra-inspired rear lights.
Alloy wheels are standard on all but the entry Life model, rising from 15-inch to 17-inch on the sporty looking SRi VX-Line models. The popular Limited Edition returns (not that it’s really limited) and brings with it black wheels and roof with co-ordinated mirror caps, and even the cheapest Sting model comes with bright white wheels and matching body stripes.
There’s a great range of colours too, including Lime Green pearlescent, Flaming Yellow and Peppermint Green. They all help the Corsa to stand out in a car park and make it much more appealing than the usual mix of grey and silver.
On The Inside
Sit down inside the new Corsa and you quickly realise how much the interior has been improved. The cabin borrows heavily from the Adam’s parts bin and feels much more upmarket as a result. The centre console is dominated by a 7-inch touchscreen system, which uses Vauxhall’s IntelliLink system to pair up with your phone via Bluetooth. This allows various apps to be controlled without touching your phone.
Some models feature coloured inserts that run across the dashboard and doors and seat fabrics that add even more colour. It’s not quite a match for a Polo’s feeling of quality but it feels more appealing, and the neat dashboard layout makes the Fiesta’s look clunky and outdated.
On The Move
For the keen driver the benchmark supermini is the Fiesta and the last Corsa lagged quite some way behind. Within a few yards you quickly realise that this new model is ready to redress that balance.
For a start the steering feels right. Turn the wheel and the Corsa responds more eagerly than before while the weight feels ideal for a car of this size. If you need more assistance there’s a City button to make parking less of a workout. It’s still not quite a match for the Fiesta’s delightful setup but it’s so close now that it would be churlish to criticise the Corsa.
The ride is improved too. On standard suspension the Corsa absorbs most of what the roads throw at it. It’s also very well damped and doesn’t bob about through the bends like a drunken sailor. It rides like a bigger car and that’s a trick that only the best of the superminis can pull off. Vauxhall say they’ve tuned the chassis on UK roads and this has definitely paid off.
There is a Sport chassis available with 17-inch wheels and this adds a touch of firmness and a little more body control but again, it’s all very civilised and nicely rounded. You don’t feel like you’re being forced to compromise the health of your spine for the sake of a little more dynamic prowess.
Under The Bonnet
The new Corsa comes with a wide array of engines with petrol ranging from 70PS up to 115PS and a choice of either 75PS or 95PS diesel.
I was able to drive three of the petrol models and started with the new turbocharged 1.4-litre with 100PS and 200Nm. It gives the Corsa plenty of low and mid-range shove with maximum torque available between 1,850rpm and 3,400rpm. It’s almost diesel-like in its responses, with little point in hanging onto gears after 4,000rpm, but it means you can make quick progress without feeling like you’re straining the engine.
Next up was the all-new 1.0-litre engine that uses 3-cylinders and a turbocharger. It’s designed to take the fight to the Fiesta’s 3-pot Ecoboost and boasts up to 62mpg and as little as 104g/km. There are two states of tune, 90PS and 115PS, but both share the same torque output.
They’re remarkably similar to drive, with the torque making progress easier than you might expect from such a small engine. In practise the 90PS is more than adequate at punting the Corsa along at a decent speed and it’s only in the upper limits of the rev range that you start to notice the extra 25PS of the more powerful unit.
The official EU economy figures look very good for the smaller engine but my drive told a different story. On the test route the best I saw from the 90PS was 37mpg and 35mpg from the 115PS. Compare that to the bigger 1.4 Turbo which was showing an impressive 47mpg for the first section of the test route. It’s not a scientific comparison but it does make you wonder whether the 1.0-litre would be able to get anywhere near to its official figures outside of EU test conditions.
The Corsa has always had a long list of trim levels and, even though two have been dropped, the new model can be bought in any of ten different levels. So here’s a quick guide as to what’s what:
- Life – steel wheels makes it the least attractive model but it comes with a heated windscreen and a choice of petrol or diesel.
- Sting – the cheapest Corsa at £8,995. One for young drivers as it comes with insurance-friendly 1.2 engine, white wheels and stickers. Sting R drops the 1.2 for newer 1.0, switches to black wheels and stickers. Petrol engines only.
- Excite, Design and SE are aimed at those looking for a sensible family hatchback, with increasing levels of kit and choice of the newer engines. SE is the poshest and most expensive model in the range.
- Limited Edition, SRi and VX-Line are aimed at those looking for a more sporty feel. Sport chassis, 17-inch wheels and hints of VXR styling.
The Corsa offers a host of technology and creature comforts to enjoy, many of them as standard in mid-range models. The Corsa is one of the few cars in this sector to offer an optional heated steering wheel and now there’s also a heated windscreen for quick starts on cold winter mornings, while heated seats can gently toast chilly buttocks.
Every model bar the entry-level Life gets automatic lights and wipers while standard DAB and Bluetooth mean you get to enjoy your favourite tunes in digital format.
Navigation is available through your phone and displayed on the Corsa’s screen using an app called BringGo. At £50 it seems very reasonable compared to an expensive factory-fit system but like all phone-related nav systems it’s only as good as your data connection and your phone’s ability to lock onto satellites. Personally I’d prefer a proper sat-nav system integrated into the touchscreen.
Corsa No More
While talking to someone about this new model they asked, quite innocently, ‘is it still Corsa by name, coarser by nature?’ Ouch, that’s a bit cruel, but despite what they may have thought of the old model I was happy to tell them that no, it certainly isn’t. This new Corsa is big step forward.
The supermini class is one of the most hard-fought in the car industry and Vauxhall can now wade into the fight with an even chance. More entertaining to drive than a Polo, better interior than a Fiesta, and decent value too. The Corsa’s position as one of the UK’s best sellers is secure and deservedly so.
2014 Vauxhall Corsa Specifications
|Performance & Economy||SRi 1.4T 5dr||SRi 1.0T 5dr||SRi VX-Line 1.0T 3dr|
|Engine||1,364cc 4-cylinder turbocharged petrol||998cc 4-cylinder turbocharged petrol||998cc 4-cylinder turbocharged petrol|
|Transmission||6-speed manual, front-engined, front-wheel drive||6-speed manual, front-engined, front-wheel drive||6-speed manual, front-engined, front-wheel drive|
|Power (PS / bhp)||100 / 99 @ 3,500-6,000rpm||90 / 89 @ 5,200rpm||115 / 113 @ 5,200rpm|
|Torque (Nm / lb.ft)||200 / 147 @ 1,850-3,500rpm||170 / 125 @ 1,800rpm||170 / 125 @ 1,800rpm|
|0 - 62 mph (seconds)||11.0||11.9||10.3|
|Top Speed (mph)||115||112||121|
|CO2 Emissions (g/km)||120||104||117|
|Combined Economy (mpg)||55.4||64.2||56.5|
* It’s a little known fact because I may have made it up. The UK measures 243,610 square kilometres, Vauxhall have sold more than 2 million Corsas, so that’s several Corsas per square kilometre.