Can Vauxhall’s best-seller get even better? Selling just over 84,000 of them during 2013, which incidentally is more than the respective total all-model sales from some manufacturers like Renault and SEAT, Vauxhall’s Corsa seemingly continues to tick all the right boxes in the UK market, where it finished 3rd in the total sales chart by model. Ask anyone to name a few cars from the supermini class and they’re bound to include the Corsa. The slight snag for Vauxhall is that the best-selling car in the UK is the Corsa’s closest rival. That’s right, I’m talking about the Ford Fiesta, acclaimed for its excellent handling. In 2013, 50% more Fiestas were sold than Corsas. Vauxhall could have been content with staying in bronze place but have commendably chosen to up their game and snap at the heels of the Fiesta more doggedly, whilst at the same time trying to move closer to Volkswagen’s hit supermini the Polo, when it comes to interior quality. Here’s my take on whether they’ve succeeded, with hopefully not a Corsa pun in sight.
Is it a looker?
The outgoing Corsa that this fourth-generation model replaces is quite an attractive little thing in its own right. Young and old, male and female, owners around the country largely love their current Corsas and Vauxhall appreciate that a radically new look might alienate loyalists and also prospective newbies. The new Corsa for 2015 uses new body panels all round but carries the Adam model’s face across, which I’m a fan of. The front of the new Corsa blends sportiness and elegance very nicely, while at the rear, new Astra-esque lights form the main difference.
Mark Adams, the firm’s Vice-President of Design, was keen to point out that Vauxhall’s signature ‘blade’ detail has been carried over to the new Corsa and they’ve gone to greater lengths to distinguish the 3-door from the 5-door. The low front grille and fog lights make both versions look quite sporty in my eyes, but the stance of the 3-door is undoubtedly more athletic and muscular.
Buyers will be able to choose from no less than fifteen colours, Peppermint Green and Emerald Green my favourites. The dimensions of the new Corsa remain the same, which is another thing that current owners will likely be pleased to hear. I think Vauxhall have got the refreshed styling just right.
Is it what’s on the inside that counts?
Recently having driven the new Citroen C1 and Hyundai i10, I found the former quite plasticy albeit a tech-fest, whereas the Korean had an upmarket, solid and sophisticated feel to it. The Fiesta I tested for a week back in 2012 felt equally robust and made use of nice materials, but was home to a veritable overload of buttons and a tiny, naff screen for the radio. I have to admit that the latest Volkswagen Polo is the winner when it comes to interior quality, even if it’s slightly too conservative – so I was very interested to see how the new Corsa would compare.
As soon as I opened the door and caught sight of the new Corsa’s interior, I was impressed. It’s the polar opposite of the Fiesta’s button-happy interior and has a classy, minimalist feel, somewhat similar to that of the Polo. The redesigned leather steering wheel was nicely-sized, felt great and incorporated a modest number of controls. The dials used for the air con were a doddle and the pedals, handbrake and gearstick, indicator and wiper stalks and other primary controls were all well-positioned.
Bluetooth and DAB digital radio are standard across the range and buyers seeking toasty warmth will appreciate the heated windscreen and can also opt for heated front seats, heated wing mirrors and/or a heated steering wheel if they pick the right options and trim level. Automatic lights, Hill Start Assist and a tyre pressure monitoring system were all fitted to the three variants I drove at the UK launch held at Castle Donington.
The two trim levels at the bargain end are called ‘Life’ and ‘Sting’ (a ‘Sting R’ is also available), both coming with that handy heated windscreen but with air conditioning as an optional extra. The remaining models, from ‘Excite’, ‘Limited Edition’ and ‘Design’ to ‘SRi’, ‘SRi VX-Line’ and ‘SE’ all share something in common, which is the classy-looking IntelliLink touchscreen, allowing you to display and use your smartphone and its apps whilst on the move, including voice control systems like Apple’s Siri Eyes Free. You can even look at photos and videos on the screen, once you’re parked up. The only weak aspect of using your smartphone’s built-in sat nav or using the BringGo system that Vauxhall recommend, is that you’ll lose guidance directions if your phone signal drops out.
A real sense of space is dished up and I would certainly describe the new Corsa’s interior as comfortable, high quality and practical, with plenty of useful storage spaces provided. The white 5-door SRi I drove first on the day had a stylish red streak running across the dashboard and this, combined with the polished black surfaces and tactile materials, splashes of chrome and some curvaceous features such as the instrument binnacle, created an impressive interior that I much prefer to the current Fiesta and which gives the Polo a bit of a fright, too.
Can it handle the competition?
Now it can, that’s for sure. Thanks to new gearboxes, a lower, stiffer chassis specially tweaked for UK roads and new speed-sensitive power steering, the new Corsa handled much, much better. In fact, it was a pleasure to drive it with some enthusiasm up and down winding country roads around the Midlands.
Everything about the new Corsa just felt right, from the gearstick action and ratios and its excellent composure over crests, dips and poor surfaces to its significantly improved steering, which all bring it much closer to the sportiness of the Fiesta, if not quite overtaking it.
What about the engines?
Most car manufacturers have been going down the same ‘downsizing’ route in recent years and 1-litre, turbocharged engines are now becoming the norm in many smaller cars. Ford’s EcoBoost engine keeps winning awards and is a great pick in the Fiesta, so Vauxhall needed to get in on the act, which is exactly what they’ve done with their new ECOTEC engine.
The first of the new Corsas I sampled, though, was a silver 5-door powered by a turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol engine producing 100PS and 200Nm of torque. I must own up to actually liking this engine quite a lot, as it felt reasonably powerful and refined, whilst returning 46mpg (compared to the official figure of 55mpg combined). It has a 0-62mph time of 11 seconds, emits 120g of CO2 per km and sits in insurance group 10E.
The rest of the day saw me driving Corsas fitted with their new, 1-litre, 3-cylinder ECOTEC engine, the first a 3-door in Limelight Green and the second a 5-door in Sovereign Silver. The engineers have cleverly designed it to be one of the smoothest, quietest 3-cylinder units out there – and yes, it was certainly less audible than Citroen or Peugeot’s, for example. It’s a lightweight, all-aluminium engine and is available in two power choices, 90PS and 115PS. The interesting part is that both 1-litre units produce the same torque of 166Nm at 1,800rpm, meaning the acceleration felt very similar indeed, the main difference being power at the top end. For day-to-day use, I’d plump for the 90PS version. It takes 11.9 seconds to reach 60mph whereas the 115PS gets there in 10.3 seconds, but you’re not really going to notice in real-world situations. Badged as ‘ecoFLEX’, the 90PS version is supposed to return upto 65.7mpg on the combined cycle but the test route of approximately 40 miles saw it return 37mpg.
I’m not particularly smitten with the unique sound and characteristics of 3-cylinder engines so would personally take the 1.4-litre turbo if I was someone who does a lot of driving, as it seemed slightly more economical, too. Low-mileage drivers who want something that sounds sporty and will give them plenty of poke around town will do well to choose the nevertheless excellent 90PS 1-litre, as it produces 104g CO2/km and is in insurance group 9E. You may be surprised when I tell you that the 1.4-litre, turbocharged 5-door SRi I drove cost £13,470, compared to £14,570 for the 90PS 1-litre 5-door.
Other things to note
The new Corsa is available to order now, with deliveries expected in January 2015. It’s a safe car, with Hill Start Assist as standard, along with a City steering mode which beefs up the power steering to make manoeuvring easier. Optional extras in the safety department are similar to those found in the brochures of larger/premium cars, from bi-xenon headlights, Advanced Park Assist and Lane Departure Warning to a front camera system with road sign recognition, Forward Collision Warning and Side Blind Spot Alert.
Despite the new Corsa’s interior quality, equipment, handling and engines seeing some large leaps forward, pricing has been reduced by upto nearly £3,000 compared to the previous generation. The cheapest in the range now starts at £8,995, which is for the ‘Sting’ trim version with a 1.2-litre petrol engine producing 75PS, which Vauxhall do indeed still offer. Two petrol engines without turbochargers are also offered, as a 1.2 and 1.4, and although we weren’t able to test them at the launch, the new Corsa will be available with a 1.3-litre CDTi diesel engine. As well as the new 6-speed manual gearbox, customers can opt for a standard automatic gearbox or a transmission called Easytronic, which basically works like an automatic gearbox but is for budget-conscious customers.
On the day of the launch I got about an hour behind the wheel of the 1.4 turbo, half an hour in the 1-litre 115PS 3-door and just less than half an hour driving the 1-litre 90PS 5-door. Inevitably I wasn’t able to put its boot space, rear practicality or longer-term running costs to the test, but on first impressions, the new Corsa is a very appealing supermini indeed. The interior has especially improved enormously and the new suspension, steering and engines make for a fun little car to drive, which is now good enough to give the dominant Fiesta a run for its money and breathe down the neck of the Polo quality-wise. I really liked the three petrol variants I drove today and am keen to see how the diesel engine stacks up. My brain’s just still a tad frazzled from trying to digest the fifteen colour choices and nine trim levels, but I won’t hold this against the highly commendable new Corsa.
I have just ordered a new 2015 Corsa 3dr Limited Edition with the 1.4 turbo engine, despite the majority of the media slating it and instead preferring the smaller 3 cyl 1.0 turbo. I found your comments and those on a couple of other smaller less well known blogs and websites to be very helpful in my choice.
The dealer didn’t have a 1.4T to test but my gut feeling was that in real world driving the larger engine would return the better economy and the more relaxed cruising especially on the motorway. Yours, along with several other longer road tests seem to prove this. While the majority of trips will be short, on local rural roads and in town I will need to do a 250 mile motorway commute once a week. (125 miles each way to head office)
I have driven large diesel 4×4’s almost all my life so downsizing to a small hatchback was never going to be easy however I have read a few blogs that suggested the 1.4T drove very similar to a diesel in that it had good torque in the low to mid range and did not like to be revved. While some may regard this as a negative for me it sounds ideal. 🙂
The car will be a daily driver / 3rd car to replace my aging jap pickup as my wife and I both also own classic Series Land Rovers in the final stages of long restorations that will be used for the harsh weather and load carrying. We needed a smaller more economical car for those daily short shopping trips or the longer motorway trips to work where the Land Rovers are just not suitable.
Thanks for doing the reviews,
Hi Ian. Thanks for your kind comments. I’m glad you found my more favourable views on the 1.4T Corsa useful and I am confident you will grow fond of it as a car to undertake the duties you described, alongside your other cars. As well as the non-revvy 1.4T engine being very nice to get along with, I think you and your wife will be impressed with the new Corsa’s handling and find it a very enjoyable car to drive. Thanks again and I’m currently looking at your own Land Rover blog with interest. Best wishes, Olly
Thanks Oliver, I will let you know how I have got on with it once I’ve done a couple of thousand miles. It is due for delivery at end of March.
I have now owned the Corsa 1.4 turbo Limited Edition for two weeks and done 780 miles in it across a wide range of journeys from a 250 round trip motorway commute, a trip around Yorkshire with the whole family on board to heavy stop start traffic jams in major towns and city.
The car is simply stunning in just about all respects and the whole family love it. Modern small hatchbacks are worlds apart from what they were 20 years ago! Having test driven the Fiesta, Fabia and Polo I’d already worked out that the Corsa provided the best balance of performance, handling, economy, big car feel and value for money and having now lived with it for a couple of weeks it has exceeded my expectations in all areas. 🙂
You were quite correct to assume that the 1.4T would perform better in real world conditions despite being the older engine and the one that the motoring media have disregarded in favour of the small 1.0T.
The engine has bags of torque and quite happily hauls two adults and two children ( aged 8 and 10) plus luggage/shopping etc over any journey type with virtually no loss in performance compared to running with just the driver on board. Hills are dismissed with ease.
I opted for a trim with the sports chassis and 17″ wheels and yet it still rides remarkably well over the very rough country lanes around here, it handles pot holes and speed humps very well too. In all honesty I see no point in the comfort chassis as the sports chassis is more than comfortable enough and yet also delivers great road holding and cornering when driven enthusiastically.
The main reason for buying the car was low ownership costs and so far it has actually been cheaper than I had budgeted for. Insurance is cheaper than expected and fuel economy is simply amazing.
Despite being a brand new engine and not yet run in, the car has averaged 59mpg on the motorway (with just me on board) on my commute to work, 46mpg around town in heavy traffic (with just me) and even manages 42mpg around town with the whole family on board. The car also averaged 49mpg on a 150mile trip around Yorkshire on mostly back roads including lots of hills and with the four people on board. I have not even been driving with economy in mind. I have absolutely no doubts that the car will achieve 65+mpg on the motorway once fully run in and if driven carefully. Those figures have also been verified after filing up by working out mileage driven over litres used. The on board computer is innacurate and reads consistently 2mpg higher than actual.
From speaking to many other owners on facebook, the forums and owners club it seems that the 1.0T really only matches the 1.4T for economy with just the driver on board on longer journeys and falls well short when the car is fully laden. The only area the 1.0T betters the 1.4T for economy is in very short journeys. So in my case the 1.4T was perfect. Even where the 1.0T betters the 1.4T for economy, the difference is marginal and hardly worth the extra £700 premium for that engine.
The 1.0T is a very bad choice for a family car where you will be carrying multiple occupants. Its torque in not delivered until very high rpms so in real world driving it simply can’t cope with heavy loads and its economy plummets. The motoring journalists really need to start carrying a whole family over long distances (and some hills) before raving about these tiny engines!! The 1.4T has been slated by many and yet in real world conditions for a family it is the better choice. I’m so glad you recognised this in your review.
In my experience I’d also question whether the 1.3 diesel would be worth the money either. When you can get a petrol car that does 60mpg in real world conditions and with petrol being cheaper to buy at the pump the diesel engine would have to be achieving 66mpg just to break even with the petrols fuel costs and would have to be doing 80mpg in real world conditions to pay for its increased purchase cost for typical annual mileages.
Keep up the good work,
Hi Oliver, just a quick update on the Corsa FYI.
1.4 turbo petrol 3 door Limited Edition
12 months old / 22K miles (approx 70% motorway and A road, 30% town)
Mechanical faults: none
Electronic faults: numerous, including faulty TPMS, bonnet open warnings, central locking etc. The intellilink Infotainment system has been dreadful. The screen is blinding at night when sat in car warming engine or waiting for somebody while main lights are turned off. DAB regularly locks up, have had screen freezes, loss of all presets, loss of sound, random none recognition of phone, very slow to synchronise music folders, random bluetooth drop outs mid call etc. Basically not fit for purpose.
Fuel economy: Superb! gets better with age. Currently averaging 52mpg over mixed driving (rural back roads, town, A roads and motorway) but on long motorway runs it is getting 60-70mpg. Highest so far has been 72mpg on a 100 mile motorway run. (These are actual mpg figures based on fuel used/distance travelled, not the trip computer mpg figures which I’ve found are approx 5% higher than actual)