Crisply confident Corsa is Vauxhall’s undeniable statement of brand intent
Lighter, livelier and overall more likable, the all-new baby Vauxhall earns its on-road stripes with dynamic grace, more space and a smiling face, factors that enthuse Iain Robertson immensely, as they demonstrate Vauxhall’s strength of purpose to parent PSA Group.
Ever since French and Chinese government supported PSA Group assumed the control over Vauxhall (and German-based Opel) assets, an underlying cold threat of plant closures has been present. While General Motors, the US car manufacturing ‘giant’ that used to own Vauxhall-Opel, was only too happy to sell-off its interests in the European brands for a bargain basement ‘disposal’ price, without demanding some assurances for the future, PSA possesses neither sentiment, nor a glowing past in employee relationships, which is unfortunate and leads to inevitable speculation.
Therefore, with the exit from the EU ringing in Vauxhall-Opel employees’ ears, with certain financial efficiencies being demanded by Dongfeng (PSA’s Chinese partner) and a product range that is being consolidated, with the news that the Insignia Tourer is being dropped, to be followed probably by the rest of that range (a result of reducing numbers of registrations), Vauxhall has a major task to undertake. Both Astra and its smaller Corsa family members need to double their enterprise in order to remain visible, not just in their respective market sectors but, more importantly, within the Group.
As the company’s biggest volume model, Corsa has a vital role to play in the brand’s forward survival programme. It has always been a little charmer, since its first appearance no less than five model generations ago. Yet, this doyen of the learner driver, used car and both private and business sales arenas has seldom presented such a positive message, as it does now, one that is essential to securing its place in PSA Group’s firmament. Of course, while British design boss, Mark Adams, has overseen the new Corsa project, it is a car that is engineered by Opel in Germany and built in Spain, while also wearing both the Vauxhall ‘Griffin’ and Opel ‘Blitz’ badges.
All new models undergo intense development schedules but those of the Corsa may have been the most involved ever, after all, we have known quite a lot about the new Corsa for much of the past year. No single aspect of the new model range is carried over from before, although many of its core components are significantly revised, and it is seldom more obvious than partaking of a drive of the new model to experience its class-leading characteristics. Believe me, this is the Corsa that underscores Vauxhall’s commitment to the competitive compact car sector.
Compound finite analysis of its bodywork optimises torsional rigidity and places high-strength materials (mostly steel) in the most appropriate areas but reduces kerbweight by over 10% over the outgoing Corsa 4th generation, while an outstanding Cd of 0.29 ensures that it is one of the most aerodynamic small cars on sale today. Vital aspects of modern vehicle production, both of these factors aid frugality and are supported by judiciously re-engineered running gear that includes both familiar petrol and diesel engines but also Vauxhall’s first all-electric and zestiest variant. An engine dependent choice of five and six-speed manual, or eight-speed automatic gearboxes (single-speed for the Corsa-e), highlights the breadth of effort expended.
The engine range is essentially 72, 97 and 127bhp versions of the 1.2-litre petrol and a 99bhp 1.5-litre turbodiesel. As part of the PSA CMP platform, unlike Astra, these are engines also used by Peugeot, Citroen and DS. The mid-range and potentially biggest-selling 1.2-litre, three-cylinder turbo-petrol engine develops a modest 97bhp, which is enough to whisk Corsa from 0-60mph in a sparky 9.3s and onwards to an excellent top speed of 121mph, while returning up to 52.3mpg and emitting just 96g/km of CO2, all of which keeps running costs within affordable bounds. However, it is the enticing driveability that impresses most of all. The Corsa is well-insulated from both road and wind noise and the willingness of its compact engine to pull from surprisingly low engine speeds, in every gear, is a measure of its excellent torque spread. The interior décor is of a high order, with excellent tactile surfaces and textures, carried off with attractive splashes of colour for greater visual interest. The driving position is spacious and supportive thanks to multi-adjustability of both driver’s seat and steering column.
While the earliest Corsas could be criticised for possessing nuggety and ‘wooden’ handling characteristics, there is no such lack of fluency in the new models. The ride quality is excellent for such a compact hatchback, while bump absorption, steering accuracy, ride resilience and cornering agility are all positively engaging for the driver and make every drive experience highly satisfying. The reduced bulk also enhances the feel and responses of the brakes.
Finally, again to highlight the value of the new range, the Corsa is a veritable techno-fest, featuring both camera and radar support systems for lane discipline, crash mitigation and various alert mechanisms, some of which are driver switchable. Of course, some of the equipment is trim dependent but optional. Adaptive speed control and state of the art infotainment and connectivity are all elements of the most comprehensively equipped Corsa ever. However, especial credit is given to the adoption of Vauxhall’s advanced Intellilux LED Matrix headlighting, normally a feature of the bigger Astra and Insignia models, now available illuminatingly on Corsa.
Conclusion: Mainstream, large volume models can be yawn inducing but Vauxhall has invested heavily in its new Corsa, not merely to maintain affordability but mostly to turn its most popular small car into a genuine star turn that is the class of the field.